Menino, the city's 53rd mayor and the first non-Irish-American mayor since 1930, has had an excellent feel for the likes and dislikes of his citizens throughout his 16 years in office. But he's never had a day like Wednesday, when he took the podium at Fenway Park during an NHL news conference to announce that the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be staged in the shadow of the Green Monster.
The third annual New Year's Day contest will feature the Boston Bruins hosting the Philadelphia Flyers.
"The Bruins plus Fenway Park really equals a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our city," Menino said. "Boston is a perfect fit for the Winter Classic. The Bruins are an Original Six team, rich in history and championships. Hockey is a global game and Boston is a global city, so I look forward to the Winter Classic and having the opportunity to showcase this event and our city to the world. I can't wait to come back here in January with little snowflakes coming down."
The 66-year-old mayor stressed the significance of the game and how it will showcase the city and its famed ballpark to the world.
"Sports fans in Boston, especially hockey fans, are real die-hards," Menino told NHL.com. "They're passionate about the sport and they love their Bruins no matter if they're winning or losing. The fans are rabid, and I just think this is going to be a great boost to NHL hockey and to hockey in general in this area of the country."
Menino, who is married with two children and six grandchildren, feels a ticket to the Winter Classic would make a perfect holiday gift -- though if last year’s game at Chicago's Wrigley Field was any indication, demand is sure to exceed supply.
"Kids will be asking to have this as a Christmas present," he said. "This is going to be one of those cherished gifts during the holiday season -- to be able to come to the Winter Classic."
Born in Readville, a part of Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood, Menino attended Chamberlayne Junior College and the University of Massachusetts. He's a Bostonian through and through, and was a huge fan of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr, a Boston legend.
"Since I was a little kid, I used to go to the Bruins games all the time, and still do," Menino said. "I like the Bruins and I like sports in particular. But there's a special thing with the Bruins, the Red Sox and the Celtics because they're all original teams of their league. They weren't expansion teams. They grew up here in Boston and we grew up with them -- that's why we're so enthusiastic about this event on January 1."
Menino also offered plenty of options for fans planning to make the trip to Boston for the first time -- whether or not they happen to have a ticket to the game.
"This city is a walkable city with many cultural institutions, so there are many things to do," he said. "It's just a city of neighborhoods and it's very safe. No matter when you come, whether it's Christmas-time or even after the holidays, it'll be a whole week of celebration."
"Sports fans in Boston, especially hockey fans, are real die-hards. They're passionate about the sport and they love their Bruins no matter if they're winning or losing. The fans are rabid, and I just think this is going to be a great boost to NHL hockey and to hockey in general in this area of the country."
-- Boston Mayor Thomas Menino
-- Boston Mayor Thomas Menino
That celebration includes the New Year's Eve Arts Festival -- an annual tradition in Boston since 1976. The city-wide First Night festival annually features more than 1,000 artists in 200 exhibitions and performances in more than 40 locations in downtown Boston on New Year's Eve -- as it has since 1976. Additionally, Menino said fans would be able to skate on the outdoor rink at Fenway in the days before the game.
"The public will be invited to skate for two days on the ice (prior to the game), so it's not going to be an exclusive club," he said. "How great is that -- to have an opportunity to skate on the same ice rink as the NHL folks. That's special to me because kids dream about that all the time and now they'll be able to do it right here on Major League Baseball's most charmed ballpark.
"I remember skating on a pond as a kid and how rough it was and how bad the weather was. Playing on an open rink when you were younger in the dead of winter when you were freezing takes you back to your youth. Now our players and our fans will experience that again."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.