When Adirondack Phantoms forward Eric Wellwood skates onto the ice at Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 6, he will close his eyes and draw in a deep breath of cold air.
In that moment, Wellwood will feel like a kid again, playing against his family in the frontyard of their home near Windsor, Ontario.
"My dad used to build us a rink every year," Wellwood said. "We would literally play for 12 hours a day, if not more. I remember every time I would come off the ice, I would almost have frostbite. My mom would make us get in the bathtub to thaw out our feet."
Wellwood will relive those childhood memories when the Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Flyers, play the Hershey Bears at the Phillies' ballpark as part of the 2012 Winter Classic. The Flyers will host the New York Rangers in the main event on Jan. 2.
"I think my reaction was pure excitement when I first heard," Wellwood said. "I'm sure it will bring back a lot of good memories of playing with my brother and cousins back home."
Wellwood, one of the Phantoms' most promising young players, was drafted 172nd overall by the Flyers in 2009 and scored 16 goals and 12 assists as a rookie last season. The 21-year-old also played in three games with the Flyers, recording his first assist in a 2-1 win over the Islanders.
He's not the first member of his family to taste NHL success.
His older brother, Kyle, is a seventh-year veteran who plays center for the Winnipeg Jets. Although they're no longer battling it out in the frontyard, the Wellwood brothers still maintain a tight bond.
"A lot of young guys get discouraged, but having Kyle as a brother is a big advantage for me," Wellwood said. "No matter what kind of problem I have, he reassures me that it's just the nature of the business and to keep working on my skills. In the end, it's all about how you perform."
Wellwood was called up to the Flyers for a lopsided win over the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this season but suffered a separated shoulder three weeks ago after returning to the Phantoms in Glens Falls, N.Y.
"Looking back at the season so far, I'm very happy with how things have gone," said Wellwood, who is 5-11, 179 pounds. "I think our team is a lot better than it was last year so it's a lot more fun playing hockey. When you're winning, everything is good. Hopefully, I get back from this injury and keep going on the right track that I'm on."
Wellwood expects to be back on the ice in plenty of time to get ready for the Winter Classic.
"You have to prepare a little bit because you'll have a lot of excitement," Wellwood said. "The game still counts, and it's not just a charity game so you have to try to keep your emotions in check."
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