Apr 30, 2013, 10:16 AM EDT
In Notre Dame’s inaugural season in Hockey East, the Irish will visit a number of unfamiliar venues as teams such as Vermont, New Hampshire, and Providence replace familiar CCHA rivals. Instead of traveling to Yost and Munn Arenas, the Irish will be visitors at facilities such as the Gutterson Fieldhouse, Whittemore Center, and Schneider Arena.
As of last week, you can add Boston’s Fenway Park to the list.
On Jan. 4 the Irish will play their second outdoor game in as many seasons as part of “Frozen Fenway 2014,” facing off against Boston College, an already notorious Hockey East rival. The Irish defeated CCHA foe Miami 2-1 at Soldier Field Feb. 17 in its first outdoor game in the modern era.
The two games highlight Notre Dame’s shift from the Midwest to the East Coast, where all other Hockey East teams are located. In fact, Burlington, Vermont was the farthest west the old conference went. While Notre Dame played in the CCHA, nine of the 11 teams were in Ohio and Michigan.
As Notre Dame fans found out in Chicago last February, these outdoor matchups are much more than games – they’re citywide events. Intersport’s Hockey City Classic featured public skates along with games for youth, amateur, and high school players.
The event became more than an experience for the four teams involved (Minnesota-Wisconsin capped the doubleheader). It was the first hockey game played in 89-year-old Soldier Field, a beloved icon for Chicagoans.
Before the game, I was able to speak with Drew Russell, VP of Sports Properties at Intersport, about the event and the city’s response to it.
“I thought I understood what Soldier Field meant to the people of Chicago and the Midwest, but I had no idea how fond people are of that facility and that venue and the city of Chicago itself,” he said. “As soon as we announced it, the buzz was out there in terms of, `Hey, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity – this is something that’s never happened before.’ It’s something we didn’t really expect, and it just continued to steamroll.”
Just as the Hockey City Classic had a distinctive Chicago feel, Frozen Fenway will help introduce the Irish to New England and Boston, even though it is the home turf of the opposing team.
But unlike Soldier Field, Fenway Park has some experience with hockey. The Flyers played the Bruins in the 2010 Winter Classic, and the “Frozen Fenway” festival began in 2010 with an encore in 2012. When announcing this year’s event, Fenway Sports Management President Sam Kennedy said, “Hockey and skating are fast becoming winter traditions at Fenway Park.”
With one of the most historic athletic programs in the nation, Notre Dame can certainly appreciate the tradition that Fenway Park has to offer as the oldest MLB stadium, even if it’s not as familiar as the comforts of the Compton Family Ice Arena or relatively close Soldier Field.
Playing five miles from Boston College’s main campus, Notre Dame will certainly play the part of the road team in this outdoor excursion, unlike the more neutral atmosphere of Soldier Field. With the move to Hockey East however, the Irish icers better get used to playing in unfamiliar territory.
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