Massachusetts natives Mike Condon, Brian Flynn embrace playing for rival Canadiens in Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium

Scott McLaughlin
December 31, 2015 - 1:04 pm

The drive from Mike Condon'€™s hometown of Holliston to Gillette Stadium is about 14 miles. His path to starting the Winter Classic there has been much longer. The Canadiens rookie played at Belmont Hill School before attending Princeton, where he appeared in just four games as a freshman in 2009-10. He split time over the next two years before finally winning the starting job outright as a senior. He posted an impressive .923 save percentage that season and then signed with the ECHL'€™s Ontario Reign. He went on to see playoff playing time with the AHL'€™s Houston Aeros that spring as well. Over the next two seasons, Condon spent time with the ECHL'€™s Wheeling Nailers and AHL'€™s Hamilton Bulldogs, continuing to post strong numbers the whole time. He continued to impress in Montreal'€™s training camp and preseason games this year and wound up winning the Canadiens'€™ backup goalie job over Dustin Tokarski. When starter Carey Price went down with a lower-body injury in late October, Condon took over as the starter. He went 9-2-3 with a solid .918 save percentage over his first 15 NHL games (including one no-decision in relief), but then he started to struggle. He lost his next seven decisions and posted an ugly .871 save percentage during that time as the entire Canadiens team began to slide. Condon enters Friday'€™s Winter Classic on a bit of a high note, though, having stopped 36 of 39 shots in a win over the Lightning on Monday. He'€™ll look to build on that Friday playing in front of plenty of friends and family in the home of the football team for which he grew up cheering. In fact, Condon has Bill Belichick, '€œDo Your Job'€ and the Patriots'€™ four Lombardi Trophies on his special Winter Classic mask (photo courtesy of David Gunnarsson). Most of Condon'€™s friends and family have always been Bruins fans, but he said they'€™ve all changed sides in the rivalry pretty quickly. "I know all my family and friends will be wearing the bleu, blanc and rouge for sure," Condon said. "I think the maximum number of tickets you could get was 14, so I maxed that out. Other than that, there are a lot of friends outside that are still coming. I think they'€™re all cheering for the Canadiens." Condon isn'€™t the only Massachusetts native playing for the Bruins'€™ hated rivals in Friday'€™s Winter Classic. Lynnfield native Brian Flynn, whom the Canadiens acquired from the Sabres at last year'€™s trade deadline, will also be in the lineup. The Maine alum has four goals and five assists in 39 games while playing mostly on Montreal'€™s fourth line. Like Condon, Flynn grew up a Patriots fan. He said he'€™s looking forward to an '€œawesome experience'€ in front of nearly 67,000 fans, but he said he wasn'€™t quite able to accommodate everyone who wanted tickets. "I bought all the tickets that were offered up. I have a huge family, huge extended family," Flynn said. "My dad'€™s one of 11. Irish-Catholic family, they all have three or four kids. Couldn'€™t get them for everyone." Flynn is actually no stranger to outdoor games at big-time Boston venues, and no stranger to playing hero in them either. Back in 2012, he scored the overtime winner as his Maine Black Bears beat rival New Hampshire 5-4 at Fenway Park in front of more than 38,000 fans. That crowd was pretty evenly split between the two schools. Flynn knows that Friday'€™s crowd will be firmly against him and the Canadiens, but he said he'€™s learned to embrace playing for his hometown team'€™s archrival. He even claims to have secretly admired Montreal all along. "It'€™s really cool for me, to be honest," Flynn said. "Even though I grew up watching the Bruins and was a fan, it was no secret that this organization was the organization in hockey, with all the championships they'€™ve won and the players they'€™ve had. The tradition up in Montreal is second to none."