Friday, April 10, 2009

YES - Bruins will play at Fenway! You are not dreaming...

The Bruins, lobbying for months to bring the NHL's Winter Classic to Boston, have been given the go-ahead by commissioner Gary Bettman's office to host the game Jan. 1, 2010, despite mild, perfunctory protestations from Causeway Street that plans for the popular New Year's Day game have yet to be finalized.

Pending a last-second hiccup, the game will be staged at the near century-old Fenway Park, with its iconic Green Monster serving as the backdrop to the boards, Plexiglas, and 85- by 200-foot sheet of ice. The league gave the Bruins the official go-ahead Wednesday night.

According to a source familiar with negotiations involving the NHL, players, and the Bruins, Boston likely will host either the Washington Capitals or the Philadelphia Flyers. It has long been rumored that the next Jan. 1 game would include a Canadian-based team, with the Montreal Canadiens the probable partner for a game in the Hub of Hockey.

But a number of sources indicated it is highly unlikely the Habs will be part of the show, and the likely partner will be the Capitals, whose playoff-bound roster includes superstar winger Alexander Ovechkin, the game's most exciting player and No. 1 goal scorer the last two seasons.
Provided the game is at Fenway, there is little doubt it will sell out, no matter the opposition. It is expected the Bruins early next week will confirm the game, its venue, and the process for purchasing tickets, which could be tougher to obtain than tickets to recent World Series games at Fenway.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, if contractual details can't be worked out at Fenway, the game might be at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. NHL officials in recent months toured both venues extensively, eschewing the opportunity to review Harvard Stadium, and came away suitably impressed by both.

Gillette, which seats 68,756 for the Patriots games, would offer far greater seating capacity than Fenway, with its seating of some 36,000 for Red Sox games. However, Fenway is the hands-down winner for history, intimacy, and its downtown location, a short jaunt up Storrow Drive from the Bruins' home on Causeway Street.

Gillette also could present a quirky fit for a Jan. 1 game because of potential conflicts with the Patriots' regular-season schedule and the playoffs. The NHL needs upward of two weeks to set up its portable outdoor rink, then another week to tear it down - possibly a tight fit for the perennially successful Patriots.

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