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Hockey Notes

Not many can afford this diamond

By Kevin Paul Dupont
November 1, 2009

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The NHL will move its Winter Classic hardware into Fenway Park Dec. 10 and will have its pristine sheet ready for skating by Dec. 18, two weeks before the Bruins take on the Flyers in the celebrated Jan. 1 game, with the old ballpark’s left-field wall acting as backdrop and 35,000-plus fans eating and drinking up every minute of it.

Meanwhile, a cavalcade of other events, including a four-team Hockey East extravaganza Jan. 8, will play out on the Emerald Bandbox’s icy tableau before the plug is pulled on the ice-making machinery. Part of the celebration has the Red Sox and Bruins poised to rent out the sheet for corporate events and pickup hockey games, just like your local rink.

However, it all comes with one significant, expensive twist. That one-hour ice rental at a local rink in and around Boston typically would cost upward of $300. At Fenway, the going rate will be $7,500 or $10,000 for each one-hour session. That is not a typo. The going rate will be as high as 33 times more than what a prime-time hour would cost at one of the area’s better rinks. And according to Sam Kennedy, executive vice president and COO of the Red Sox as well as president of Fenway Sports Group, there has been no shortage of folks lining up to reserve the time.

“But this is not a financial windfall, by any stretch of the imagination,’’ said Kennedy. “I think it would be wrong to portray the Red Sox as being out to make a bundle on this.’’

No doubt there are considerable underlying costs the Red Sox must absorb in having a rink stretched out on Fenway terra firma for non-NHL use. The league is charging Fenway $16,000 per day to keep the rink up and running on the days when the Red Sox and/or Bruins will be able to use it for entertaining and marketing purposes.

“Frankly, I don’t know their plans,’’ said John Collins, the NHL’s CEO, when asked how he felt about the league’s sheet being rented at $10,000 an hour. “Other than our event on [Jan. 1], we’re the vendor supplying the rink and covering our costs. They can do what they want with it. It’s not part of our deal. We’re not collecting any money off of it.’’

The Bruins, according to the club’s marketing chief, Amy Latimer, have a fraction of the ice-time inventory that the Red Sox have at their disposal. However, she confirmed that the Bruins will price their ice in lockstep with the Red Sox, and likewise target a corporate audience that might not blink over the price the way, say, a men’s senior hockey league looking to have its boys take a skate in the hallowed ballpark would.

“We just found out a few days ago what hours we’ll be able to use, and there aren’t many,’’ said Latimer. “This won’t be a widespread marketing campaign for us. It will be more geared toward our corporate partners.’’

However, the Red Sox have been marketing their available hours to area hockey leagues as well as corporate sponsors and entities. Figuring a club would suit up 15 players, that would leave a group of 30 to share a tab of $7,500 or $10,000, or $250-$333 per skater. That’s not a beer-league game but a champagne-and-caviar special. Oh, sweet Caroline.

“Sure, whatever, they’ll get it,’’ said Chris Casilli, a lifelong Red Sox fan and ardent recreational hockey player who lives in Somerville. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Out of my range, but if I had that kind of scratch, I’d give it a whirl. It’s like, ‘If you build it, they will come . . . and if they do, they will pay, Ray.’ ’’

Dave Ford won’t pay. Another recreational hockey player, Ford, a 31-year-old computer software salesman who lives in South Boston, was intrigued by the idea of playing hockey at Fenway. Until he saw the pricing.

“I’ll go to one of the public skating sessions,’’ he said. “But the rest of it, including the game, I’ll sit on my couch and watch on TV. It’s a debacle. Sickening.

“I’ve got friends who are Bruins season ticket-holders, and they’re selling their [Winter Classic] tickets to cover the cost of their entire season. The whole thing has turned into a total cash grab.’’

Peter Manderino, commissioner of a local recreational hockey league, Stinkysocks Hockey, initially hoped to secure some hours at Fenway for his 300 or so active players.

“But when I saw that $10,000 price,’’ mused Manderino, “and figured maybe 20 people divvying that up, that’s $500 apiece. Just not realistic. Even if we went to 30 players at the $7,500 an hour, that’s $250 each. We took a pass.’’

According to Kennedy, the pricing for the one-hour sessions will cover, in part, the hours of public skating (dates and times to be announced soon) that Mayor Menino’s office will stage at the ballpark, as well as the practice sessions related to the Hockey East tournament.

Kennedy referred to it as the “Robin Hood theory of pricing,’’ which, he said, is prevalent during the baseball season at Fenway - as patrons of the EMC Club and State Street Pavilion pay premiums for their luxury seating, allowing prices to be more reasonable in the bleachers and grandstand.

“I can tell you that the interest [in one-hour rentals] has been overwhelming,’’ said Kennedy. “The price has not been a deterrent whatsoever. Hey, I still play beer-league hockey, so I hear you loud and clear over how some people might compare these prices. But this is geared, really, to our corporate base.’’

MAKING THIS STOP COUNT
Journeyman goalie holding his ground
Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller (Buffalo), and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles) were the three netminders invited to Team USA’s Olympic orientation camp in July, and as of today Miller is the front-runner to start in the Red-White-and-Blue net.

However, co-general managers Brian Burke and David Poile can’t dismiss Craig Anderson as the potential top Yankee goalie.

Anderson, who had a short stint in the Boston dressing room in January ’06, is rear-and-center in Colorado’s surprising revival. As of yesterday, the 28-year-old journeyman led the league in victories (10), stood second in save percentage (.939), and was third in goals-against (2.04).

Stationed behind a young, energetic Avalanche squad, he has staked an early Vezina claim, despite spending a half-dozen unremarkable NHL seasons bouncing from Chicago to Florida and then Colorado, with brief detours to Boston and St. Louis.

Mike O’Connell was Boston’s GM in January 2006 when both Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen were sidelined by injury. Desperate for a stopper, O’Connell reached down to Providence for Thomas, who had to clear re-entry waivers to make it back to the varsity. When none of the 29 other NHL clubs put in a claim - for what would have been a mere $125,000 - Thomas was in Boston to stay.

Days later, less than two weeks after being claimed by the Bruins, Anderson was back on waivers and claimed by the Blues. St. Louis, like Boston, never put Anderson in a game. Three days after the Blues claimed him, the Blackhawks reacquired him via waivers. In June, the Hawks swapped him back to Florida, where he played in only 24 games across three seasons before signing on with Colorado this past July 1.

The moral of the story? The path to netminding success is anything but a straight line.

Just as Thomas went unwanted by those 29 other clubs, no one much noticed when Anderson, with 36 career victories and not a single postseason game, signed on with Colorado for a two-year deal at a $1.812 million cap hit. It’s a position that demands split-second decisions to be successful, but one that also reminds GMs that it’s never too late for some of these guys to make it.

ETC.
Labor pains remain for players’ union
Ian Penny walked out of the NHLPA office Friday, contending that he had been “constructively dismissed’’ as the union’s interim executive director. Technically, that left the 30 player reps in charge of charting the fortunes and destiny of the 750 or so rank-and-file members. Frightening. Especially when one considers that many of the 30 members are the same lemmings who drank the Kool-Aid in that Chicago hotel room Aug. 31 and ordered executive director Paul Kelly to the bricks. Yesterday, Ron Pink, chairman of the union’s advisory board and a Penny loyalist, finally resigned. It’s now up to a four-member review committee (Mark Recchi, Rob Blake, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios) to determine who else must follow Penny and Pink out the door, then make sure that effective leaders are put in charge. Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove figures to be next out the door. Meanwhile, if Kelly isn’t made whole in the next few days - either paid all his due salary or put back on the job - the embattled union will be faced with his lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. If it weren’t all so preposterous, it would make for great reality TV.

A cinematic spin
Kelly, meanwhile, has been advising on the casting and production of a movie, “Overtime,’’ to be shot early next year in New Mexico and Toronto. “It’s a sort of ‘Field of Dreams’ drama that puts hockey in a good light,’’ explained Kelly, who attended Thursday’s Devils-Bruins game at the Garden. Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Don Cherry have agreed to cameos. Kelly invited Mike Emrick to fill a key “play-by-play’’ role. The story centers on mine workers in New Mexico who play the game each night on pools that freeze in and around the mine.

Loose pucks
One of the last wooden stick holdouts, Crosby, has abandoned his naturalist ways. Sid the Kid now lugs a lightweight carbon model, and as of Friday was on pace for 61 goals and 315 shots, after career highs of 39 and 278 (set in his rookie year) . . . Prior to signing on with the Rangers at five years/$37.5 million, Marian Gaborik looked to squeeze a 10-year/$78 million deal out of the Wild. Same old Gabby. When the Rangers pulled into St. Paul Friday night, the ever-injured forward was sidelined with a bad knee or hamstring. No telling whether he’ll suit up today against the Bruins on Broadway . . . Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle and Carolina’s Paul Maurice were the two coaches feeling the most heat headed into the weekend. The Ducks had lost four straight and the Hurricanes seven. Of the two, look for Carlyle to get canned first, with Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford more likely to try a deal or two before sending favorite son Maurice to the bricks . . . Wendy Pleau, wife of Blues GM Larry Pleau, recently received a cardboard cutout of the Stanley Cup from the Blues upon completing her protracted battle against Burkitt’s, a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In September ’07, their daughter Shannon Pleau Nolan, a schoolteacher in Salisbury, staged a bone marrow drive there to aid her mother’s recovery . . . Ex-Bruin Dave Poulin, now an assistant GM in Toronto, was in the Garden Thursday to scout the Bruins and Devils. He is eager to see ex-Bruin Phil Kessel in the Leafs lineup. “Hardest thing to find, goal scorers,’’ noted Poulin. “And the kind of goals he scores, because they look easy, really demoralize an opponent. Brett Hull was that way, too. You’d work your rear end off for a goal, and then the next shift, he’d rush down the other end and bury one, five-hole. That kind of thing just kills you.’’

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com; material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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