The chill is in the air. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one large wind tunnel for traditional cold hockey weather. The Winter Classic is near. The long process of bringing the game back to it’s roots outdoors grows closer and closer to completion with each minute.
Arriving at the ballpark around 9 AM this morning, crews were already well into their day’s work, and they had started to apply the Winter Classic logo at center ice. The logo was completely on the ice around 10 AM and the crews have since covered it up with tarps. The red line, faceoff circles and blue lines are all painted on the ice now and as far as the playing surface goes it’s looking pretty close to being ready after they apply more ice on top of the logos.
David Montgomery, the president of the ballpark’s primary tenants, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball club, was on hand today to discuss the Winter Classic and the ballpark. Montgomery talked a bit in his opening statement about the stages of bringing the event here to Philadelphia. “It was probably 11 months ago that I first heard from [Flyers COO] Peter Luukko about the possibility of this event taking place here,” Montgomery said. “We got into what I would call more serious discussions late spring/early summer as to what as a host of a Winter Classic that undertaking really meant.”
I had a chance to ask him about the leaks and speculation leading up to the game being announced for Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. “I think really it got announced before the parties had even gotten together,” Montgomery stated. “Somehow I guess the word leaked that Philadelphia was a potential site. And then, appropriately so I think the parties decided that maybe before we do an official announcement we may want to talk about what the arrangement is going to be.”
Needless to say it was not a shocker when the announcement was made that the Winter Classic would indeed be coming to the city. “It was sort of the worst kept secret that it was coming to Philadelphia,” Montgomery added.
In addition to his duties with the Phillies, Montgomery is the chairman of the Philadelphia Sports Congress which looks to bring popular events just like the Winter Classic to Philadelphia. “When I reflect upon the mission of that group to attract as many sporting events as possible to the city as a whole and to the sports complex in particular, clearly this would be right at the top of the list,” Montgomery said.
The rest of the days leading up to the Winter Classic are going to be busy ones. Tomorrow, Friday the 30th, there is going to be a media hockey game, a media skate on the rink, followed by some alumni availability which we’ll have coverage of here on The Hockey Writers. There will also be an alumni practice at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees tomorrow afternoon.
The Flyers themselves will be back and are scheduled to practice earlier in the afternoon prior to the alumni practice. This all leads us to the 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on December 31st. The Hockey Writers will have full coverage of this game.
The Flyers will be on the road in Pittsburgh tonight for the final tilt prior to the Winter Classic, and it’s sure to be a dramatic one. Jaromir Jagr is sure to return to a chorus of boos and Sergei Bobrovsky will be in net.
More to come from the chilly confines of Citizens Bank Park.
Justin Johnson is a Senior Correspondent and has been covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the 2008-09 season. Justin has covered all levels of hockey across the United States and Canada. Justin is a graduate of Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ and currently resides in Southern New Jersey.