The team gathers for a photo at center ice prior to Thursday's practice at Fenway Park. [Photo by Travis Hughes - Broad Street Hockey]
"Today was really special," said Mike Richards. "You think about it a little bit, and coming in, you don't really realize how special it is until you actually get out there and see Fenway Park and the Green Monster while you're playing hockey. It's pretty neat."
"By the time we got off the ice at four o'clock," said Peter Laviolette, a Massachusetts native, "it was an absolutely perfect day and a perfect ten for pond hockey and being outside, there was no snow coming down anymore. It wasn't too cold and it was just a great day. It ended perfect."
"I think it's a great event," Laviolette continued, "for everybody that's involved -- for the players, the fans, the organizations, the National Hockey League. The setting of Fenway Park and having an outdoor game and Flyers/Bruins rivalry; it's pretty special for everybody that's involved."
Many players told me that tomorrow will be the largest crowd they've ever played in front of. Most said that until tomorrow, that mark is set at the Bell Centre in Montreal, which boasts the leagues highest capacity just over 20,000. About 40,000 people will be crammed into Fenway Park tomorrow. Arron Asham said he expects a lot of boos, but he may be surprised at just how many Flyers fans are in attendance.
In addition to the hundreds of Philly fans that will be at the stadium tomorrow, many of those involved have family and friends in town for the game. After answering a few quick questions in the locker room, Asham ran back out to the ice in an orange sweatshirt to skate with loved ones. James van Riemsdyk said he has 17 people in town to see him play tomorrow. Laviolette may not have that quantity, but it's still an unbelievable event for his family.
"Being a local guy, I've got my mom and dad here today and my kids on the ice. My wife grew up here... . It's meaningful. My mom was saying she's standing on that centre ice, and just can't believe that she's standing in the middle of Fenway Park on an ice rink and going to watch a big game tomorrow. That's great stuff. You couldn't ask for anything better."
The same thoughts were going on across the stadium in the other clubhouse.
"It's a real treat," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. "It was a real exciting visual for me to see the way that the rink is. While it's in the close confines of Fenway, it's isolated enough that it's under the microscope and it's an interesting visual. They have done a really good job putting it together."
"With the snow coming down this afternoon, it was just a perfect scenario," said Zdeno Chara, the captain of the Bruins. "I think it's just a perfect scenario for today, because it's a practice today. It's for everybody to kind of get the feel, and for [the media], obviously for the TV; it's just a perfect scenario."