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Winter Classic Legacy Initiative unveils renovated rink

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- Not even a torrential downpour could spoil the occasion at the newly renovated Bryan McGonagle Street Hockey Rink at Ryan Playground in Charlestown.

About a dozen young players from the Charlestown Boys and Girls Club ran around firing shots and passes from every angle, making use of the newly paved playing surface. In the light of the four new light poles and LED lighting fixtures, the state-of-the-art scoreboard, the new rink boards, goalie nets and rubber matting surrounding the rink glowed as the players splashed in the puddles and showed off their skills.

The newly renovated rink was unveiled Thursday by the Boston Bruins, the NHL, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and League partners Constellation, Bridgestone, Ecore, Exelon, Franklin Sports and Musco as part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Legacy Initiative powered by Constellation.

The Legacy Initiative is a philanthropic endeavor the League and its partners use to make a mark in the communities in the host city of NHL events. The renovation also included new spectator seating and new landscaping in the vicinity of the rink, which now meets the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It's great for the community," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Look at the kids out there. I don't even think they know it's raining. Yes, it's great for hockey, but more important it takes children from the community, gives them a place to go to have exercise, to have fun and to learn the values of team sports -- hard work, teamwork, diligence and making sure they're going to school and getting a good education. It's all part of a greater good for the community."

The rink fell into a state of disrepair for several years after it had been a source of recreation for neighborhood kids for decades. For 17 years Joe McGonagle ran a street hockey tournament in honor of nephew Bryan McGonagle, who passed away in an accident when he was 9. The old rink featured a logo with a shamrock and Bryan's name at center court. A similar logo now adorns the NHL-style rink boards. The McGonagle family was heartened to know Bryan, who was a huge hockey fan, will be remembered for decades to come by the kids who visit the new rink.

"The hockey community helped the family through a tough time. The Charlestown community helped a family through a tough time," Joe McGonagle said. "Holidays can still be tough. Because of all these people behind me, the words 'magic' and 'magical' and 'happiness' [are] going to be in our Christmas this year."

Charlestown has a special connection, to hockey starting with its location bordering the neighborhood where the Bruins play at TD Garden. Even Mayor Walsh, a South Boston native, had to concede that Charlestown is the part of Boston that's considered the most "hockey fanatical area." Several current and former Bruins live in Charlestown, and the neighborhood produced "Miracle on Ice" defenseman Jack O'Callahan and Bruins prospect Matthew Grzelcyk, who plays for Boston University.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who was on his way to the ceremony where he would receive the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, couldn't have been more pleased by how the Legacy Project turned out.

"I think this is such a representative of the grassroots of hockey," Jacobs said. "This is what it's about. These kids are what it's about. We're only on this Earth for so long and we can only do so much good, and this is good. This is very meaningful. I think this speaks to the values for what the Bruins stand for in this community."

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