By Emily Correia
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Opened for play in 1912, Fenway Park has hosted 101 years of baseball, including 10 World Series. In 1912, 1918 and the most recent season, 2013, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series at home in Fenway Park. The 37,493 seat stadium is arguably the most storied park in baseball history, but on Jan. 1, 2010 for many hockey players, especially Bruins fans, the magic of Fenway lit up the city for another reason. That day the Boston Bruins would become the first home team to win the Winter Classic and make Fenway into a home for outdoor hockey.
Almost four years later, for the first time, the Atlantic Hockey Association will join the truly mystical events of Citi Frozen Fenway. Sophomore Joe McNamara (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) remembers, "Growing up going to Red Sox games, I always thought it would be amazing just to take a step on the field there, let alone be able to skate on it." On Dec. 27, 2013 the Crusaders will take the ice as the first team to practice for the series, but for sophomore Sean Gustin (Stoneham, Mass.) and McNamara this is not the first or second time their skates have met ice at Fenway. In the 2014 Frozen Fenway series during the Dec. 28 opening game, for the third time, Gustin and McNamara will play on Fenway's ice as teammates.
In both 2010 and 2012, as sophomores and seniors, the two dressed as members of the Belmont Hill School varsity ice hockey team. The stage at Fenway was a much larger scale from the arenas they were accustomed to in high school, but Gustin believed they adjusted once they took the ice. "To be honest, going from playing in a high school rink to a Major League Baseball stadium was a little bit overwhelming," said Gustin. "But, after taking in what was around us, all of that was gone and the excitement of playing started to kick in." McNamara also recalled, "I couldn't sleep for a week before the first time I played at Fenway Park. Looking back on the experience the next day, it felt like it was a dream, and I didn't actually just play there."
McNamara continued that, "After warm ups, the game felt like any other, but I do remember looking up at the Green Monster after a whistle in the third period and thinking, I cannot believe I am actually on ice in front of the Green Monster right now." They both remember in detail the game on January 5, 2010. Down by three goals in the third period, the team earned a 6-5 overtime comeback victory over St. Sebastian's. Gustin reflected that, "Winning is a great feeling, but being able to win, in overtime, especially after being down 5-2 earlier in the game made it that much sweeter." McNamara expanded saying, "It was especially special since we came back from 5-2 with less than 10 minutes left to win."
Two years later in 2012, the Belmont Hill School did it again and defeated St. Sebastian's, 2-1, for a second time. McNamara remembered that, "After watching the way our opponents felt after losing to us two years prior, we knew that winning made the experience a million times better, which was extra motivation to stay focused on the game."
"The last time we played there I made sure to soak in everything that was around me because I was so lucky to get the chance to play there twice," said McNamara. McNamara and Gustin, unlike many others they played with get to make their return to Fenway just two years later. The pair takes the ice together again for the third time, but this time as members of Holy Cross hockey instead. They both believe that the only difference this time will be the color of their jersey and the people they play with. "The previous two times we played there we were both only in high school; now we're in college," expressed Gustin. "Other than that, I don't think anything else will be different; after all, we're still playing the same game." McNamara agreed remarking that "I will be with all new teammates except for Sean, and playing at a higher level."
More than playing in such a historic park and such an incredible event, the duo looks forward to sharing their next experience at Fenway Park with their Holy Cross teammates. "I am most excited for the feeling of stepping up from the dugout under the lights and walking out onto the ice with my Holy Cross teammates for the opening faceoff," McNamara revealed. "It is going to be incredible to share this experience with my Holy Cross teammates in front of family, Holy Cross alumni and our classmates." Gustin echoed that, "I'm most excited about playing with this group of guys. We are all really close and it should be a great experience for all of us. I can't wait to be out there with them and enjoy such an amazing opportunity."
In just four days the team takes the ice to face off against Atlantic Hockey opponent Bentley. For Gustin and McNamara while the trip is a return to a familiar rink, they both still recognize how truly incredible the experience will be. Gustin concluded that, "It's an honor. To be playing where so many greats have played themselves in one of the most, if not the most, storied parks in America, is an unbelievable feeling."
The Crusaders open the 17-day Citi Frozen Fenway event at Fenway Park in Boston with their game against Atlantic Hockey opponent, Bentley on Dec. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now via www.redsox.com/frozenfenway or by calling the Red Sox Ticket Office at 877-733-7699. Tickets range from $10 to $50.
Red Sox Fans Fired Up For Frozen Fenway
The six Red Sox fans on the team discuss their favorite baseball team.
Check out a video of head coach Paul Pearl talking about Citi Frozen Fenway.