By Tim Rosenthal, Bruins Daily
It’s already been five years since Fenway Park hosted the 2010 Winter Classic.
As I reflect back on the five-year anniversary, it’s easy to see why this was one of the top moments in the annual New Year’s Day event.
During this time, outdoor hockey was much more than a “novelty” that it is today. It was only the third Winter Classic, and it was the only outdoor hockey game on the NHL schedule.
Because this was still unique, I recall the many firsts that took place. For instance, at the time it was the first non-baseball sporting event that Fenway Park hosted since the old Boston Patriots last called the ballpark on Yawkey Way home in 1968.
For me, it was the first such NHL event I had covered. Instead of watching the game on TV from my space in the auxiliary press box, I decided to walk around the park and witness the atmosphere first hand on a calm and reasonable day. The buzz in and out of the ballpark was something I’ve been used to while attending Red Sox games, but this was different for me.
Little did I know, the game itself would be full of firsts.
The first Winter Classic fight: Shawn Thornton vs. Daniel Carcillo. Two tough enforcers dropping the gloves in front of 38,000-plus at Fenway — and in front of a national television audience.
The first goal at Fenway Park from Flyers defenseman Danny Syvert. That in and of itself is pretty special, but this happened to be Syvert’s first career goal as well, thus becoming an answer to a trivia question. Syvert hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2010-11 season, but there’s no denying that he has a special moment he can tell his kids and grandkids for the rest of his life.
The first outdoor game for future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi was also special for him, as he tied the game at 1-1 with his power play goal late in the third period to force overtime. Recchi already had two Stanley Cups and numerous other accolades before this, but he had room to add that — and eventually his third Stanley Cup about 18 months later — to his already impressive career.
The biggest first, however, came when Marco Sturm ended the game with his game-winning walk-off goal in overtime. Although it was the second time that the Winter Classic went to overtime, it was the first decided in the OT session itself. The Penguins and Sabres ended their first Winter Classic in a shootout. Luckily, this game didn’t need a skills competition to decide things.
As a result, the Boston Bruins became the first team to win the Winter Classic as the host team. They are still the only team to come out victorious at home in the annual New Year’s Day event.
Five years and four Winter Classic’s later, the game has lost a little of its luster. Last year, the league implemented the Stadium Series and with the Heritage Classic thrown in, the league held six outdoor hockey games.
This year as the Blackhawks and Capitals prepare for their tilt at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., I can’t help but think that the league missed an opportunity here. Of course, it would’ve been difficult to top last year’s game held in front of over 100,000 strong at Michigan Stadium between the host Red Wings and Maple Leafs, and I also understand bringing in the Hawks because of their popularity in the Chicago market. But bringing in a rival of the Caps like the Flyers, Penguins, Rangers or even the Bruins — despite already having participated in the game at least once — would’ve added a little more intrigue to this year’s game.
The league might have dropped the ball this time around, but as the rumors for next year’s game continue to heat up, Boston seems to be the frontrunner to host the 2016 Winter Classic.
The Bruins and Canadiens at Fenway Park — or Gillette Stadium — sounds more than ideal to me. After all, the best rivalry in hockey could use another first.