On January 1st 2010, in a little known ballpark on the corner of 4 Yawkey Way known as Fenway Park – that’s Fenway Pahk to you Bostonians – hockey will be the main event.
Instead of cheering for David Ortiz, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, the hometown natives will be cheering for Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Marc Savard on this day. The majority of the Fenway Faithful who are accustomed to ardently booing Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera will take their turns heckling Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell and Chris Pronger.
Yes, hockey fans, it is the most wonderful day of the year, the Winter Classic is upon us once again. Nothing can top a matchup between interstate rivals or Original Six rivals…but this one comes close.
The Philadelphia Flyers come to Boston’s oldest barn to take on the Boston Bruins in a game that transcends the sport itself and breaks through the many barriers hockey encounters here in the United States. This is the third installment of such a game/event and it sure to be just as thrilling as the previous two. Even the impartial hockey fan will tune into this one. Even the modest hockey/sports fan will tune into this one. More than the Stanley Cup Finals, this is the singular most important day for the National Hockey League.
Yes both teams aren’t burning the league up with their respective play. The Boston Bruins have shown flashes of consistency and are climbing the ranks of the weak Eastern Conference. But, by no means is Boston playing at the level in which they were accustomed to last season, coasting to a No. 1 seed in the conference.
Philadelphia has struggled mightily thus far and surprisingly so, especially to the writers of The Hockey News, who had them hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of this season. While there’s still plenty of hockey left, they don’t resemble anywhere near the contenders that T.H.N. and many other outlets had prognosticated at the start of this season. The coach that started this season for the Orange and Black is gone. In came a new coach and still the struggles have remained.
When the NHL can be on display for all of the United States to see, you can throw records out the window…or if you have a good arm, over the Green Monster.
It is a day to celebrate the greatest game on earth, not worry about what this game will mean in the standings.
It is a game to embrace, whether you are a Flyers fan, a Bruins fan or a fan of neither one.
I won’t lie, I was a complete cynic right before the inaugural Winter Classic, that saw the Pittsburgh Penguins emerge victorious over the Buffalo Sabres, in front of 70,000 screaming and adoring fans. When Sidney Crosby lept, arms in the air and a smile from ear-to-ear after winning the game in the shoot-out, you saw pure joy from a kid who just loves to play hockey.
Needless to say, I even had to crack a slight smile and my grin was apparent. What was also apparent was my discovery of how much I love this game, as pure as the snow that fell on that day. There is something about hockey in the frigid outdoors that makes me feel like a kid again. That is what’s missed during the season by many fans, including myself worrying about wins, losses and positioning within the standings for your team. The thrill of the game escapes you and there are other intentions outside of just being a fan of hockey.
The reflections of my hockey playing youth live on as you see hockey’s elite wear hats over their helmets, just to keep warm, just like my friends and I used to, oh so long ago. When the snow and slush impedes masterful puckhandlers and allows them to look like my friends and I struggling through the elements of our countless outdoor battles, I could only stop and chuckle.
Rest assured, this Friday will not just be nostalgic for the fans.
Players on both sides will be reminded of the endless days and nights playing on the pond or on the backyards of their homes, as they honed their games to reach the highest level of hockey there is to reach. And yes, they will absolutely have in mind that this game is going to be big in the standings, as each are trying to find their way towards qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Allow them to get caught up in the moment with us, to take in every single moment that this wonderful day has to offer.
Allow them to be kids again, just like we will…if only for a few hours!