Earlier today, the Boston Bruins welcomed about 200 season ticket holders to Fenway Park as part of a VIP breakfast in relation to the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic.
Held in the State Street Pavilion overlooking the field, attendees were treated to a continental breakfast as NHL Executive Vice President Brian Jennings and NBC coordinating producer Sam Flood led presentations about the event, the festivities surrounding it, and NBC's television coverage.
Fans were able to walk outside and see the construction in progress on the field. Between the beginning and end of the breakfast, the north end boards were put in place.
Jennings and Bruins Senior Vice President Amy Lattimer spoke to the crowd about the reasons that the third Winter Classic came to Boston. Jennings delivered a lengthy presentation elaborating on the success of last year's event at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Flood's presentation was much shorter, as he concentrated on the ways that NBC attempts to engage hockey fans with its broadcast.
"We knew our fans would be the first to sit outside in any degrees in this city, to cheer on the Bruins, no matter who they were playing," Lattimer said, addressing the league's choice of the Philadelphia Flyers, who are not a traditional rival of the Bruins as an opponent. Jennings and Flood cited the size of the two markets - the fourth and fifth-largest media markets in the United States - as a key reason for the matchup.
"We want to show up bigger than we've ever shown up before," Jennings told the assembly, noting that the 2009 Winter Classic was the most-watched regular season game in over 30 years, with 72,000 attendees and 5.6 million television viewers. The game also brought 1.1 million visitors to NHL.com.
Dating back to the first Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2008, the game has always been a success, but the league has not always been sure that it has done everything right. Jennings told a story where tickets for that game went on sale at 10 AM on the morning of a Board of Governors meeting, and were sold out at 10:20. He sent an email to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, asking if they'd want to share the good news with the owners before the 11 AM meeting.
According to Jennings, Bettman responded, "Did we price it the right way?" prompting a response of "Typical Bettman!" from a gentleman in the back of the crowd.
While Chicago generated a lot of interest for the 2009 game, with 240,000 people having entered a lottery to win the right to purchase tickets, Boston put that number to shame, with over 310,000 fans hoping to see their heroes play outdoors.
"We wanted a market where we could make sure we would be successful," Jennings added. "We recognized very early that Fenway was the right location."
"There are thousands of hockey games every year," Flood said, "but only one Winter Classic. It's the only game every year with an airplane flying overhead to do replays." Flood also noted that a new clause exists in NBC staple Bob Costas' contract, one that stipulates that he gets the privilege to host NBC's coverage of the event every year.
NBC will promote the game by cutting live to Fenway Park during the closing minutes of its December 27 broadcast of Football Night in America, before the Dallas Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
Jennings and Flood also stressed the importance of the league's many partners in putting on a show of this magnitude. During the game broadcast, Reebok will debut a new commercial featuring Sidney Crosby and Maxime Talbot of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bridgestone, Geico, Honda, McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch, and Pepsi, among others, were also noted as supporters of the game. These companies will each have a presence at a spectator plaza that will be open on the day of the game, to ticket holders and non-ticket holders alike.
Other events include a New Year's Eve party at the House of Blues across the street from the ballpark, a January 2 legends game that will be shown on NESN sometime in the future, open skates on the Fenway Park ice on January 3 and 10, and the January 8 college hockey doubleheader, between the men's teams of Boston University and Boston College and the women's teams of the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University.
Jennings also hinted that the Dropkick Murphys will perform the national anthem at the game, although nothing has been announced as of yet.
While Bruins principal Charlie Jacobs, vice president Cam Neely, and general manager Peter Chiarelli were not in attendance due to the league's Board of Governors meeting, former Bruins John Bucyk and Bob Sweeney were. Fans swarmed Bucyk after the presentations, taking photos and asking for autographs from "The Chief."