- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the puck drops on the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, one thing is for certain: It will be a lot cooler than it was at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday.
With the temperature in the mid-90s, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially introduced the home of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots as the site for this annual celebration of hockey on New Year's Day, with the Boston Bruins scheduled to face the Montreal Canadiens.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and other members (past and present) of the respective organizations joined Bettman on stage during a sweltering news conference.
Even though it was supposed to be a day to celebrate the game of hockey, there was plenty of news about the Patriots, with the NFL deciding Tuesday to uphold quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate. And training camp opens for the Patriots on Thursday.
"We're here to talk hockey, and it doesn't get any better than that," Bettman said. "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."
There's no better rivalry in hockey than Bruins-Canadiens, and when these Original Six teams meet on Jan. 1 it will be a combination of hate and celebration.
"This is a regular-season game, but it's got a different flavor to it," said Bruins team president Cam Neely. "I'm sure it'll be in between a regular-season game and postseason game, as far as the excitement level and anticipation of playing in it. Plus, with the atmosphere, I can anticipate a lot of Montreal fans coming down for this game, and obviously we're going to have a lot of Bruins fans in the house, so the atmosphere is going to be spectacular."
This is the second time Boston has hosted the Winter Classic. The Bruins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime in 2010 at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. On Wednesday, Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Torey Krug and newcomer Jimmy Hayes represented the home team.
"There's so much already," Bergeron said of the history of the storied rivalry. "The book is already pretty thick, and to be a part of this will be another chapter. At home in front of our fans at Gillette Stadium is going to be special. I don't think we could've picked a better opponent for us to play that game."
This is the first time the Canadiens will compete in the Winter Classic.
"With the Bruins and the Canadiens, I don't think you can go wrong," said Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.
From a pure hockey standpoint, playing in outdoor conditions is always a challenge for the players. The weather is unpredictable and can fluctuate throughout the game.
"It's a lot different," said Bergeron, who assisted on Marco Sturm's game-winning goal during the 2010 Winter Classic. "I didn't think it was going to be that challenging in 2010 when we played Philly, but there are a lot of things that are different."
Unlike a normal regular-season game, the fans are separated from the ice surface, and Bergeron admitted it takes a few minutes to get going at the start of the game because of the different elements.
"You're a little lost in the first 10 minutes of where you are on the ice and where everything is," Bergeron said. "The noise is different, everything is different, and you have to get accustomed to it. After that it's just hockey and you just have to go out there and play."
Earlier Wednesday, Kraft unleashed some emotional comments about the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to uphold Brady's suspension. The Patriots owner apologized to fans and didn't hold back from showing his disappointment with the league.
A few hours later, he sat shoulder to shoulder with Bettman and discussed the Winter Classic.
"The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is a special and intense one that exists like no other rivalry in this region," Kraft said. "To have these two teams come here is a great thrill."
Information on an exclusive ticket presale for Bruins season-ticket holders, Canadiens season-ticket holders and Patriots season-ticket holders will be sent to those groups in the next few days, the teams announced Wednesday. Information on ticket availability for the general public will be released at a later date.
Also, the league announced that an alumni game between the Bruins and Canadiens will be held on Dec. 31 at Gillette Stadium.