(Boston, MA) - From the Red Sox to the Rolling Stones to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fenway Park has hosted its Monster-size share of historic and memorable events. Come Jan. 1, 2010, the National Hockey League will become part of the ballpark's storied legacy.
The NHL officially announced Wednesday in a press conference inside the venerable ballpark at 4 Yawkey Way that the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2010 will be played in Boston, with the Bruins hosting the Philadelphia Flyers in the first hockey game to be played at Fenway Park, and only the second to be played in a Major League Baseball stadium.
"A unique event deserves a unique venue, and we are delighted the Bruins and Flyers will renew their rivalry, with the 'Green Monster' providing the backdrop," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We welcome our fans, our teams, our sponsors and the great city of Boston to this annual celebration of our sport."
The Winter Classic is only 2 years old and already it is one of the most anticipated events on the annual sports calendar.
The event debuted Jan. 1, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, when the Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of an NHL-record crowd of 71,217. With snow falling around him, Sidney Crosby's shootout goal clinched a 2-1 Penguins victory.
The game was a rousing success as it played out like a live painting on NBC. It was the most-watched NHL regular season game in 11 years.
This past season the NHL went to a smaller venue, only to get a bigger result.
Wrigley Field, the legendary home of the Chicago Cubs, hosted an Original Six matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. A sellout crowd of 40,818 witnessed a 6-4 Red Wings victory on a chilly, overcast Chicago afternoon.
The game drew even bigger national television ratings that the 2008 Winter Classic (12 percent better) and it cemented the NHL as a power player on the New Year's Day sports landscape.
The hope now is for the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2010 at Fenway Park to be even bigger and better. Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs has been lobbying the League to use Fenway Park for a while, and Wednesday his wish officially came true.
"From everything we can tell it will probably be the biggest classic," Jacobs said in late May in reference to rumors Fenway Park was going to be the host venue. "I really want this in Boston. I think our fans want it. I think it will be the biggest classic that the National Hockey League has had. I think it will be the most successful and the most demanded."
Peter Luukko, Flyers President and Chief Operating Officer, told NHL.com that he has already spoken to a number of players and all have expressed tremendous enthusiasm and excitement to be part of the New Year's Day game.
"This is such a special event now," Luukko said. "An All-Star game isn't a real game, even though Major League Baseball has tried to make it one, but to have a unique game like this, we're real lucky as a League."
Surprisingly, Luukko said that since the initial Winter Classic was played in Buffalo, the No. 1 question Philadelphia fans have been asking the organization at various town hall-type meetings the team hosts is when will the Flyers get to take part in an outdoor game.
"That tells you the impact the Winter Classic has had," Luukko said.
Fenway Park opened its doors to the Red Sox in 1912 and is the oldest Major League ballpark still standing. In addition to the Red Sox, Fenway Park has served as a venue for professional football and soccer games. It also has hosted numerous concerts, including the Rolling Stones. Its quirky design features famous landmarks like "The Green Monster" in left field and "Pesky's Pole" down the right field line.
Babe Ruth started his legendary career in Fenway Park, and Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Bobby Doerr played their entire Hall of Fame careers under the shadows of "The Green Monster," a 37-foot tall wall that towers over left field.
While Philadelphia and Boston don't appear to be natural geographic rivals, the two franchises have had their memorable run-ins since the Flyers debuted in 1967.
The Flyers won their first Stanley Cup, in 1974, by beating the Bruins in six games. The Flyers also set an NHL record for the longest unbeaten streak at 29 games by beating the Bruins, 5-2, at Boston Garden on Dec. 22, 1979. The streak reached 35 games, a record for all North American sports franchises. Former Flyers goalie Ron Hextall became the first NHL goalie to shoot and score a goal against the Bruins on Dec. 8, 1987.
Meanwhile, the Bruins are 85-55-25 all-time against the Flyers. They swept the Flyers out of the League semifinals in 1977 and beat them, 4-1, in the same round the following season. The Flyers and Bruins have not met in the playoffs since 1978.
"Our rivalry with Boston has been superb," Luukko said. "It's been a great battle, a great rivalry. We were one of the original expansion teams, and to play an Original Six team in this game is a real honor for us."
Author: Dan Rosen |