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Winter Classic at Gillette is providing a one-of-a-kind atmosphere

Tailgating at a hockey game? Tailgating at a hockey game!

Dan Ryan

Attending a Bruins home game is a great time, but it's a fairly cookie-cutter experience: go to your pregame food spot/watering hole, file into TD Garden and watch the game. Simple.

While the Winter Classic is, technically, a Bruins home game, the atmosphere is markedly different, and it's awesome.

The parking lots around Gillette Stadium started filling up around 8 AM, with fans of both the Bruins and Canadiens shelling out upwards of $50 in some cases to carve out a small parking spot and set up camp.

Appropriate, giving the location of the game, that the pregame atmosphere was more like a football game: countless grills cooked up ribs and sausages, coolers of beer were lugged around, corn hole games were set up and Kan Jam battles raged.

However, these tailgates had a hockey twist: instead of big guys named Sully in Tom Brady jerseys manning the grills, it was chef Patrice Bergeron or sous-chef Tuukka Rask cooking up the grub. Mini street hockey nets were strewn about the parking lot, with games of "street shinny" taking place feet away from people enjoying an adult beverage or six.

It's enough to make one wish attending a Bruins game could always be this fun. Bruins and Canadiens fans mingled in the parking lots, sharing stories and beers. Music blared from countless speakers. Footballs and hockey pucks flew. It was one giant New Year's Day celebration of hockey, just as the NHL intended.

Check out the photos below to get a glimpse of the pregame atmosphere around Gillette Stadium.