SAN JOSE, Calif. — “Well, I’ve seen the movie Rudy.”
That is the extent of Patrice Bergeron’s knowledge of the University of Notre Dame, the site of the 2019 NHL Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
“I don’t know all that much about it,” Bergeron added about Notre Dame, “but I know there’s a lot of history behind that school and that program. So, it’s going to be something special for sure, and I’m looking forward to taking it all in once we’re there.”
That will have to wait until New Year’s weekend next year. But there’s a certain level of excitement following the league’s official announcement.
For one, this will mark the fourth time two Original Six franchises take part in the league’s annual marquee regular-season event. A historic venue like Notre Dame Stadium, located 96.9 miles away from the Blackhawks’ home at the United Center, is only fitting to host this type of matchup.
“The Boston Bruins are excited to be playing in the 2019 Bridgestone Winter Classic against another storied Original Six franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks,” Bruins President Cam Neely said in a statement. “The rich history of Notre Dame Stadium is well documented, and our team looks forward to playing at such an iconic venue. We hope that by participating in these large scale and unique NHL events we can bring Bruins fans new hockey experiences, and that we can use these opportunities to help grow our great game and attract new fans.”
Yes, the Blackhawks have been in quite a few outdoor games. This year is the first time since the 2013 lockout-shortened season where they aren’t playing in a Stadium Series or Winter Classic.
By the time the puck drops, the Blackhawks will compete in their sixth outdoor event since 2009 – and fourth Winter Classic. The Bruins obviously have their pair of Winter Classics under their belt beating the Flyers in 2010 at Fenway Park and falling in an ugly fashion to the hated Canadiens at Gillette Stadium in 2016.
For as many times as the Blackhawks have played in an outdoor hockey game, their success, or lack thereof, is quite surprising. Their only win in the elements came in the 2014 Stadium Series against the Penguins at Soldier Field. So is experience going to be a factor?
“We’ve played two games already, so we’re also used to it,” Bergeron said after Saturday’s morning skate at the SAP Center prior to Bruins-Sharks. “Chicago has obviously been in it many times, so it’s going to be an experience.
“It’s going to be something fun. You have to enjoy it and make sure that you’re not too high or too low and just worry about the game because there are a lot of things that are distracting around that game in and of itself, but that’s still a great event and something I’m looking forward to.”
As much as Bergeron and company are looking forward to playing in the Winter Classic, one can assure that it will be even more special for Anders Bjork following his stellar three-year career at Notre Dame. Somewhere, as he heals from an upper-body injury, Bjork has to be smiling.
“We had the opportunity to play at Fenway, then we played at Gillette,” Cam Neely said in a video tweeted out by the Bruins’ official Twitter account. “Now we get the opportunity to play at Notre Dame, and I’m sure there’s a player on our team that will be pretty excited about that.”