The Green Monster confirms this year’s Winter Classic. (AP)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman dubbed it the “worst kept secret,” while confirming Wednesday afternoon that the Boston Bruins will meet the Philadelphia Flyers in this year’s Winter Classic at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, 2010.
“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,” Bettman said. “We welcome our fans, our teams, our sponsors and the great city of Boston to this annual celebration of our sport.”
Added Bettman later, “It’s July and it’s 80 degrees, but Happy New Year, Boston.”
Ticket information was not released and will be disseminated at a future date.
Speaking with the NHL Network after the announcement, Aaron Ward playfully answered a reporter when asked about how excited he is to play in next year’s Classic.
“Don’t jinx me, I could always be traded,” joked Ward. “Hopefully we have a good start to the season so (Bruins general manager) Peter (Chiarelli) gets comfortable with this lineup.”
Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs relayed a story of how a reporter last year deemed landing the Winter Classic akin to securing an Olympic bid.
“He had it right,” said Jacobs. “Landing the Winter Classic here is something that we have worked hard to achieve for our fans for quite some time. Boston has been home to our fair share of great sports moment and, on New Year’s Day, we’ll be adding another indelible memory to that long list.”
Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino also announced that there would be two days of public skating in conjunction with the Winter Classic.
“I love summer, but I can’t wait to be back here on New Year’s Day,” said Menino. “Twenty-eight degrees, little snowflakes coming down… The Bruins — an original six team — have once again made Boston the hub of hockey, and I can’t wait to experience the NHL Winter Classic with the most passionate fans in the country.”
It’s expected that Boston College and Boston University will also use the ice for a game. While that was not formally announced Wednesday, the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa has the details in this story from last week.
The photo at the bottom of this entry appears to indicate how the rink will be laid out: from first to third base, with much of the ice in the shallow outfield.
Red Sox president and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino, whose team is opening its doors to the NHL, added, “This is a great baseball town, the best in America, but this is a great hockey town as well.”
Added John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox, via a press release: “From the day we arrived at Fenway Park, our ownership group has been committed to preserving and protecting this historic venue, and we have taken extraordinary steps to ensure it can serve fans for generations to come. We have been equally as committed to promoting all that is good and unique about Fenway Park, and this is an exciting opportunity to open the ballpark to fans, neighbors, and the city. We can’t wait to see Fenway Park full of people and energy in December and January.”
Flyers president Peter Luukko — an Auburn, Mass. native and UMass graduate — spoke of the thrill of bringing his team to historic Fenway Park. He did playfully jab at the squad he grew up rooting for by noting that the Flyers have had many historic moments against the Bruins, most notably the 1974 Stanley Cup victory.
Speaking with the NHL Network following the announcement, Bruins vice president Cam Neely also talked about the thrill of playing in such a game.
“To be able to play outside at Fenway Park, in a regular-season game, you never thought it would happen,” said Neely. “It’s a great experience to be a part of. Every player in the NHL wants to be part of this. It’s quite a spectacle and great for the fans. It’s unbelievable for Boston and our fan base.”
The NHL Winter Classic began as the Heritage Classic when the Montreal Canadiens topped the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, before 57,167 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Nov. 22, 2003.
The outdoor games resumed in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1, in a shootout before 71, 217 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year’s Day. Earlier this year, the Detroit Red Wings bested the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, in front of 40,818 at Wrigley Field.
The games have had two dubious distinctions: The winners of both Winter Classic games, Pittsburgh (2008) and Detroit (2009), have gone on to lose in the Stanley Cup Finals. Meanwhile, goaltender Ty Conklin is the only player to have played in all four Classic games. That streak is in jeopardy now as Conklin currently skates for the St. Louis Blues.
A look at how the rink will be positioned for the Winter Classic. (AP)