Frigid Fenway: College players get thrills, chills in baseball cathedral
BOSTON -- A Zamboni at Fenway? You sure that wasn't Yastrzemski? Merloni perhaps?
A week ago, the NHL held the annual Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers in one of baseball's esteemed cathedrals. Putting two more hockey games in Fenway Park on Friday night was akin to sticking a beach towel on the frozen tundra or sipping hot cider in Death Valley. Inuit don't seal fish in Hawaii. Surfers don't ride the waves in Siberia. But this ode to the game's origin is cool. Even with commercial influences, many of the players in Friday's collegiate doubleheader at Fenway -- Boston University held off crosstown rival Boston College, 3-2 and earlier, New Hampshire's women's team defeated Northeastern, 5-3 -- took some of their first strides on the frozen lakes and ponds of New England and this felt like a throwback in front of all the neighbors.
Few of the guys will graduate to the NHL. Maybe one or two of the women will play for an Olympic gold medal in a U.S.-Canada death match. No, for most of the players in Winter Classic II, or perhaps Winter Classic U., the collegiate edition of the weeklong celebration of outdoor hockey at Fenway, this was the highlight of their lives. It was hockey on its most magnified and exaggerated stage showing off its purity and simplicity. With 38,472 in attendance it was the largest hockey crowd ever to see a college game in the eastern U.S., and few will ever forget it.
"The memory of a career," said BU captain
Bonino, a native of Unionville, Conn., even took a few moments to scan the stands and check out the scene. During one stoppage in the second period, the lifelong Red Sox fan glanced over his shoulder while he passed center ice, roughly the location of second base during baseball games. "This is where
With the loss of several key seniors, BU entered the game unranked at 5-9-3, while BC was at No. 7 at 10-5-2. Still the Terriers dominated the first 35 minutes, building a 3-0 lead midway through the second period on goals by
Despite his team's slow start, BC captain
Conditions were poor for everyone. Unlike the NHL's Fenway tilt between the Bruins and Flyers, this was a nighttime doubleheader, when the outdoor lights and the misting of snow further impaired sightlines (Think: "Coach, I lost it in the snow.") By the third period, temperatures had fallen to 19 and with a seven-degree wind-chill. It was nearly a contest of dueling frat parties in the stands, with mostly BC fans over the third-base dugout and BU supporters on the first-base side. Some of the gamma-tau-Heineken crowd was stripped down to boxer shorts, proving again that one should never underestimate the medicinal properties of diluted lager on the scholarly cranium. Even Wally the Green Monster -- the Red Sox mascot -- had an extra layer on under his furry head. The snowfall week has also been a windfall for the Red Sox. At five figures for a commercial hour rental during the week, that should help with
For the record, BU and BC had played an outdoor game before. In 1920, the Terriers trounced the Eagles, 9-0 at BC's rink. Veteran coaches
The teams did the event up right, trotting out esteemed alumni such as the Terriers'
In the opener, the New Hampshire women rallied with four third-period goals to overcome a 3-1 deficit in what the teams believe is the first women's outdoor game played in the U.S. at this level or higher.
Ironically, Esposito hails not from New England, but from Edmonton, site of the NHL's first Winter Classic contest between the Oilers and Canadiens in 2003, when her father and brother attended and she rued the fact that she had a game she couldn't get out of. She said she went from joy upon learning of the Bruins-Flyers tilt to disappointment in seeing that her Huskies schedule conflicted with it to outright elation when she heard her team would play its own game a week later.
"I called my dad and told him to book a flight here," she said. "I can't believe I got to play in something so similar now. Towards the end of the game, you could see the ice was really chippy and it was really hard to make a pass and hold onto the puck. It doesn't really matter when you get to play in Fenway Park."