NHL Winter Classic Preview: My Tour of the Green Monster and Fenway Park

Mark RitterSenior Writer IJanuary 1, 2010

BOSTON - DECEMBER 31:  Brian Boucher #33 of the Philadelphia Flyers practices during Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on December 31, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Today, we started things off by taking a tour of Fenway Park. One of the highlights was being allowed to go inside the Green Monster wall in the outfield, where, like the hieroglyphics left behind by the ancient Egyptians, former Boston Red Sox players from all era’s had signed their names to the concrete.

While impossible to find with our fast paced schedule, I was assured by a Fenway staff member that the likes of Roger Clemens and Babe Ruth were amongst those that had signed the historic concrete within the wall.

The views of the ballpark and the ice from atop the Green Monster were spectacular. The price for such a view—$165—which, if you ask me, is worth every penny and then some.

Needless to say, the ballpark and it’s history are second to none. Current ownership is making moves to make sure Fenway stays put, going so far as to ask congress to consider acknowledging Fenway as a landmark site, which would all but guarantee that Fenway will be here for decades to come.

Other events featured watching both the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers practice at Fenway. While I enjoyed watching the Bruins practice, I am the Flyers featured columnist and I was really pumped to watch the orange and black today.

At first glimpse, the Flyers appeared to be uninspired by the unfamiliar surroundings of historic Fenway Park. But as the practice went on, you could see head coach Peter Laviolette shouting out some commands, seemingly trying to heighten the intensity, so as to get the most out of his troops.

Michael Leighton, who is expected to get the start in tomorrow’s game, was grinning from ear to ear the whole time. That said, he looked sharp in net and, by all accounts, was doing his best to be all-business at today’s practice.

There have been a lot of questions thrown out at the players by the media about the Winter Classic, specifically regarding the “state of the ice” and “how it felt out there today.” Personally, I have grown a little tired of the same old questions, but hey, that’s life as a media member, right?

One of the better questions poised to Chris Pronger and Mike Richards was along the lines of whether or not Pronger and Richards felt a fight could break out at tomorrow’s game, which many suspect will be chippy, to say the least.

Pronger thoughts were, “Well, I think if you look at the last two Winter Classics, and the other third one being in Edmonton, it was minus 30 in Edmonton. So that kinda takes that game out of the play.”

Meanwhile, Richards said, “It’s like on the cheek that’s already been punched”.

Pronger went on to say, “A lot of times, you’re not just out there fighting to fight, there’s a method to it, and whether it be protecting a teammate or changing the flow of the game or whatever, the case may be.”

I got a chuckle out of both Richards and Pronger at the media conference when I asked Richards about the baseball he had carried into the room with him.

I asked, “First off, is that baseball for a media member that asks the wrong question?”

To which Richards replied, “Probably, yes. A couple of you might.”

Pronger added while laughing, “Word to the wise."

At that point, I ducked behind the media member in front of me which caused Richards to laugh and say, “No, you’re all right. Front row might take one though."

One thing that was interesting was the chemistry that Richards and Pronger had on the podium together. Pronger and Richards have long been rumored to be having some sort of feud. Well, if you ask me, those two looked like they were having fun and, by all accounts, looked like a couple of close teammates.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was also interviewed by the media today. I asked him about where he sees his team in the not so distant future.

Holmgren responded by saying, “Obviously, the Flyers had a little bit of a tough stretch there, turned the corner now."

I followed up by asking him where he see's this team in another six weeks? Does he still think they are a playoff team? Does he still think they can go deep?

Holmgren replied, "We’ll, I’ve said it all year long: I like our team. I’ve also said it’s a tough league. So I think the league, the teams that over the last few years have-- the gaps tighter...the pack is so tight...hopefully we can continue to win more than our fair share of the games and hopefully we can stand on it. That’s the idea"

I will say this, the Flyers look pretty lose and they look like they are having fun as a team. By all accounts, the Flyers have bought into Peter Laviolette’s system, which many players lamented was more demanding physically than the system former head coach John Stevens had in place.

For the Flyers, the best advice they can take into the game is to have some fun. Their current four game winning streak is proof that they are once again playing good hockey and it would be a shame to fall off the rails at the Winter Classic.

One note. Michael Leighton, a player that was picked up by the Flyers via waivers a couple of weeks ago, will get the nod as the Flyers starter. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren stated he didn’t like telling Brian Boucher that he wouldn’t be starting, but he gave Boucher a “if the shoe was on the other foot” (lamenting that Leighton’s strong play of late warranted the start) and Boucher bought into it.

The weather looks to be holding up for tomorrow. There are reports suggesting that Fenway may see some rain, but rest assured, the NHL will do everything in it’s power to get this game off, regardless of weather concerns.

Check back with my column tomorrow for more highlight’s and the inside scoop on tomorrow’s match. Despite the locals writing them off, I've got a feeling the Flyers may surprise a few people....

Until next time,



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