Commentary

Frozen, festive Fenway quite a sight

Seeing ballpark decked out for hockey would warm any fan's heart

Updated: December 31, 2009, 8:10 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Don't let the last name fool you. I'm not much of a hockey guy.

It's nothing against the sport, I actually quite enjoy watching hockey. It's more the elements necessary to play the sport, namely the cold.

I was busy crunching potential playoff scenarios about how the Patriots could meet the Chargers in the NFL playoffs, offering the media a nice January trip to sun-splashed San Diego, when the bosses called Wednesday suggesting I spend a few hours investigating the scene around Fenway Park in anticipation of Friday's Winter Classic.

[+] EnlargeWinter Classic
Steve Babineau/Getty ImagesWorkers spray water on the ice at Fenway in preparation for Friday's Winter Classic.

That meant the guy whose Christmas loot was highlighted by two cold-weather shields -- a remote car starter and a Snuggie -- had to spend a brisk December day wandering around Fenway finding out what all the fuss around the Boston Bruins playing the Philadelphia Flyers was all about.

What I found helped me understand why tickets to the Classic are selling on StubHub from $285 to $1,199 apiece. Some have called this the Super Bowl of hockey and, having been a part of the NFL version (in balmy Phoenix mind you), you can't help but walk away from Fenway feeling a similar atmosphere.

Flyers legend Dave Schultz might have summed it up best during a legends roundtable inside the stadium's EMC Club Wednesday afternoon: "There's people that will watch this game that probably normally wouldn't watch a lot of hockey. It's such a unique event and I'm sure it will be a great show."

[+] EnlargeWinter Classic
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesBusinesses around Fenway Park are decorated for the Classic too.

He's right. It doesn't matter who wins or how well Friday's contest is played -- the game is secondary to the event. Heck, it really doesn't even have to be the Bruins playing.

Don't believe it? Bundle up and go take a walk around Fenway Park on Thursday. (If you really can't take the cold, click on the links to check out the scene.) You can't help but marvel at the orange, yellow and green banners that line Yawkey Avenue. Or the posters that line the windows of the area businesses.

Step inside the souvenir shops next to Fenway and you'll see that nearly all Red Sox apparel has been replaced with jerseys, hats, and stuffed animals related to the Winter Classic. There are even snow globes, an appropriate choice given the weather report for Friday's game.

But the sites are even more amazing inside the venue. Organizers have done an outstanding job of making Fenway Park a hockey venue, no small chore considering it sometimes seems unsuitable for baseball.

Out in right field, the Bruins' retired numbers now hang with those of the Red Sox. The AL East standings on the Green Monster in left field now reflect the NHL version of that division.

Banners and bunting are everywhere reflecting that -- for at least one day -- the lyric little bandbox belongs to hockey. Zambonis have replaced Jason Bay in left field, where snow mingles with dust along the warning track.

[+] EnlargeFenway Scoreboard
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaA Zamboni rides in front of the Green Monster scoreboard, which is ready for the big game.

With the snow-crusted logos in the outfield, it's hard to turn away from the field. Somehow a hockey rink looks like it belongs where a baseball diamond normally is found.

The best news is that there's not really a bad seat in the house. I wandered all over the park checking out the sightlines and was surprised with how nice it looks from all angles. Oh, it's freezing on the right-field roof, but the view is gorgeous. In fact, the worst seats in the house might be the front rows, since the ice is slightly elevated. If you've got seats in the grandstand marked with a number rather than a letter, consider yourself lucky.

Actually, if you've simply got a ticket, consider yourself lucky.

I do. I'm not a fan of the cold, but I'll gladly layer up on New Year's Day to be part of the experience. See, the NFL shares my affinity for warm weather, and this might be the only time a Super Bowl comes to Boston.

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE