BOSTON — The Winter Classic seems to be becoming an annual rite in the NHL. Today the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks tangled at Wrigley Field one year after Pittsburgh and Buffalo squared off at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.
For most NHL players, an outdoor game brings back memories of their youth hockey days — getting out on the ponds and public rinks as often as they could. Bruins center Marc Savard even found a way to make some money off outdoor hockey when he was around 12 or 13.
“I grew up playing pond hockey. My first job was at an outdoor rink,” Savard said after the Bruins’ pregame skate at TD Banknorth Garden today. “I used to open and close the shack. People used to yell at me, ‘Savard shovel.’ It was fun.”
Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman also played as much outdoor hockey as he could. And he quickly learned how to battle the elements.
“You just wore thick socks. And no matter how much you start sweating, don’t take any layers off. Because you’ll start sweating and you’ll think you’re hot and then take your toque off and then all of a sudden your hair freezes,” he said.
Both Wideman and Savard agreed they’re eager to get into an outdoor game with the Bruins. Savard endorsed Fenway Park for the venue but Wideman said if the league thinks Fenway’s too small he’d gladly skate at Gillette Stadium.
“Absolutely, that’d be unbelievable. That’d be really fun to do something like that. I think Boston would be a good venue for it,” Wideman said. “Boston-New York, maybe something like that. So hopefully some time in the future we can get involved in a game like that. But I think it’s great for the fans, I think it’s pretty exciting because that’s hockey in its purest form.”
Wideman, Savard and center David Krejci all said they’d try to catch at least a period or two of the game on television as part of their gameday routine. Krejci said he played some outdoor hockey as a kid in the Czech Republic and he’d be excited to play in a Winter Classic with the Bruins. But he’s concerned that the league might be guilty of overkill if it continues to stage an outdoor game every winter.
“Yeah, maybe (I’d want to play in one), but I think it was pretty cool last year – what happened the first time. But I don’t think … (if they do it) every year, it’s not going to be as popular. I think it’s better to do it once in a while, but not every year,” Krejci said.
Regardless, as long as the NHL can make bundles of cash, it’ll keep holding these games. And there’s no doubt the Boston Bruins — an Original Six franchise that’s now a success again on the ice — will be included some time soon.