There are a lot of things I’ve always imagined I’d possibly do one day in my life.
Going to a Super Bowl game? Check. (Although it was 2008, so I’m still trying to forget that one).
Take a private jet with a world leader? Check. (Thanks Mitt Romney).
Playing hockey at Fenway Park—in the rain, no less—wasn't an option I had ever considered. But, it happened this week.
Frozen Fenway has been a semi-regular event each winter in Boston starting in 2010, when the Bruins played in the New Year’s Day Winter Classic at Fenway. Since then, Fenway has built a hockey rink on the baseball diamond three other times: in 2012, 2014 and now 2017. This year's edition, Capital One Frozen Fenway Presented by WEEI and NESN, is a two-week series of hockey and ice skating events running Jan. 3-16. Eight Hockey East teams clash over two weekends, featuring the league’s top performers, including Boston College, Boston University, Providence College and Northeastern University. University of Connecticut, which joined the Hockey East in 2014, will also play, marking the school’s first-ever outdoor game.
I’ve watched my BC Eagles play at Fenway, including in a snowy win over Notre Dame three years ago. As exhilarating as that was, it was nothing compared to skating on that hallowed ground. I’ve played hockey most of my life, and, like all good Bostonians, cried my eyes out in 2004 when the Red Sox broke that damned curse.
So, to be able to mix these two elements of my essential being to play in a special media-only match was like getting a sack full of cash on my wedding day. I headed to the famous ballpark wondering if we were really going to play. Not because I was in awe of skating at Fenway, but because I could barely see out of my windshield from the pouring rain.
I was welcomed into Fenway’s Gate E off Lansdowne Street by several friendly ushers. I’ve been to Fenway for concerts and other non-baseball events, but I have to admit it felt weird rolling my hockey bag through the same old, concrete passageways that I normally walk to get to my cousin’s first baseline seats. It was there along that same right field line that I sat as a goofy 9-year-old with my dad and older sister to see the great Carl Yastrzemski get his 3,000 hit. I also saw Roger Waters perform “The Wall” in its entirety from that same area. But today I was going to skate down there.
In the locker room, players were a mix of media types that included several television anchor friends who I became friendly with during my 14 years as a breaking news reporter for the Boston Herald. I was assigned to Team Caron, captained by affable NESN host Tom Caron, along with WBZ-TV’s David Wade, NESN sideline reporter Sarah Davis, Fox 25 anchor Mark Ockerbloom, WBZ-TV cameraman Chris Gobeille and several other sports media folks. Our opponents, led by my former Herald colleague and current WEEI.com scribe Rob Bradford, included WEEI host and Southie hockey star Danny Picard, former New England Patriot Jermaine Wiggins, Fox 25 sports anchor Butch Stearns and WCVB sports guy Josh Brogadir.
We all knew the game was going to be a sloppy mess, but no one expected there to be an inch-plus of water on the ice, making it nearly impossible to move the puck. In my 35 or so years of playing hockey, I’ve played in the snow on ponds and at outdoor rinks, and I’ve had games called due to fog, melting or blackouts, but playing in the rain was a first.
We all made the best of it, and the game actually moved along pretty well. It was tied 4-4 when Picard and a teammate came down against me on a 2-on-1. I kept him in front of me and wasn’t going to let him beat me to the outside, but he created some space and sniped one from the top of the face-off circle that went top shelf to give Bradford’s squad the lead. A minute later, we pulled the goalie but Wiggins picked off an errant pass and dished it to a teammate for the open net goal to seal the game.
We were waterlogged, but all it took for me was a skate around the ice and a gaze at the Green Monster and the red “Fenway Park” lettering above the press box to remind me that the weather didn’t matter. Days like this one would never have been forgotten anyway, but the extreme weather made it even more memorable.
Not to mention—I now have a most unexpected bucket list item checked off.