FOXBOROUGH — The goals had been set in place. The boards had been approximated with gates and cloth. And though the weather — a sweltering 95 degrees — didn't quite mimic what Boston and Montreal might find at Gillette Stadium on New Year's Day, the NHL, Robert Kraft, Jeremy Jacobs and members of the Bruins and Canadiens did their best to welcome what has become the NHL's premier regular-season showcase: the Winter Classic.
That started with the logos the teams will be using for the game, displayed throughout Gillette Stadium and on shirts worn by the Bruins. The Boston version is reminiscent of their logo from the 1920s, specifically the 1924-1925 season.
"I'm a huge fan of our history, so obviously it made sense with the Original Six [rival], so [I] went through all our different logos," Bruins president Cam Neely said. "It's kind of an iteration of 1924, but when the jersey gets done, it's a pretty cool jersey."
Neely, smiling, declined to reveal the full jersey the Bruins will wear for the game.
The teams were happy to celebrate perhaps the best rivalry in the NHL — the Bruins and Canadiens — playing against each other in the much-celebrated outdoor game.
"When you think about sports franchises with traditions of excellence and success, the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, and the New England Patriots would have to rank at the top of any list," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in prepared remarks.
The Winter Classic will bring the three together. The game will mark the second in which the Bruins have played and the third featuring Original Six clubs. The Bruins played in the Jan. 1 game in 2010, beating the Flyers at Fenway Park, though there are just four Bruins left from that event: Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci.
"When we had it at Fenway, it was such a great experience," Neely said. "The atmosphere was unbelievable. So you look at this space and building here, how many people are going to be in the stadium, it's going to be a great atmosphere. Every time any player plays in a Winter Classic, they all talk about how it brings it back to their youth and how exciting it is, but to have an Original Six team, a Canadian team, play in the Winter Classic in this stadium here, I think it's going to be phenomenal."
For Patriots owner Robert Kraft, it was a time to reflect on his relationship to sports and hockey, noting the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry first caught his interest in the early 1950s and helped turn him into a sports fan.
"I remember as a young boy, being under the covers of my bed late at night with my transistor radio under the pillows listening to the likes of Milt Schmidt and Sugar Jim Henry against Boom Boom Geoffrion and Rocket Richard," Kraft said. "Listening to those games and then having these two teams come here, it's a great thrill."
He noted, too, that son Jonathan, for his 16th birthday in 1980, wanted only to see the Bruins and Canadiens play at the Montreal Forum. The father and son drove to Montreal and bought scalped tickets, paying more than $100 for each.
"Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, we've been fortunate to host many special and memorable events, but I don't think I have ever been more excited or thrilled than when I learned that our friends from the Bruins and the NHL wanted to bring this Classic to the Stadium," Kraft said.
Other events surrounding the Winter Classic include an alumni game at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 31 with players from both organizations. There will also be a spectator plaza at the game, Bettman announced.
The teams will take part in a behind-the-scenes show leading up to the game, as other teams have done in recent seasons, though Bettman did not reveal which channel will air the show. Epix was responsible for last season's show after it had been aired on HBO as 24/7 since debuting in 2011.
Though detailed information has not yet been released on buying tickets to the event, the Bruins announced that an exclusive pre-sale for Bruins, Canadiens, and Patriots season-ticketholders will occur, with information being sent out in the coming days. Those tickets will be limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be information released on tickets for the general public at a later date.
There remains two months before the start of the 2014-2015 season and five months before the turf of Gillette Stadium is partially hidden under ice. And yet, despite the heat of the day and the stadium-setting, the feeling on Wednesday was one of excitement.
"When you bring two of the best organizations in hockey together to clash on a big stage, it's going to be exciting," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "I know just talking about it I get excited and I know friends and family, my teammates, everybody's looking forward to that day."