Flyers play down past Classic experience as advantage
Monday, 12.26.2011 / 10:09 PM ET / News
Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff WriterIf Winter Classic experience means anything, the Philadelphia Flyers should have a decided edge against the New York Rangers on Jan. 2.
The Rangers have two players -- Michael Rupp and Erik Christensen -- who have participated in a Winter Classic contest. When the Flyers lace up their skates at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, they will likely have nine players who have participated in one outdoor game.
For Maxime Talbot, this will mark his third Winter Classic -- he was with the Penguins in the inaugural game against the Sabres in 2008 but did not play due to injury, but he participated in last year's contest against the Capitals.
Instead of acting like a seasoned participant in the NHL's most special regular-season contest, Talbot said he expects to be just as nervous this time around as he was for the previous two.
"It's always something exciting," Talbot said. "It's always something fun. I think every time it's different. It's a different stadium, and it's not like you're in your rink. I think everybody should know what to expect. The ice won't be great, and it's going to be awesome."
Seven Flyers took part in the 2010 Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park, while defenseman Matt Walker was with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009 when they played at Wrigley Field against the Detroit Red Wings.
Does all that outdoor experience -- albeit losing, as none of the nine Flyers who have participated in Winter Classics have been on a winning team -- give the Flyers the edge over the less-experienced Rangers?
"It might give us some kind of edge," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "But as far as the game goes, it's still the same game. It's outside, but it's still the same game. The same rules apply. The same systems apply."
Scott Hartnell holds the distinction as the only player on the Flyers roster who has a point in the Winter Classic. He had the primary assist on Danny Syvret's second-period goal that gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in a game they would lose 2-1 in overtime.
Before that game, Hartnell admitted he was a little bit shaky about stepping out onto a historic baseball field with more than 40,000 fans screaming their heads off.
"I was a little nervous," Hartnell said. "You get dressed in the same dressing room as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and all these visiting players dressed in Fenway Park. It was pretty neat in that respect. You kind of had to humble yourself a little bit. But walking out there and seeing the awe of the stadium … just playing a hockey game out there in that stadium. Who woulda thunk that when they built that?"
Things will be different this time around. Instead of getting dressed in the visitor's clubhouse at Fenway, Hartnell and the Flyers will get dressed in the home clubhouse of the Philadelphia Phillies in a stadium many of them have attended as fans. Not that Chase Utley and Roy Halladay aren't terrific baseball players in their own right, but the awe factor shouldn't be as high this time around.
Despite all that working in the Flyers' favor, Hartnell doesn't see the Winter Classic experience being all that beneficial against the Rangers. "I don't think there's any real advantage to doing one or not," Hartnell said. "This is Max's third, so we're looking to him to step it up. If experience is a good thing, Max should get a hat trick."
James van Riemsdyk was a 20-year-old playing in just his 37th NHL game when he took the ice at Fenway Park. He didn't register a point in 12:47 of ice time.
"The overall excitement was pretty overwhelming with how everything was built up for a regular-season game," van Riemsdyk said. "I remember feeding off the energy and the crowd and the building. It was a pretty surreal experience. I'm glad I got to do it once, and to do it twice is pretty cool."
Now a more-worldly 22-year-old, does van Riemsdyk consider himself better prepared for this Winter Classic?
"I think it will help me deal with the moment a little bit better," van Riemsdyk said. "But at the same time, it's going to be exciting. It's going to be something we're not used to because we don't do it very often, but I think going through it once will definitely help us out a little bit."