Now that 2011 has come and gone it is time for two things…making resolutions in which you will never keep, and a great day for hockey fans with the annual Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. While this years spectacle does not involve our beloved black and gold, it gives us the chance to look back to 2010, when the Red Sox’s very own historic Fenway Park played host to an outdoor NHL game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. The event would prove to be one of the most historic moments in Boston sports history which is saying a lot, given the rich history in professional and collegiate athletics in this remarkable city.
The opponents were also ably selected, given the rivalry between both Boston and Philadelphia and the fact that they were both two teams on the rise, the pairing was an obvious choice. The New York Rangers were also thought of as an opponent for the Bruins for this game which in itself would have been a great choice due to the fierce Boston and New York rivalry. It honestly didn’t matter to Bostonians whom the Bruins were facing as the pure excitement of such a tremendous sporting event was widely anticipated throughout all of New England and the hockey world.
The days events started off incredibly as Boston’s own punk rock band the Dropkick Murphy’s performed their widely popular Boston anthem “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” prior to the players making their entrance onto the field/ice. To make the opening ceremonies even more special Bruins legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Orr and Flyers legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke took part in the ceremonial puck drop. It was truly special for Bruins and Flyers’ fans alike to see two of the very best to play the game, skate onto the ice outdoors and represent their respective Hall of Fame inducted teams prior to the game. As the two NHL legends skated off the ice and began greeting the Bruins and Flyers taking part in the game there was not a person watching who wasn’t awe of the events that had taken and place and those that were about to.
Given the fact that both these teams were exceptional defensively, it came as no surprise to anyone the first period went scoreless. Despite that fact, the opening stanza did have its own excitement in the ways only a Bruins/Flyers game can…the first fight in Winter Classic history. Shawn Thornton engaged then Flyers’ forward Daniel Carcillo in a spirited bout in which Carcillo got the take down and much to the ire of the Boston faithful; taunted the fans afterwords. Unfortunately for the Bruins, this fight sparked the Flyers as they would score early into the second period on a shot from the point from defenseman Danny Syvret that beat Tim Thomas while he was preoccupied with forward Scott Hartnell’s screen. This goal was also special for the young Syvret as it was his first NHL goal. I cannot imagine a more special place to achieve such a career milestone. Despite my usual dislike for the Flyers, I was overwhelmingly pleased with the memory that player will take with him for the rest of his life.
The Bruins would tie the game in the third period on a powerplay goal from Mark Recchi. Boston would get the man advantage following a tripping penalty on Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timonen. David Krejci passed to former Bruins’ defenseman Derek Morris across the slot, who then fired a slap pass to Recchi who was standing at the top of the Flyers’ crease beating Michael Leighton with minutes to go and tying the game. This game was inevitably going to overtime and Recchi’s goal sealed the deal. The goal was also an “ugly” one as the ice conditions had become choppy and the puck was difficult to control and predict. The moment was also made sweeter by the fact that Mark has previously played for the Flyers, and as any player will tell you… it is always great to score against your old team.
In overtime there was quite a close call for the Bruins as Tim Thomas had to come up huge on three or four rapid shots from the Flyers quickly into the extra frame. Following a failed two on one by the Flyers, the Bruins were able to corral the puck. Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara managed to get the puck to Patrice Bergeron who after some nifty board play passed the puck to former Bruins’ forward Marco Sturm for the easy tip in to seal the win. The Bruins players poured onto the ice and crowded their overtime goal scorer strongly resembling a Red Sox walk off win that Fenway Park has seen so much of. While Sturm is no longer a Boston Bruin this single moment will enshrine him in all of Bruins history. Not to be forgotten the performances of both goaltenders as both Tim Thomas and Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton were incredible given the overall difficulty of puck play on the choppy ice. This was undoubtedly a special moment for Thomas too, given his struggles that season.
Fireworks lit the sky as Boston fans celebrated their team’s victory and while Flyers fans saw their team lose, it is hard to imagine any of them being disappointed following such a special day. Following the game, the rink was used to announce Team USA’s 2010 Olympic hockey team with a standing ovation to Tim Thomas whose childhood dream was to be an Olympian. No fan left that game disappointed, how could they? This wasn’t just a special day in NHL history, but a special day in all of sports history. I don’t think will ever forget about this game, and I am confident in saying that everyone involved feels the same. Who knew Fenway was such a good place to play Hockey?