Leading Off

The Great Outdoors
January 11, 2016
PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY WINSLOW TOWNSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDIn front of Foxborough's frigid fans, the Bruins flopped to rival Montreal 5--1 on New Year's Day. Restricted to the main event between the Canadiens and the Bruins, the eighth Winter Classic, the NHL's annual New Year's Day outdoor game, fizzled like stale champagne. Beneath overcast skies at Gillette Stadium with temperatures steady at an ideal 40.6°, Montreal walloped its hosts by the largest margin of any Winter Classic, 5--1. Playing without their third- and fourth-leading scorers—center David Krejci (upper body injury) and left wing Brad Marchand (suspension)—the Bruins produced little punch in an effort Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask justifiably dubbed "embarrassing." Fortunately for the bundled-up, the hungover and all 67,246 in attendance, particularly those cheering for the home team, the pageantry off the ice welcomed 2016 in style. It was an event that both celebrated history (the Bruins rallied from a two-goal deficit to win the alumni game in a shootout on Dec. 31) and made history (professional teams from Boston and Montreal staged the first Outdoor Women's Classic, which ended in a tie). Where else could you see Bruins coach Claude Julien sport a Bill Belichick--esque gray sweatshirt or Rob Gronkowski squeeze himself into a Boston jersey? (Yo soy hockey!) For your listening pleasure, there was the brass section of the Boston Pops introducing the participants in this 910th meeting between the sport's oldest rivals—with "Duel of the Fates" from Star Wars, no less—as fireworks lit up the sky. The Winter Classic has always been fueled by nostalgia, by shared memories of backyard ponds and shinny at dusk. But many new memories have been created on these temporary rinks at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Michigan Stadium too. Bruins winger Max Talbot, playing in his third Winter Classic, skated with his 22-month-old son, Jaxson, for the first time. Montreal goaltender Mike Condon, a Needham, Mass., native who grew up sitting in the nosebleeds at Patriots games, made 27 saves in front of two busloads of relatives while wearing a mask that both Belichick and Tom Brady had autographed. ("I'm pretty sure anything that Tom Brady touches turns to gold," Condon said after the game.) The previous afternoon Mike's father, Ted, a sergeant in the Massachusetts state police, helped escort the Montreal team bus to practice. "It's a dream for this to happen," Ted said as he zipped down I-93 in an unmarked black Ford Explorer. Who could forget Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, ever the trendsetter, arriving at Gillette in a fur-trimmed burgundy coat and wide-brimmed fedora, looking more like Carmen Sandiego than Serge Savard? At least his choice in haberdashery made Subban decidedly easier to locate than the video-game villain. Outside the Montreal locker room after the game he stood surrounded by family and fans wearing bleu, blanc et rouge. Subban lifted his two-year-old nephew high above his fedora and kissed the baby's cheek. "Did you see?" Subban cooed. "Did you see me play?" Of course he had. The whole hockey world was watching. Followed by cameras as he walked down the hallway, Subban joined his teammates on the bus and headed for the airport, returning to Montreal after almost two weeks on the road. While the team came away with two points in Foxborough, just as in any other win this season, this victory seemed to lift the Canadiens from their December doldrums. (Eleven regulation losses made it the worst month in franchise history.) The win had also temporarily boosted Montreal into first place in the Atlantic Division. Though the season wasn't even half done, the Canadiens were drinking in the moment and savoring every drop. As the buses pulled out of the stadium, a soft snow began to fall, a white curtain dropping on the 2016 Winter Classic. PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY WINSLOW TOWNSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED1. Mark Recchi and other Boston alums took on Habs-beens on New Year's Eve PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN BABINEAU/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES2. Pats coach Belichick (left) joined fellow coach Julien for an off-day skate PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN BABINEAU/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES3. Former winger Jay Miller snapped a selfie with legend Ray Bourque
PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY WINSLOW TOWNSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED4. Young fans faced off in their own Winter Classic in the parking lot PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE SANDFORD/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES5. Canadiens defenseman Subban arrived in Foxborough in style PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE SANDFORD/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES6. Montreal goalie Condon got a hand from his dad, Ted, a Massachusetts state police sergeant PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN BABINEAU/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES7. Boston netminder Rask steadied his daughter, Vivien, on the ice PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY WINSLOW TOWNSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED8. Bruins coaching legend Don Cherry seemed to approve of the festivities
PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE SANDFORD/NHLI/GETTY IMAGESSmart clears and strong sticks from Canadiens defensemen, including Alexei Emelin, kept Boston far from the Montreal goal.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)