As soon as Saturday’s Fenway Bowl is over, and the college football operation packs up and ships out, the NHL will move in. The rink build for the Jan. 2 Winter Classic begins on Monday.
Another sign of how close we are to Bruins-Penguins at Fenway: The Bruins tested out their throwback gear at Friday’s optional practice.
Linus Ullmark is paying tribute to two netminders of Black and Gold past. His pads, glove, and blocker feature a cascade of stars, in the style of Byron Dafoe.
“Lord Byron,” Ullmark said in a video posted by the Bruins. “Loved the swag that he had. When we had the opportunity to do it in Boston, I was very excited.”
The front of Ullmark’s mask has the mouth-open bear that Andy Moog wore in his days as a Bruin.
“I wanted to have something that was very simple, but detailed,” said Ullmark, who was unavailable Friday because he and Jeremy Swayman were participating in a youth goalie clinic. “When you look at it from a distance, you can see what it is.”
On the back of his mask, Ullmark always has a tribute to his family. His two children, Harry and Lily, are represented as two baby bears crawling toward two adult bears (Ullmark and his wife, Moa).
Swayman turned back the clock even more, going with an all-brown-leather look that recalls the postwar generation. The front of the pads are flat, as is today’s standards, but the printing has peak-and-valley shading that gives the appearance of leather-and-horsehair.
“Those are cool,” said defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who has an eye for detail. “Kind of wish they had the real tie-ups on them, but the fake ones will do. I thought both goalies’ stuff looked really cool. I think once the jerseys are on it’ll hit home a little more. When Sway gets the mask on, too, it’ll complete the whole setup.”
On one side of Swayman’s mask are images of Ted Williams, Curt Schilling, and David Ortiz. The other has Winter Classic, Bruins, and Red Sox logos. His teammates at practice tested their golden-brown gloves and pants with the 1950s Spoked-B and large gold stripe down the side.
“The brown gloves bring you back a little bit,” Grzelcyk said. “I think it looks better once the full ensemble’s on. We had a chance to look when Bergy put it on” — team captain Patrice Bergeron recently served as a model for promotional photos — “but he looks good in anything.”
At the risk of overstating the importance of some throwback duds, these are a few of the little treats that add a spark to the season.
“It’s something, for sure,” Nick Foligno said. “It’s a monotonous year a lot of times, so to change it up, see different logos, different gear, it’s fun for guys. Some guys hate the different gear. But it’s an exciting time for a lot of us. I think there’s a lot of guys in there who have never played in [a Winter Classic]. Hearing from guys who have, and us getting an opportunity to do it together, we want to go get a big win at Fenway.”
Drinking it in
Taylor Hall’s first outdoor game was in 2003, with the Heritage Classic in Edmonton. He had recently turned 12. His crew made the drive from Calgary to watch the Oilers play the Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium. A crowd of 57,167 watched in temperatures that hit minus-22 with the wind chill.
“I was pretty far up,” Hall recalled. “I was so young I remember thinking, ‘Why is everyone drinking cold beer?’ But now as an adult I can see why you’d want to have anything to make you feel a bit warmer.
“I was freezing my butt off there. Now almost 20 years later, it’s cool to be playing in one.”
Hall said he wants to savor this experience.
“I was really excited for something like this when I got traded here, knowing the Bruins usually play in these special events,” he said. “This is awesome for me.”
Grzelcyk, a Charlestown product, played in the first-ever prep school game at Fenway. In 2010, he helped Belmont Hill overcome a 5-2 deficit and beat St. Sebastian’s, 6-5, in overtime.
“This is a little bit of a step up, for sure,” he said. “I got a taste of it in ‘19 [at Notre Dame]. Those are games you remember. It’s the stuff that goes into it before that makes it special. You get the family skate. I got to share that with them. That’s what they remember most. Obviously, the game is super important. It’s obviously back to business when the puck drops. But just a special event to take part in.”
He also alluded to the team showing up in costume, as done in the 2019 Winter Classic (Peaky Blinders) and 2021 Lake Tahoe game (Neon ‘90s).
“We’ll definitely have something up our sleeves,” he said. “We’ve been planning it for a little bit now. Haven’t seen what’s coming yet, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. I think the fans will definitely be happy with the look we go for.”
See you tomorrow
Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Hampus Lindholm, Charlie McAvoy, and Derek Forbort took the day off for maintenance. All will play Saturday against the Blue Jackets, coach Jim Montgomery said … The Bruins didn’t seem concerned about two blown third-period leads in consecutive home games. “I honestly think that was a tough road trip with travel and everything,” Hall said, echoing several others. “We travel home, we have a game, and we have an offday to just recover from the whole ordeal. Now with a practice day, now that we’re home a little bit, we’ll see some improvement.” … Grzelcyk: “It’s a long season and those games happen. We’ve been the best third-period team in the league for a reason. I know we’ll respond like we always do.” … Montgomery said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll go with a fedora, bowler, scally cap, or something else for Jan. 2. “I know I’ve got to wear something,” said the glabrate coach, who was an assistant coach for St. Louis in the 2022 Winter Classic, when it was minus-6 at puck drop at Target Field in Minneapolis. Without his stocking cap covering his pate, he said, “I could only last the national anthem.” … If Foligno was coaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and he had Dafoe and Moog to choose from, who would he start? “Ahh! That’s tough,” he said. “I’ll go with Moog. I liked his style. He was a hell of a goalie, too.” … The Bruins will honor Bergeron before Saturday’s matinee. Bergeron scored his 1,000th point on Nov. 21 in Tampa.