Friday, December 18, 2009
Ex-Bruins take in frozen Fenway
By Brian MacPherson
BOSTON -- Ray Bourque already has some experience with Fenway Park. The Red Sox invited him to take batting practice with them during his playing days -- close to two decades ago -- and he even hit four pitches over the Green Monster.
"I drilled it into the wall many, many times," he said, "but it was fun to get it over the Green Monster. That's something I always wanted to do."
|Bruins legends took to the Fenway Park ice on Friday morning.|
Playing hockey at Fenway Park, though, is a far different story. The sky was blue on Friday and the air was crisp during the "First Skate at Fenway," just two weeks before the Jan. 1 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers. Only the outfield grass and the 35,000 seats made skating at Fenway Park any different than skating on the pond back at home in Quebec.
"This is how we grew up, how I grew up," Bourque said. "Every day, after school, I'd meet up with my buddies. We had no organized hockey. I didn't skate indoors until I was 7 years old, but I started on a team when I was 5. The first three years, we played outdoors."
Same goes for Cam Neely. The 44-year-old Bruins vice president -- a tenacious scorer throughout his 11-year-career with the Bruins -- got used to playing outdoor hockey with a wall casting a shadow over half the sheet of ice.
There was no Green Monster in Saskatchewan, though.
|Terry O'Reilly was one of many former Bruins at Fenway Park on Friday.|
"It was a big white wall of snow," he said. "Dad would stand outside with the hose, and there's your ice. We'd skate all day, and we'd have to get yanked off the ice when it got dark. This certainly brings back memories of skating outside."
Milan Lucic didn't get a chance to re-enact his old pond-hockey days from back in Vancouver. Lucic was placed on injured reserve three days ago and will not accompany the Bruins on their road trip to Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa. Even Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek laced up a borrowed pair of skates for a quick skate-around with Bobby Orr, but Lucic stayed in his regular shoes so as not to aggravate a high ankle sprain.
He still got a chance to hobnob with some of the Bruins greats of the past, even if it's all ancient history to the 21-year-old forward.
"I was telling Ray Bourque on the trolley ride over: It's funny, but out of all these guys, he's the only guy I remember playing," he said with a sheepish grin.
That didn't take away from the thrill of seeing Orr, perhaps the greatest Bruin of all time, get dragged around the ice by Aiden and Julia Johnson, youth hockey players from Somerville, Mass., whose father is serving overseas. Each of the Bruins alumni accompanied a youngster from Somerville. Bourque had to yell out to his new buddy, "Slow down!"
|Bruins legend Ray Bourque and Jason Varitek get some ice time at Fenway Park on Friday.|
Bourque still skates twice a week in the winter with Bob Sweeney, Terry O'Reilly, Brad Park and a handful of other buddies from his days in the NHL. They have a roof over their head, though, when they do that.
"I'm so jealous I don't get to play in this game," Bourque said. "It's really going to be fun for the players, being in this kind of atmosphere, but also for the fans in this setting, seeing something totally different in terms of watching a game outdoors -- who would have known it would have been played in Boston in this kind of setting?"
Said Ken Hodge, now 65 years old, "Youth is wasted on the young."
|Bobby Orr, center, and Milt Schmidt, right, walk into Fenway Park on Friday.|
Brian MacPherson is a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.