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Credit the Boston Bruins with kick-starting a pretty neat tradition around the NHL that just keeps getting better and more playful each season.
It all began prior to the Jan. 1, 2019, Winter Classic at Notre Dame between the Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks in an outdoor game that was already rife with storylines between a pair of Original Six teams that had met six years prior in the Stanley Cup Final.
But the Boston Bruins didn’t stop there. No, they sure did not.
A hockey club that’s always been about team bonding and tight-knit team chemistry came up with the idea for a “Peaky Blinders” theme. All the Boston Bruins players dressed like 1920’s era Irish gangsters from the BBC TV series and transformed their entrance to Notre Dame’s football stadium for the outdoor game into a fun made-for-TV event that the players thoroughly enjoyed.
The Winter Classic turned into a big team-bonding event complete with the old-school suits, and that entire New Year’s event became a turning point that propelled the Black and Gold to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final that season.
Since then, it’s become a tradition with nearly every outdoor hockey game where at least one of the NHL teams has adopted some kind of fun-loving theme that brings the right amount of lightness to the proceedings. The Boston Bruins did it again during the 2020-21 regular season when they put a neon 1980's and 1990's spin on what amounted to a picturesque outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe.
The piece de resistance of that one was Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron rocking out with a vintage 1980’s Walkman as they strolled to the outdoor rink to get ready for the game.
But David Pastrnak doing his best Randy “Macho Man” Savage impersonation before notching a hat trick was something hockey fans won’t soon forget either.
But there are others aside from the Bruins that are making cosplay memories synonymous with the outdoor games.
Who could forget the St. Louis Blues picking the frigid temps of Minnesota in January at this season’s Winter Classic for a beach theme where all the Blues players were in bathing suits, speedos and attire meant for sunshine, sand and the ocean?
It was an NHL-record minus-6 degrees at the frigid Target Field home of the Minnesota Twins, but you’d never guess it by the Blues beach boys walking into the arena.
The latest was last weekend’s Heritage Classic where the Toronto Maple Leafs played the Buffalo Sabres outdoors. The postgame hue and cry was about Auston Matthews tagging Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with a crosscheck to the neck that’s going to see him suspended for the first time in his brilliant NHL career.
But prior to the game the Maple Leafs were the talk of the pregame dressed in full steelworker’s gear complete with Tim Horton’s coffee in hand on their way to the game. It was done to honor the 100-year history of the steelworker industry in Hamilton, Ontario where the game was played pretty much smack dab in the middle of the drive between Toronto and Buffalo.
Let's just say there was a little more thought put into that than the Sabres dressing up like a bunch of Will Ferrell's from a basketball movie.
The possibilities are endless for teamwide themes and something that’s organically grown out of the outdoor games that have grown in stature and scope in the National Hockey League over the last 15 years. But let’s give it a little credit to a great idea that germinated with Torey Krug and a few other Boston Bruins players a few seasons ago and has become something the players seem to look forward to almost as much as the breathtaking outdoor games these days.