BOSTON – Annie Hogan gets to live every little kid’s dream for a second time.
As a softball player at Lawrence Academy, Hogan had the opportunity to play at Fenway Park in High School, taking her swings at the big green wall out in left field.
“It was pretty much the highlight of my athletic career,” she said boastfully.
And it will remain that way until January 8th, when she’ll carve her next Fenway Park moment into the man made ‘Rink of Dreams’ right above second base. This time wearing her hockey sweater, with a big C placed just above the Northeastern crest, leading her teammates out of the dugout and onto the sacred, century-old field for this once in a lifetime event.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing a little snow during warm ups,” Hogan said, envisioning the moment. “But then I’d want it to be a nice, cool night.”
The Huskies and the University of New Hampshire will take part in the first outdoor women’s hockey game in NCAA history, beating the defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers by nearly a month in doing so. They’ll be a part of history in a venue seen as a man’s domain; a palace to all that is boyhood in this six-state New England region.
Now the crowd of 38,000 plus who cheer for the ‘Boys of Summer’ will be focused on the ‘Girls of Winter.’
“It really doesn’t get any better than this being a local kid,” UNH forward Micaela Long said. “I mean, who would have ever thought I’d be playing at Fenway Park?”
That’s the prevailing thought amongst both clubs amid months of speculation and rumor. And in the case of Northeastern, it wasn’t always in the brightest light as some of its most influential supporters are still fuming over the snub of the men’s program.
After all, Northeastern is technically closer to Fenway Park than Boston College and they made the NCAA Tournament last season as the Eagles watched from home.
Yet, the smiles on the faces of the 40 or so girls who will have this unique opportunity melt away the skepticism. The awe. The beauty. The realization that this hockey festival, in coordination with the 2010 NHL Winter Classic, has extended an invitation to them.
“I’m so happy for our athletes,” said UNH Head Coach Brian McCloskey. “We’ve had the opportunity to go to Nationals, to play some tremendous series against top teams in the country. But to do something in Boston, on National stage for our athletes to have that opportunity, it just really gets you excited.”
It’s the right game, with the right venue, at exactly the right time. With the 2010 Winter Olympics only weeks away, the women’s game will be placed in the spotlight. And while the groundwork for the women’s tournament in Vancouver was laid out months ago on Commonwealth Avenue at last year’s Frozen Four, the spotlight here is brighter, the niche factor more on par with its Olympic counterpart.
“It’s something for the city,” Boston University Men’s Head Coach Jack Parker said. “Something to show off college hockey and the game of hockey at all levels. Pro and college. Men and women. I think that in and of itself, is worth while.”