Two years ago, I spent New Years Day in Ralph Wilson Stadium with 70,000 or so other fans, not watching football. Instead, there was an ice rink in the middle of the field, and we were watching Ryan Miller and Sidney Crosby, not Trent Edwards and Leotis McKelvin. Snow fell all around us. I was freezing and in pain (just for the record: sitting outside in snow and freezing temperatures only a few days after having your wisdom teeth removed is not a smart decision), but I could have cared less -- this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and nothing would make me miss it.
Two years ago, I would have never imagined that two years later I'd be spending my New Year's Day at the third Winter Classic. Two years ago, no one in Buffalo would have imagined that our raucous little "Ice Bowl" would become a New Year's Day staple and be expanded into a weekend-long event, worthy of a venue like Fenway Park.
The 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was one for the ages. I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend in Boston at not only the Winter Classic, but also the Legends Classic, the Bruins New Year's Eve practice, and an open skate on the rink. Here's a look back...
The Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers took to the ice at Fenway for the first time on New Year's Eve morning for team practices. Light snowfall covered the ice, giving the players no choice but to clear the ice with shovels -- an experience that likely took them back to childhood pond hockey games.
The Bruins finished practice with a shootout before their families joined them on the ice for a skating session.
Across the street from Fenway Park, "Fan Fest" featured live bands, autograph sessions, fun activities and food.
The pre-game view of Yawkey Way from level four of Fenway. Fans arrived bright and early on game day to try and catch a glimpse of players, explore the area, and soak in the Winter Classic atmosphere.
As always, the teams took to the ice for warm-ups before the game. Tim Thomas led the Bruins out of the locker room -- er, dugout.
Pre-game ceremonies featured a Revolution-era marching band, police and fire brigades, a performance by Boston's own Dropkick Murphys, and lots and lots of flags. The field was covered with people.
Honorary captains Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke met at center ice for the ceremonial puck drop.
After the Canadian and American National Anthems (sung by Daniel Powter and James Taylor, respectively), the Winter Classic officially began.
Denis Leary and Lenny Clark led the sing-a-long to "Sweet Caroline," a tradition at every Red Sox game.
After tying the game in the dying minutes, the Bruins scored in overtime to win 2-1. Marco Sturm scored the game-winning goal.
During free time, the rink was used for open skates for various groups involved with the Winter Classic. The City of Boston also hosted many free skating times for residents.
There's something pretty special about skating around with snow falling, then looking up and seeing the grandstand and lights of Fenway Park around you.
On January 2nd, the Bruins hosted the Legends Classic, featuring Boston-area celebrities, former Bruins players, and NHL greats. Everyone from Bobby Farrelly and Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys to Cam Neely and Pat LaFontaine joined in on the fun.