The Bear Cave

July 16, 2009 5:55 AM

Take Me Out to the... Hockey Game!

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stepped up to the podium on Wednesday, he deemed the announcement as one of the worst kept secrets. Now that the cat is officially out of the bag, fans around the continent can begin to raise the hype, as Boston's Fenway Park has been awarded the 2010 NHL Winter Classic. The game will be played on New Year's Day, featuring the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. The press release sent out by the team states that the puck will drop at 1:00.

Built in 1912, Fenway Park has always been one of the most recognized stadiums in all of professional sports. The history of the Boston Red Sox has played a major factor in that, while nearly every baseball fan alive has dreamed of one day seeing the Green Monster in left field. The Green Monster will be one of the best aspects of the 2010 Winter Classic, as it will serve as the backdrop for the contest. On Wednesday, the Red Sox, Bruins, and Fenway Park had the manual scoreboard on the wall ready to go, with "FLYERS" and "BRUINS" located on the far left. For those that grew up going to Fenway, a hockey score will be a unique site on the nine-inning linescore.

While the bottom and inside of the Green Monster will certainly be causes for attention, the top will also get some notice. Up until the 2003 baseball season, Fenway Park had always had a net above the left field wall. However, during that offseason, the Red Sox decided to put a section of seats there, which would accommodate 274 fortunate fans. Fortunate and rich might be the terminology used for New Year's Day, as the 274 fans in the Monster Seats will likely have to shell out quite a few pennies for this once in a lifetime event. From the looks of the rink setup, the seats on top of the Green Monster will be ranging from behind one of the nets to a further view of center ice. Based on Wednesday's pictures, the ice will run horizontally across the top part of the infield, with second base possibly serving as the middle of the red line. The setup is similar to the one used at Wrigley Field this past winter.

The 2010 NHL Winter Classic will be the fourth outdoor game in recent memory, and the third in as many seasons.

In November of 2003, the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers dropped the puck on what was then known as the Heritage Classic. The game was played in front of 57,167 fans at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, with Montreal skating away on top, 4-3.

In 2008, the Winter Classic officially began its tradition, featuring a New Year's Day tilt between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in front of 71,217 fans at the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium. Most fans view 2008 as the best outdoor game so far, as snow was a constant throughout most of the day, and the game itself was decided on the final shootout attempt by Sidney Crosby. Crosby's tally gave the visiting Penguins a 2-1 victory.

Last season, the scene shifted to a ballpark, as Chicago's Wrigley Field played host to a second straight tilt on New Year's Day. The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks took the ice in front of 40,818 fans, with the Red Wings taking a high scoring 6-4 decision.

So, what has the past told us? It's time for a home team to break this 0-3 streak and win a game for their fans. If there's one team who would love to do just that, it is the Boston Bruins. If they are able to win the game, the Bruins would also like to end another streak, as the last two winners of the Winter Classic have gone on to lose in the Stanley Cup Final. Getting to the championship round would be a positive for Boston, however, an appearance is nothing in comparison to winning the whole bowl of wax.

In terms of the players, as long as he stays with the St. Louis Blues, Ty Conklin will not be a part of this season's outdoor games. Conklin is the only player who has appeared in all three previous events. The Bruins do have a 3-0 lead on the Flyers in the category of players who have played in a regular season game outside. Michael Ryder and Steve Begin each suited up for Montreal in 2003, while Dany Sabourin was the backup goaltender for Pittsburgh in 2008.

Unfortunately, Fenway Park only holds 39,928, meaning it will be the toughest Winter Classic ticket to get so far. However, don't let that number fool you. This is an old and small ballpark in a market where fans are known for being vocal while wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The electricity and the noise in Boston will create one of the greatest atmospheres for a sporting event in recent memory.

The 2010 NHL Winter Classic is still more than five months away, but the excitement surrounding it has more than begun around New England!

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