What Bruins, Penguins players say about playing at Fenway Park
“That’s still top 10, maybe even a top 5 moment in my hockey career.”
Within the last decade, the standard ice hockey rink became a winter staple at Fenway Park.
The memorable 2010 Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers sits near the top of every list ranking the NHL’s greatest outdoor games. The image of Marco Sturm’s overtime winner with the Green Monster backdrop remains etched in Bruins’ lore.
David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are the two holdovers from that 2009-10 squad. In front of a rabid Boston fanbase, including a young Charlie Coyle, they each notched an assist in Boston’s 2-1 win, with Krejci notching a secondary helper on Mark Recchi’s equalizer late in the third and Bergeron feeding Sturm for the walk-off overtime tally.
“The last few days going back to Fenway…it was definitely something that I thought about,” Bergeron said following Sunday’s outdoor practice. “That’s what made it so special, right? The way that it ended, and the fireworks and everything, it was pretty special.”
The 2010 Winter Classic is one of several memorable moments of the nearly 100 years of Bruins history. They team will once again share the Fenway stage on Monday, this time against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As father time approaches, the 2023 version will likely mark the final career Fenway appearance for Bergeron and Krejci.
“They all have something special, right? The history of the stadiums we played at just speaks for itself,” Krejci said. “My first one was here, and I’m pretty sure it might be my last one. But, I still remember the first time we played here, and that’s still top 10, maybe even a top 5 [moment] in my hockey career.”
Bergeron and Krejci remember that 2010 game quite fondly. As does Penguins forward Jeff Carter, who notched a secondary assist on Danny Syvert’s first career goal to give Philly the 1-0 lead at 4:42 of the second period.
Carter also found himself on the ice for Recchi’s tying power-play marker and Sturm’s clincher. Despite the tough ending, the then 25-year-old took in every nook and cranny, even in front of less friendly confines.
“It was a lot of fun,” recalled Carter, who will skate in his fifth career NHL outdoor game. “I was a young kid and was trying to soak it all up and get out there and have fun and play.”
“I didn’t think [I’d get a second chance]. But here we are,” Carter said. “It’s pretty special. It’s a cool venue..it’s historic, right? So I feel lucky to be allowed two [games at Fenway].”
The special Fenway hockey experience expands beyond Bergeron, Krejci and Carter, however.
A handful of men’s and women’s teams from local youth leagues, colleges, high schools, prep institutions and adult leagues had the golden opportunity to lace up the skates at “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.”
A handful of other Penguins also touched the Fenway ice last decade. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin went 1-1 in 2010 and 2012 with Boston College against heated rivals Boston University and Northeastern. Goaltender Casey DeSmith earned the nod for the University of New Hampshire against Maine in 2012. Forward Bryan Rust notched a goal with Notre Dame in the Irish’s tilt with BC in 2014.
The NHL’s oversaturation of outdoor games may have impacted the fan’s viewing experience to some. The anticipation within the locker rooms continues to escalate with each passing day.
Especially for Coyle, who will get to check off a bucket list item after having a birds-eye view of Sturm’s winner atop the Green Monster.
“The Bruins won in dramatic fashion, and everyone is hyped up. It was awesome. It’s something you’ll always remember,” Coyle said. “You just hope that one day you’ll be out there and play in one of your own.”
Unlike Coyle, Matt Grzelcyk didn’t attend the third-ever Winter Classic. But he, too, was a ticketed spectator a week later during the first-ever BC-BU outdoor matchup.
Before that, Grzelcyk partook in the inaugural prep school Fenway game in 2010. On his 16th birthday, the Charlestown-born blue-liner notched an assist to help his Belmont Hill squad overcome a multi-goal deficit against St. Sebastian’s.
“That was my birthday night. It was 40 degrees, with light snowfall…exactly how you dreamt it up weather-wise,” Grzelcyk said. “The game went well too. We were down, but we ended up winning in overtime. Everything that went into it before, all the excitement and getting to bring your family, that’s what was kind of the most special part of it. I’m looking forward to doing that on the biggest stage this time.”
Indeed, Grzelcyk will have his family in attendance, including his father, John, a long-time member of the TD Garden bull gang who underwent treatment for prostate cancer in early 2022.
Grzelcyk also attended the first men’s college hockey tilt at Fenway, watching his future BU squad earn a 4-3 win over BC a week after Bruins-Flyers. After missing BU’s 2014 outdoor game because of a separated shoulder, the 28-year-old hopes to add another memorable moment to his hockey career.
So will McAvoy, who scored a goal in BU’s win over UMass-Amherst during the 2017 version of Frozen Fenway.
Unlike Grzelcyk’s first experience, McAvoy didn’t have much time to take in the aura of Fenway for the first time. After all, he had returned to campus just hours before BU’s third trip to the Fens after leading Team USA to a gold medal win over Canada during the World Junior Championships in Montreal.
“I remember coming back and being so tired,” McAvoy recalled. “I had a couple of days to get right. Like, I don’t even know if we practiced when we got back. We just ended up going over there, and I remember it being really chilly. A couple of hot chocolates and Gatorade for a pregame drink. I remember not being able to enjoy as much as I would’ve wanted to, just because it was so quick and I was surrounded by so many other things.”
It wasn’t long before McAvoy traded his Scarlett and White sweater for the Black and Gold. Merely three months after his first Fenway game, the Bruins signed their prized 2016 first-round selection to an entry-level contract.
Over time, McAvoy became Boston’s defensive anchor. He’ll skate in his third NHL outdoor game in five years following the 2019 Winter Classic at Notre Dame and the 2021 Lake Tahoe event.
Without as many distractions, McAvoy will get to cherish every moment around the Fenway environment.
“I’m going to make sure this time to soak it all in,” McAvoy said.
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