Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The National Hockey League finally got one right. After three previous attempts with the official “NHL Winter Classic” and one Heritage Classic in 2003 fans were witness to a game of regular season hockey that was as close to a meaningful game as can probably be achieved outdoors.
Historic Fenway Park in Boston, home to baseball’s Boston Red Sox, played host to the Boston Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Day 2010 and, as a first for the event, the home team won even though it took overtime.
It was obvious from the outset that both teams meant business as they continued the intense physical rivalry these two teams have come to know. Daniel Carcillo and Shawn Thornton even dropped the gloves for the classic’s first fight. Scott Hartnell’s in your face play resulted in the first goal of the game for the Flyers as he got under goalie Tim Thomas’ skin enough to distract him from the play and Danny Syvret received credit for his first NHL goal. Both teams continued the checking and strong defensive play and Boston managed a power play goal from former Flyer Mark Recchi late in the third period and Marco Sturm got the game winner in overtime on a nice pass from Patrice Bergeron, thankfully avoiding the necessity of the dreaded shootout.
The ice still wasn’t as smooth as a professional arena, but, with cooperation from Mother Nature and some very skilled icemakers, it was obvious the players could play close to full speed without having to worry about injury. Appearances by Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke for the opening ceremony really set the stage for an event that is supposed to be a reminder of old-time hockey – hockey that was once played outdoors.
The setting itself was spectacular. Fenway Park looked great dressed up in hockey garb and the roaring, boisterous crowd – not without its share of Flyers fans – showed why Boston is considered a terrific hockey town.
Following the game, the United States Olympic hockey team was announced, led by Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas. Being that hockey’s annual all-star game has been cancelled to allow participation in the 2010 Olympics, this game provided all the necessary ingredients to showcase the sport and the National Hockey League to the world.