Game Day: Winter Classic
It's Flyers vs. Bruins at Fenway Park
Friday, 01.01.2010 / 6:22 AM / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop - BostonBruins.com
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I've been wandering the park and posting plenty of pics @NHLBruins on Twitter.
What a nice day! Fairly warm, but not too warm -- ice wise. Lots of happy people in the stands and the players are obviously psyched.
Twenty-minutes to go until warmups...
Well, I certainly never imagined I would be blogging from behind the Red Sox dugout, in the Boston hitting cage, but that is where I am.
It's amazing to see all the preparations coming to fruition after all the planning. And I am happy for the organization that the weather and the conditions are cooperating, thus far.
The stands are FULL of Bruins fans and the Hub of Hockey is representing itself very well.
It's going to be quite a show, folks.
All systems go...
"The Good Lord couldn’t have done better for us right now," said Dan Craig, the NHL's "Ice Man" about the weather and conditions for today's hockey game.
Craig went through the three Classics and spoke to their set up.
"Buffalo, for me, was very stressful. (I was) Praying that we could have a good game," he said. "Chicago, with our new equipment [We were] nervous, but confident in our equipment and the crew and knowing we were going to have a good game – which we did.
"And today, it is a calm confidence that we are going to have an awesome, awesome day at the park."
How is Boston shaping up?
"Today is different from Chicago, due to the weather and how warm it’s going to be," he said. My crew can monitor ice conditions as they’re happening on the field of play. I will be in tune with them and with the engineer on the truck, because I have to make sure that the truck goes down slowly in temperature as the temperature rises outside.
And the temperature of the ice?
"Right on target, within tenths of a degree of the target, which is 24 degrees," he said. "We’re right where we want to be."
In other news, Team USA will announce their roster for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Tim Thomas hopes to be one of the three goalies that USA Hockey will name to the squad.
Yesterday, the media asked if he were looking forward to participating and about his would-be partner, Buffalo's Ryan Miller.
Tim did not want to hear anything about that -- yet.
"Well, you know...we are jumping the gun a little bit on that. I haven't been named to the team yet," he said. "So I don't want to talk too much about it.
"But you know, I've been watching Ryan Miller play on TV this year, and he's been having an excellent year.
"So it will be, you know, an honor if I do get named, and I guess I'll think it through more at that point," he said.
I am on the field sitting what I hope is my spot for the game between the Flyers and the Bruins.
I am just very happy to see that my internet is working and that I can post!
The field looks great and so does the ice. And as I look around, I am begging to get pretty excited to see this whole thing come together.
Okay. Test over. Back inside until gametime.
Small miracles: Do I see sun peeking through the clouds?
The Boston Bruins will be boarding their bus soon and will play in the most anticipated hockey game of the regular season in just a few hours.
And as the hubbub subsides, and the business of hockey takes over, head coach Claude Julien believes his team has yet to reach their full potential.
"I think we are better than we were at the start of the season," he said. "There's no doubt there.
"Are we where we want to be? I don't think so, because I think we demand a lot more of ourselves.
"[We're] not saying that we are unhappy, either. because We have shown some flashes of playing well and doing the things that we should do," he said.
Like many cases of unfulfilled potential, the diagnosis for the Bruins is inconsistency.
"The biggest thing probably is...can we get more consistency in our game [so] that every night, you will know what you are going to get out of your hockey club," said Julien. "A lot of that stuff comes from within the room, making sure as a group, you want to accomplish certain goals, and you are focused on accomplishing those goals and know what it takes to accomplish those goals."
Certainly it is a tough, but not brutal self assessment, but one that the B's have tried to make progress on throughout the first half.
"We are getting better all the time," he said. "It's baby steps, I guess, but at least we are not regressing. We are progressing, and you know, that's not a bad sign for a hockey club as long as it continues."
In order to continue that progress, the B's will try to frustrate the Flyers at Fenway.
"They went through a tough time," said Julien of the Flyers. "But sometimes in this business, you make changes, and they did.
"Having said that, you've got another good coach that's behind their bench that had to bring his philosophy and his approach to the game, and that didn't turn around overnight.
"I mean, I've been through it, like my first year, I came in halfway through a season in Montréal, and it's hard to break habits and stuff like that," he said.
And the Flyers have begun that turnaround and are 5-4-1 in their last ten.
"I think [new Flyers head coach Peter Lavliolette] has done a pretty good job, because what I see now is guys are starting to comprehend what he wants," explained Julien. "What he wants is a more aggressive team, a more proactive team, and they were trying to do that.
"They probably weren't that comfortable at the beginning. But they are starting to feel more comfortable doing it, and as a result, they are starting to get some success."
The Red Sox have been gracious enough to provide space for us in their offices this weekend, so that is where this edition of the blog will begin -- at 4 Yawkey Way.
The sun was visible above the Boston skyline as I drove in on the Pike. That's good news.
Thursday, Dec. 30
|Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara skates with a shovel and a hockey stick as snow fa;;s on the outdoor rink at Fenway Park in Boston on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009, in preparation for New Years Day's Winter Classic NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)|
But today, it happened -- a lot -- particularly after he and the Bruins saw the snow coming down as they exited the locker room.
"Actually I saw it on TV that it was starting to snow," said Chara. "But I think it was just great timing.
"It was very cool that the weather circumstances were like they are right now. Couldn't get any better than that."
Chara and his Bruins are thrilled to get Winter Classic underway.
"Pretty much with the snow coming down this afternoon was just a perfect scenario...because it's a practice today," said Chara. "It's for everybody to kind of get the feel, and for you guys [in the press}, obviously for the TV; it's just a perfect scenario.
"Tomorrow, we would like to have it no snow and no rain and have it perfect conditions," he said. "Yeah, for today, it's pretty much right on the money."
Chara was asked how he thought the game would unfold on Friday.
"Again have to see what the weather conditions are going to be tomorrow," said Chara. "Based on that, then we'll see.
"For sure, if it's snowing like it is today, I think the best thing is to keep it simple and try not to stick handle too much or try not to do too much with the puck.
"So I guess we will see tomorrow," he said.
But with the Flyers and the Bruins it seems pretty clear that anything could happen.
"I don't think there's going to be any holdbacks," said Chara. "There is two points to be playing for, and both teams are coming off shutout wins, last nights' games.
"It will be more like playoff game.
"And even it's going to be one of those games that it's only once in a year...for sure, it's going to be intense."
|Boston Bruins players including goalie Tim Thomas, center, walk to the ice rink to practice at Fenway Park in Boston on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009, in preparation for New Years Day's Winter Classic NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)|
"I thought I was going outside!" said the affable goalie to the bemused press.
Tim said he was right at home under the lights in the Fens.
"Actually it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, between the natural lighting and the lights at Fenway [which] are much better than any baseball lights I've ever played under before," he said. "Usually when I played under baseball lights, there was about three.
"So seeing the puck was no problem whatsoever."
Thomas said that today really was a mix of fun and work.
"Yeah, you know, from my perspective, it was cool to be outside and...enjoying myself and enjoying the weather, but also picking up things about the rink," he said. "Like the corners were very shallow compared to our regular home rink.
"I was just checking out to see if anything changed the way my angles worked.
"And so my point is, you're enjoying yourself, but you're also doing your job at the same time, preparing," he said.
Today's presser gave Tim a chance to talk about his new headgear -- a Winter Classic/Bruins history-themed mask.
"It was actually my painter's idea," said Tim. "Fred Cusick, his picture is on the mask. Apparently one of his last Facebook entries before he passed away, he said something to the effect of, "I can't wait for the Bruins to start again. I can't wait to watch Tim Thomas.'
"I thought it was a way to honor a revered announcer from the Boston area for so many years."
Thomas was also asked about his having to deal with snow, tomorrow, too.
"I would want the kind of snow that looks like it's snowing a lot on TV but isn't really sticking to the ice," said Tim. "Because [today] it accumulated a lot faster than I thought it would on the ice. It piled up quickly in what really wasn't that heavy of a snow.
"So if we can get, you know, that really light snow...that would be the best case scenario I think."
|Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien, left, and Patrice Bergeron stand at center ice as workers clear snow on the outdoor rink with shovels during practice at Fenway Park in Boston on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009, in preparation for New Years Day's Winter Classic NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)|
And focus, he did.
"I think it's pretty obvious that the conditions of tomorrow are certainly going to play a role, to a certain extent, on how you want to play your game," said the head coach. "If there's a little bit of snow, as you saw today, that puck certainly doesn't move as well, and certainly can't stick handle as well as you would like to.
"We are certainly going to stay away from fancy stuff and probably more about chipping and going after it and getting the puck to the net.
"But we'll see. That will be decided tomorrow, and we just have to make sure we are ready for whatever scenario is thrown at us," said Julien.
The Bruins head coach said he had kept a discerning eye on his club during practice and he did notice that he had some players who were a bit more adept at handling the puck through the snow drifts.
"I did see certain things today, and it's almost one of those [things] where you can tell the guys that have played outdoor hockey before and guys that were probably new to the experience," said Julien. "That snow [slows] the puck down and it drags it, and there was times where guys were carrying the puck [and] by the time they went five feet, [they] couldn't see the puck anymore -- just snow on their blades.
"So the smart guys were moving it a little quicker [and] for me, I had an idea, at least seeing some of the guys that had played outdoors a lot before, that they were much more at ease."
At least two of his players seem to be adept at more than stickhandling, too. Bruins forwards and Quecbec-natives Steve Begin and Patrice Bergeron hit the snowshovels as the whitestuff started to pile up.
"Yeah, Quebecers, especially where they are from, there's quite a bit of snow in their area. I'm sure they grew up with a shovel in their hands," said Julien.
Seeing the players shoveling away the snow was just part of today's experience according to Julien, who said that today's practice and family skate were intended to be the fun part of Winter Classic.
"Today had to be a day to have some fun and enjoy the moment, and soak in anything you can," said the B's bench boss. "And even in practice, obviously the conditions made it so that maybe any drill that we would have done would have been probably more discouraging than anything else," said Julien. "And that scrimmage, although it might have looked like it was guys just having fun, which they were, still they [gave] a sense of what it's like out there playing a game and how it is outdoors, and the bounces off the boards, those kind of things.
"So I think we made the best of the situation, and there was still a lot to gain from [today's skate]. But at the same time...I think it's important for guys to have fun and have good memories of this.
"When we turn the lights off tonight, we need to start thinking about tomorrow as a business day, as a two-point game, and we've got to come here prepared and knowing what's at stake," said the B's coach. "So, I think if we do that, we'll have had the best of today and hopefully with the win, we'll have had the best of tomorrow."
|The B's hit the ice.
"Well, I just spoke with [NHL ice expert] Dan Craig, and he said an inch of snow and overcast, so there's no mention of rain," said Chiarelli. "I know it can change.
"But as of right now there's no mention of rain...but it would be an inch of snow from midnight till the morning and then a light dusting tomorrow.
"That's good," he said in reference to the obvious questionmarks earlier forecasts that had punctuated many stories about Friday's game.
As such, the Bruins GM said that arrangements for the Winter Classic have been a consistent task for the Bruins, but that he, and his hockey club, have tried to stay on course.
"Speaking for myself, yes, I mean, you try," he said. "As a manager, you try and focus on games, the practices at hand, and the players I feel do the same thing."
But now, the Winter Classic is the game at hand.
"I was just walking out there just before this press conference and it's pretty cool out there," said Chiarelli. "It's cold, and the ice looks unbelievable and you know, I'm starting to get excited about it."
That brings Chiarelli up-to-speed with the rest of the Hub of Hockey, who have waited with great impatience for January 1.
"We knew about this game before it was announced," said Chiarelli. "So from that point, until now, the buzz has been growing exponentially it seems at times.
"And the success we had last year, obviously, put us in a more prominent place in the sports team marketplace. Not the most prominent but more prominent. I think we are having a good year -- I would like it to be a better year -- this year, but it's carried over from last year, and this event has been talked about a lot, and there is incredible buzz.
"As a manager...there are so many things associated with this game that I wouldn't dare bore you about, but talking to Paul [HOlmgren, GM of the Philadelphia Flyers] the other day, he was like, 'Tank God it's finally here' and we are both excited.
As anyone would surmise, the Winter Classic is a huge undertaking, and both organizations are anticipating an amazing day.
"It is an undertaking, and [there are] - even just from a manager's perspective -- a lot of things that you have to check off the checklist," he said. "It's going to be a great game tomorrow.
"I'll be happy when we are done with it," said Chiarelli with a laugh. "But it's been a very good experience."
|Boston Bruins players gather with head coach Claude Julien as snow falls on the outdoor rink at Fenway Park in Boston on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009, in preparation for New Years Day's Winter Classic NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)|
Even the hard boiled players, most of whom have played hundreds of hockey games and have attended thousands of practices, walked up the stairs from the Red Sox dugout and looked up to see the snow and smiled.
"It's snowing!" was the catch phrase of the day, which took many of us by surprise, because for the most part, the Boston Bruins are just not very atmosphere conscious.
Why would they be?
During the year it's where's the rink? Where's the bus? What time's the game? There's 82-contests, not including preseason and postseason, and at some point, games and days run together.
But not today. Even the famously stone-faced captain of the Big Bad Bruins, Zdeno Chara, was smiling and afterward admitted his genuine enjoyment of the entire situation.
And perhaps the most touching moments of the day came when the Bruins reemerged after their practice and joined their families on the ice. Tim Thomas, Andrew Ference and Marco Sturm joined their teammates as they accompanied their children and family around the Fenway Park rink.
The snow continues to pile up. And so do the memories...
Our Boys are in the Boston Red Sox/Bruins locker room and are getting ready for this morning's practice. Look for video/ pics and prose in just a few.
The Bruins will be getting on a bus to Fenway for their 11:30 a.m. practice very soon.
Last night, postgame, Michael Ryder was one of the first Bruins to be queried as to his outdoor exploits, both in Newfoundland and Alberta.
Asked when he played his first outdoor game, the Bonavista, Newfoundland-native said,"Back home in my home town."
|BOSTON - DECEMBER 13: Michael Ryder #73 and Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park during the build out of the ice rink for the 2010 Winter Classic on December 13, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)|
Ryder said his current teammates have asked him about playing outdoors.
"They [asked when] we knew we had the game," said Ryder. "A couple of them asked me what it was like, if it was cold, and how was the ice and stuff like that.
"I just told them it was a little chilly, we had those head things on...[and[ it kept things warm.
"But, I just told the guys just enjoy it, it’s a great experience and it will be a lot of memories for later on."
Ryder, like Julien and Begin, said the game was good for hockey.
"Yah, I think so. I think a lot of people [watch] who don’t follow hockey as much with every game, and it makes it a little more interesting to catch people’s eye I guess.
"Hopefully the crowd is good for that game, which I think it probably will be.
Ryder thought today's practice would be useful to the squad.
"There’s things with getting out there and getting used to the ice and being outside," he said. "I’m not sure how cold it is supposed to be [Friday] but, [it's good] just to get out there and get a feel for it.
"It’s going to be a lot different with the fans there in the stands.
"So, tomorrow is a day for us to practice and get use to it, and enjoy the day," said Ryder.
And, good forecast or bad forecast, Ryder said the B's can't worry about it.
"We don’t know what Mother Nature is going to give [us], but when I played out there that year it was pretty chilly.
"But it wasn’t that bad during the game once you’re out there and playing the game. You get into game mode and try to win the game and you don’t really think about the cold.
"Whatever it throws at us we will be ready for it."
Ryder was asked about rain.
"I don’t know if the ice would hold out with that, but I’m sure they have something to figure that out with," he said.