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Take me out to the ice game

Crowd has a ball, in and out of park

By Donovan Slack
Globe Staff / January 2, 2010

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There were souvenir stands and ticket scalpers, a traffic jam at Kenmore Square, and thousands of fans streaming down sidewalks and into bars around the city’s famed ballpark. But this time, there was also snow. And Boston Bruins fans.

The NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, the first professional hockey game at the home of the Red Sox, drew a boisterous crowd hours before the first faceoff.

And as the crowd melted into a sea of gold and black - and Philadelphia Flyers orange and black - the sausage king took a few steps back just to marvel at the spectacle.

“It’s a whole different type of crowd today,’’ said Mark Gannon, who with his brother owns the Sausage King cart on Lansdowne Street. “Everybody went all-out. Everybody seems to be in great spirits.’’

Gannon, who was wearing a crown for the occasion, said he had been worried that nasty weather would dampen the mood, as well as business. But temperatures hovered around 30 degrees for most of yesterday afternoon and there was nary a hint of wind.

Just down the street at Game On!, some 100 people waited in line outside, and just as many were lined up in front of Boston Beer Works and the Cask ’n Flagon.

“We couldn’t afford tickets, so we came for the party,’’ said Brandon Mlodzinski, a 28-year-old firefighter from Philadelphia who was standing outside with his wife and some friends. The group had driven to Boston and was brave enough to sport Flyers memorabilia.

“We heard that if we get into trouble, all we have to do is start yelling ‘Yankees [are not good]!’ ’ joked Mlodzinski, who was wearing the jersey of Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.

The mantra of the day among many appeared to be “once in a lifetime.’’ As a souvenir stand on Brookline Avenue did brisk sales of Winter Classic jerseys and sweatshirts, brothers Kevin and Greg Lydon picked out matching hats.

“I didn’t bring a hat so I could get a souvenir,’’ said Kevin Lydon, who scored tickets from a friend whom he declined to name. “It’s once in a lifetime for us, I think.’’

For Stoneham resident John McDermott and two of his childhood friends, anticipation for the game began two years ago, when the first NHL Winter Classic was played in Orchard Park, N.Y., and he only hoped it would come to Fenway.

Now, it was happening, and as a large television above the bar at the Cask ’n’ Flagon showed the field and the rink placed on it, he joined the crowd inside that let out a loud whoop. The customary green of the field was completely white.

“Look at that!’’ exclaimed McDermott, who was sipping a beer next to the bar. “An ice rink in Fenway Park! I mean, c’mon.’’

Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com.

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