BOSTON It was snowing when the sun rose in Boston on Friday.
That was the first sign. Still, Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna was a little worried. Banking on weather in New England in January is just asking for trouble.
The snow continued throughout the day but never amounted to much more than a light dust on the Boston streets. That was check mark No. 2.
And finally, the prelude to a perfect night at Fenway park, an afternoon game between the women’s teams from New Hampshire and Northeastern ended, 5-3, after a furious four-goal, third period rally from the fourth-ranked Wildcats.
By the time Fenway Park struck 7 p.m., the light snow still dusted the rink erected on the infield of the storied ballpark. The crowd clamored for the arrival of Boston University and Boston College, and despite the frigid temperature – it was 21.6 degrees at puck drop – when the Eagles and the Terriers – both beloved and hated – touched the ice for the time, the flashbulbs popped and the tears fell. Another special chapter in this seemingly ancient rivalry written on another perfect winter night in the city they both call home.
“I said to (BC coach) Jerry York and the referees halfway through the third period, ‘How lucky are we?’” BU coach Jack Parker said. “'How lucky are we to be involved in this?' It is really something.
“First of all, it’s something we’ll all remember as long as we live. It was quite a show. It started Wednesday with the guys just hooting and hollering out on the ice just to have an outdoor practice.”
The game, which ended 3-2 in BU’s favor, also marked another chapter in the remarkable story that was the last seven days for the game of hockey. It started with the Boston Bruins rally late in the third period on this very field in front of 38,112, continued when John Carlson made the United States the capital of the junior hockey world four days ago, and ended here tonight when Cam Atkinson waited just one second too long to shoot with 38, 472 people watching from the Fenway stands and countless more watching on television.
“Well, there’s a national television audience watching all this stuff,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “I told my team that this was a great opportunity for us because we can beat our arch-rival on a national stage.
“There were a whole bunch of things that were important; that we had to get done. But I told the guys was one of the things that we wanted to get done was we want to put on a good show in front of the national television audience,” Parker continued.
As time expired and the Eagles trailed by the decisive 3-2 final, Atkinson, who scored the Eagles’ second goal, drifted from the slot to the right face-off circle searching for that perfect look.
The opening never came. And as the final buzzer sounded and the Terriers surrounded goaltender Kieran Millan, there wasn’t much for Parker – Boston born and bred – to do beside take it all in before meeting his rival, his friend, Jerry York at center ice.
“It was really a terrific venue to put our BC-BU rivalry again. I know that people appreciate college hockey, and they saw a terrific atmosphere tonight,” York said.
“It’s been a banner week for hockey at all levels,” he continued. “The NHL was [at Fenway], then we had the world juniors (U.S. gold medal) and certainly college hockey. So I think it has been a big boost for our sport.”
The effort to broaden the reach of college hockey, and the game in general, has been a serious concern of nearly every hockey-related organization since the NHL returned from its lockout in the 2005-06 season.
“[Friday’s game] coincides with some other things that we’re doing,” Bertagna said. “Paul Kelly is here tonight, who we just hired as the executive director of a group we’re calling College Hockey Inc. It’s really a way to give us a better chance to market out game. Up until now, the six [college hockey commissioners] have had the dual job of marketing our leagues and also being the group that markets the sport.”
These groups and these men can create all the organizations they want. But the most compelling product this game has to deliver is the game itself.
Play it indoors or outdoors, this is a game that people love. It is a game that more people will learn to love if only they get the chance to do so. They had that chance Friday night. They saw the most compelling product the game can offer.