For two days, heaven truly froze over. One of the most memorable hockey weekends I’ve ever experienced. I’ll recap the weekend on the blog so in the future I can one day look back as a refresher, because I don’t think I’ll ever forget this experience.
Thursday: It all started on Thursday as we practiced at Jackson’s Landing in Portsmouth, NH. Jackson’s Landing is an outdoor rink which is very dull and beaten down in quality but provided the coldness and outdoorsy feel that would be provided at Fenway.
Friday: We enjoyed a team meal at Young’s packed our bags to load the bus for 2 pm. An hour and a half later we turned onto Yawkee way, and that’s when it hit. We were finally here, the countdown was over. Unloading the bus and walking through Fenway was just humbling and exciting. You could feel all of the history around you as you toured around the 100 year old spectacle. It was the first time walking around a facility where you had to picture all of the legends who played there and the special moments and pregame rituals they would do for a totally different sport. Maine had the Red Sox clubhouse. Umass Amherst had the visitors clubhouse. UVM had the Red Sox batting cage, which left us with the visitors batting cage. It was big and spacey, providing chairs and hangers for each player to get dressed. We we’re welcomed with a banner from the Red Sox organization hung up on the batting cage netting. Our locker room was connected to a bar which provided loud music and rowdy customers throughout our entire evening on Saturday. Little did I know I would be spending a good amount of my Frozen Fenway experience in that locker room. After dropping off our equipment we followed the rubber mats which lead out of the visitors dugout and gazed in amazement. We all soaked in the sight which was before us. A 100 year old diamond was turned into a hockey spectacle for 14 days. Maine was practicing as we were all taking it in. Senior Captain Damon Kipp was given an iPod touch with a camera filming our experience that day. As I’m setting up the bench for our turn to practice I notice the ice becoming a little soupy. The weather was very warm with the sun shining on one side of the ice more throughout the day than the other. They placed cones on the goal line closest to the bench we had set up not allowing us to skate beyond it. Practice ended and many pictures were taken. We ended the evening with a diner at the famous Cheer’s and checked into the Royal Sonesta, were all 4 teams participating in the Frozen Fenway spent the night.
Saturday (Game Day): The wake up call came at 9am. With no time to sneak in a quick shower, I threw on the track suit and headed to the first floor banquet room where a breakfast buffet awaited the team. After a few words from coach I made my way back to the room to finally wake myself up with a shower and work on a concept dvd I’ve been working on for coach. Our pregame skate was cancelled due to the condition of the ice, which crushed my dreams of ever skating on Fenway. Coach scheduled a team meeting instead followed by a walk. Jarad and I walked along the Charles River enjoying both the scenery and the weather the day brought. Giving question to if tonight’s game was going to be pushed back at all due to the warmth. We had our pregame meal at 2 at an Italian restaurant called Antonio’s where we were provided with the largest chicken parm I’ve ever seen. The chicken on my plate must have been on steroids. Upon returning to the hotel, the other managers, myself and the Athletic Trainer (Glen) checked out of the hotel and flagged down a taxi. We headed to Fenway early to set up the locker room, prepare ourselves for any last second changes to come and to remain organized and instruct the team of the itinerary for the night.
Josh, Jarad and I are waiting outside of Gate D at Fenway waiting for the bus to pull in to help unload. Yawkee Way was a mob scene filled with drunks repping either a Vermont, Umass, Maine or UNH sweater. The Premier bus finally arrives and anyone who had any affiliation with Orono filled the street with booing and cussing. It was nutty, some of the fans wouldn’t move to let the players off the bus. Our game was delayed 75 minutes after UVM/UMASS finished their OT thriller because of the poor ice conditions. That gave everyone plenty of time to mentally prepare for our big two point rivalry tilt against a team we absolutely hate. “The game itself (2 points) was bigger than the atmosphere it was being played in.” Because of the distance between the Red Sox press box and the locker room it would’ve been impossible to make it to the locker room and back in time between periods. I was placed to break down the game in the locker room were two 46″ televisions were installed. Warm ups came and it was time to set up the bench and prepare to take off the players skate guards. Which meant I had to walk across the ice in front of nearly 40,000. This might sound a little ignorant but the ice was slippery, slippery than usual. They must have dumped gallons of water on it to let it freeze over. I made it across successful, set the bench up as quickly as possible and for a couple of minutes soaked it all in. The sight I witnessed was unreal. A sold out Fenway Park on a beautiful Saturday evening and here I am standing where second base would be, Dustin Pedroia’s office. Something I will never forget.
My last and final appearance on the field happened right before the team took the ice for opening ceremonies. I couldn’t and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to give my traditional knuckles to the boys before they take the ice, along with ripping off their skate guards at the same time. The game was a classic UNH/Maine game. After the first we came into the batting cage all tied up at 1 a piece. With 40 minutes in the book it was Maine up 3-2. Maine than tallied a quick goal to begin the third. The boys made a tremendous comeback and tied up the game at 4 sending it into overtime, unfortunately it was Maine who came away with the game winner and taking both points. (Game Recap)
The loss hurt, but the stinging went away quickly. The experience was amazing. The atmosphere was surreal. The crowd was incredibly. It was the pinnacle of my hockey road trips as of now. I will never forget that weekend where hockey and baseball collided. That was a bookmarked chapter in the long history of the Maine/UNH rivalry. To be able to say I was apart of it is an honor and a privilege. For one whole weekend, I was all smiles. One whole weekend turned into a frozen memory that will last a lifetime.