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Anticipation mounting for NHL game

Anticipation mounting for NHL game

The anticipation is mounting for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, with the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers set to drop the puck at Fenway Park on Friday.

"Everyone is really excited, especially the fans and the whole [Bruins] organization," Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said. "It's basically, for most of us, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm sure it's going to be great."

Great, and maybe even reminiscing.

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Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger remembers playing hockey pretty much every day while growing up in Ontario, Canada, as he and his friends would either walk to the outdoor rink just two blocks away from his house or set up nets on the street.

Back then, hockey was all about fun to these current NHL players. And though the Winter Classic will count as a regular-season game, perhaps the upcoming contest at Fenway Park will be just that again.

"It is the perfect setting, to be honest with you," Pronger said. "What better place to get back to your roots, to your childhood, than by playing in an outdoor game? Playing in front of 35,000 people and enjoying yourself out in nature and the elements -- it should be a lot of fun."

Of course, hockey has its own brand of fun -- the type that involves stopping play, getting the gloves off and exchanging haymakers with your opponent.

In two previous Winter Classics, there had been no fights. But the Bruins and Flyers are considered two of the most physical teams in the league, so the 2010 version may break that streak.

"You never know, I mean, it could be [the first Winter Classic with a fight]," Chara said. "It all depends how the game goes. For sure, both teams are well known for their physical play, and we'll just see how the game goes.

"In different situations, the teams react differently. I think we all have to realize it is an important game, it's a big event, everybody is going to be watching it. But at the same time, we're playing for two points. So we'll see."

The first Winter Classic was in 2008, pinning the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. Then, last year's Winter Classic at Wrigley Field -- between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks -- attracted the largest audience for a regular-season NHL game in 34 years.

The 200-by-85-foot rink at the Red Sox's home ballpark for the upcoming event stretches out from third to first base. Upon completion on Dec. 18, the "First Skate at Fenway" took place, with former Boston Bruins greats Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, among others taking the ice.

Come New Year's Day, the biggest obstacle facing members of the Flyers and Bruins may be the weather.

"You never know what the weather is going to be like," Pronger said. "It could be 40 degrees in Boston, it could be minus-10. It could rain, it could snow, it could be bright. You may have to use the football shading under your eyes. I know some guys that use a tinted visor to help them with the sun and the glare of the ice, things like that.

"The weather and Mother Nature are probably going to play a bigger factor than anything else throughout the course of the game with condition, whether it snows, rains, it's sunny, cloudy."

The game will start at 1 p.m. ET, and fans will have multiple options if they want to tune in. NBC will provide live broadcast coverage of the game in the U.S., while CBC and RDS will televise the game live in Canada.

In addition, NHL Network will offer all-access pregame and postgame coverage, while 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, WIP Radio in Philadelphia and SIRIUS XM Radio will carry live radio coverage. NHL.com will have digital video coverage.

"It's going to be a totally different atmosphere," Chara said. "But I'm going to prepare the same way I prepare for any game."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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