GARY BETTMAN was right.
The 2010 Winter Classic, as the longtime NHL commissioner said yesterday, was the "worst-kept secret there is."
Word had been leaked in April that Boston would be hosting the annual outdoor game at venerable Fenway Park. The only remaining question was the other team that would join the Bruins on the ice on New Year's Day.
The Daily News reported last month that the Flyers would face off against the Bruins - the same team they defeated in 1974 to win their first Stanley Cup - using the Green Monster as a backdrop for the marquee matchup.
"We're just happy to have it official," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Stevens, accompanied by new goaltenders Ray Emery and Brian Boucher, defenseman Braydon Coburn and Comcast-Spectacor CEO Peter Luukko, trekked to Boston for the not-so-surprising but exciting official announcement.
Surprised or not, it might be the biggest regular-season game in franchise history.
"I think it's right up there with historic moments in Flyers history," Luukko said when he arrived back in Philadelphia later yesterday afternoon. "It has become such a big part of the season. I think it takes advantage of the fact that many of the roots of the game were in pond hockey.
"To bring it into these classic stadiums like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field - an alternative sports venue for hockey - and to have the game outdoors, I think it is very special. It's nice to be in one of the first three games that the league has had."
Luukko told the Daily News last Jan. 1, just after the Red Wings and Blackhawks dropped the puck at Wrigley Field, that the Flyers would be interested in participating in the next one.
There were rumors of the possibility of the Flyers hosting the game at Penn State's Beaver Stadium, but Luukko said that option was never seriously considered.
"We were just told that we were chosen," Luukko said. "The league really doesn't have a formal bidding process. I think that the league has been making these choices as to where the games are. To be chosen is pretty cool."
The league instead chose to stick with an iconic baseball stadium. The only park that exceeds the historical awe of Wrigley is the one located on Yawkey Way in Boston's Kenmore Square.
Last year's game in the Windy City, which drew a capacity crowd of 41,818 and the largest regular- season television ratings in 34 years, had ticket demands for more than 240,000 people.
The first Winter Classic, played on Jan. 1, 2008, between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, attracted 71,217 to Rich Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills.
The NHL still is tinkering with the exact location of the rink but yesterday it was sprawled across the infield - from first base to third base.
The rink location will have an impact on spectator views, and in turn, tickets. It isn't yet clear what the allocation would be for Flyers season ticketholders.
"As of right now, we are still working with the league on our ticket allocation," said Shawn Tilger, senior VP of business operations for the Flyers. "As the visiting team, ticket inventory will be limited, but we will do our best to accommodate as many fans as possible. Our plan is to implement a system that gives priority to our season ticketholders."
Luukko said the rivalry between the Flyers and Bruins adds to the already exciting environment. Boston finished with an Eastern Conference-best 116 points last season.
"The Flyers have had some of their greatest moments against the Bruins," Luukko said. "We won our first Stanley Cup against the Bruins, Ron Hextall became the first goalie in NHL history to score a goal against the Bruins. We won our 500th game against the Bruins. It's been a great rivalry.
"The Bruins and the Flyers have always been hard-working, hard-hitting, lunchpail teams, the type of teams that fans love to see. They have their stars, but they also have the players that work hard."
After the announcement, Luukko and Co. received a behind-the-scenes tour of the oldest ballpark in the major leagues, which opened in 1912.
"I'm from New England," Luukko said. "I grew up in Worcester, Mass., and I went to the University of Massachusetts. I had never been in the dugout or on top of the Green Monster before. It was pretty cool."
Emery got a bird's-eye view of where he will be standing in net in less than 6 months time.
"I had been to Fenway but not in that light before," said Emery, the team's new starting goalie. "It was really cool. It's exciting to know that we're going to get a chance to play there."
"Everybody is so jacked up," Coburn said. "To be part of something like this, I think from a player's standpoint, you couldn't ask for anything better. That's something you could always carry with you."
Emery is the only Flyer with experience playing outdoors professionally. Last season, as a member of Mystichi Atlant, Emery skated in Russia's Kontinental league All-Star Game, which was held in Moscow's Red Square. It just isn't a memory he would like to recall.
"It was minus-18 degrees out," Emery said with a grin. "It was tough. It's just an experience and both teams have to go through the same thing. But you never know what you're going to get."
That unpredictability is what has everyone so excited. It snowed - or flurried - at each of the two previous Winter Classic events.
"It's never perfect," Coburn said. "That's the beauty of it. They have the festivities and the carnival-like atmosphere. In Buffalo they had snow going, and in Chicago they had a little bit of wind, it was a little like climbing a hill in one end [of the rink].