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Former Flyer Bill Barber keeping it basic for alumni game

When Bill Barber agreed to play in the Winter Classic alumni game for the Flyers against the New York Rangers, the Hall of Fame left winger did so with a degree of trepidation.

When Bill Barber agreed to play in the Winter Classic alumni game for the Flyers against the New York Rangers, the Hall of Fame left winger did so with a degree of trepidation.

When the alumni teams meet in Saturday's 1 p.m. exhibition at Citizens Bank Park, Barber can only hope to recapture the skill that enabled him to score 420 goals in 12 seasons for the Flyers.

Actually, Barber's aspirations for the alumni game are much more basic. Refraining from falling on the ice would be the No. 1 priority.

He began working out for the game earlier this month, and it was a humbling experience.

"I think it was the first time I was on skates in almost 10 years," Barber said.

Barber questioned his own sanity when he began.

"At first, I was saying: 'Why am I doing this?' " he said, laughing. "But once you get more comfortable out there, it's like riding a bike."

Only on a much more slippery surface.

Still, Barber is especially happy to be reunited with former linemates Reggie Leach and Bobby Clarke, the famous LCB line.

Clarke and Barber were the leaders of the franchise's only Stanley Cup champions in 1974 and 1975. The Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1976.

Leach joined the Flyers after the first Stanley Cup triumph and was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1976 even though the Flyers lost in the Finals to the Montreal Canadiens.

Clarke and Barber spent their entire playing careers with the Flyers - 15 and 12 years, respectively.

"This has been an exciting time for me, personally, to catch up with guys through the decades who have been on our roster," Barber said. "Getting the chance to be on the ice with Clarkie and Reggie is exciting."

Barber, who was later a head coach of the Flyers, is now a consultant with the team. He spends his time living in Florida, South Jersey, and Canada.

The game will bring him back to his youth, when he frequently played outdoors in his hometown of Callendar, Ontario.

"A lot of us grew up in a period of time where all we knew was playing outdoors," he said. "I never even played in an indoor rink until I was 13 years old."

He said that, along with Clarke and some other former teammates, he has been working out a few times a week at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.

"We have been skating to make sure we don't go out there and hurt ourselves," said Barber, who turns 60 in July.

He won't be complaining in the least if his ice time is limited against the Rangers.

"There are 29 guys on the roster, which is awesome, and the younger guys will have to carry the load," he said. "It's a little hard on the guys in their 60s to do anything regular."

Ice update. NHL vice president Jamey Horan said that all is on schedule with the ice surface at Citizens Bank Park. If there are no last-minute snags, the ice will be tested on Friday.

"We will test the ice to look for any stress fractures or anything abnormal," Horan said. "It allows us to see how the ice is reacting."

Last year, the Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was moved from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. because of a forecast of rain. The Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1, with steady rain falling in the third period. The game-time temperature was in the 50s.

Still, the game went on.

"The ice system we have keeps the ice temperature at 20 to 22 degrees, so even when there is precipitation it freezes upon contact," Horan said. "The best answer on the weather is we really can't judge until the day of the game."

Winter Classic

At Citizens Bank Park

 Saturday: Flyers-New York Rangers Alumni Game, 1 p.m.

Monday: Flyers vs. New York Rangers, 1 p.m.

Jan. 4: Hill School vs. Lawrenceville School, 2 p.m.; La Salle College High School vs. Malvern Prep, 5 p.m.; Penn State vs. Neumann, 8 p.m.

Jan. 5: Drexel vs. Villanova, 7 p.m.

Jan. 6: Adirondack vs. Hershey, 7 p.m.EndText

See Inquirer Flyers reporters Sam Carchidi and Marc Narducci talk about the Winter Classic in Boston in January 2010 and how hosting this year's game compares to other Philly events.