HERSHEY, PA-  A perfect winter evening in Hershey provided an ideal backdrop for greats who once called this town home to rekindle fond memories. Those who attended the first leg of the Capital BlueCross Outdoor Classic were graced with seeing of some of the greatest to wear their respective team’s colors. The game back to its roots outdoors; a meaningful experience for all who played on Friday night.

“We grew up playing outdoors. It’s the purest form of hockey there is. We’ve done it since we were kids so this is like coming full circle,” said Eric Lindros.

The novelty of playing outdoors is not something lost on players that have had the pleasure of experiencing it at some point in their lives. No one knows that more than Daniel Briere.

“Playing outdoors is very special. It’s like going back to your childhood playing on the pond or playing the community outdoor rink. I’ve played two in the NHL and it never gets old.  I could play those outdoor games all the time.”

The puck is dropped in the Flyers offensive zone. Photo Courtesy: Sarah Hobday, The Sin Bin

The game was uniquely divided into two 30 minute halves with a running clock. It didn’t take long for the big names to get involved. Just minutes in, Boyd Kane opened the scoring from Graham Mink and Ray Bourque. Todd Fedoruk answered quickly from Riley Cote and Daniel Briere.

Nick Kypreos deflected a Greg Amadio shot in making it 2-1 Hershey.  The back and forth affair continued as more Flyers names got in on the act.  Jesse Boulerice tied the game at two with an assist coming from Kimmo Timmonen.  Rob Shearer and Graham Mink extended the lead.  Mink scored back to back goals pushing the score to 5-2. Mitch McHugh added the sixth goal.

Boulerice added his second of the night to cut the lead and by the end of the first half, Hershey led 6-4. Phil Sauve made a nice save to keep Lindros off the board.  Neil Little at the other end of the Flyers made a diving poke check sending awes into the crowd.

In the second half scoring slightly dipped. Hershey added three more goals to the Flyers one goal. Dennis Bonvie and Riley Cote capped off the game by dropping the gloves. The final score ended 9-5 Hershey.

 Recent Bears fans had a lot to reminisce over from the 2009 team.  Mink, Bryan HelmerQuinton LaingDean ArseneAndrew Joudrey and Greg Amadio were all on the roster and many factored into the scoring. It was a big night for Graham Mink in particular, picking up two goals and an assist.  He was awarded the game’s first star honors for his efforts.

Bryan Helmer was very pleased with the way the game turned out.  “It just over-exceeded what I thought.  It was an incredible night, the weather was great, the fans were awesome.  A lot of people put a lot of time into getting this to where it is and they did a phenomenal job and it showed tonight. I think it’s even going to be better tomorrow,” Helmer said.

Bryan Helmer looks on as Freddy Cassivi makes a save. Photo Courtesy: Sarah Hobday, The Sin Bin.

One of the more interesting and exciting adds to the alumni game this year was Ray Bourque. Having never played for Hershey or in the minors some eyebrows maybe have been raised.  But with such strong family ties to the Hershey organization, Bourque was more than on board.

“When Ray reached out to us he said ‘both sons played here, Ryan’s played here for a year and a half and Chris being a legend too here.’  Ray never played in the minors but he thought ‘hey if I had to play in the minors there would no better spot than Hershey.’ To wear Chris’ jersey, I’m sure Chris was smiling the whole game,” said Helmer.

In the pre-game press conference, it was clear, Ray Bourque understands how much Hershey means to his son.

“A lot of special things have happened here in Hershey, he’s won three Calder Cups, MVP of the playoffs, a scoring title, and his oldest son, Kingston, was born here in Hershey. It’s really been a special place for Chris and his family as well as for us watching him have success. He’s really grown up here in terms of becoming a man,” said Bourque.

A jersey auction followed the game in which every player’s jersey was auctioned off for charity.

Philadelphia and Hershey Alumni Jerseys wait to be Auctioned off for Charity. Photo Courtesy: Sarah Hobday

Daniel Briere also took this time to speak with The Sin Bin exclusively about how things are going with the new Portland Franchise, the Maine Mariners.

“It’s starting to take shape, we’re getting more and more employees on the business side.  The front office now is up and running and we’re slowly starting to gear toward the hockey side, planning coaches. It’s exciting for me, I get the chance to learn the business side but I’m still also involved on the hockey side with my passion.”

On the ECHL Allstar game
“The three-on-three concept following the NHL (all-star game) was very exciting, a lot of fun. A full day of meetings so I’m getting my feet wet on (the business) side.  It’s a lot of fun, I enjoy it,” said Briere.

The Capital BlueCross Outdoor Classic concludes on Saturday evening with a matchup between the current Hershey Bears and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.  Be sure to follow @SinBinBears for continuing coverage.

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