BOSTON -- It may have been 70 degrees in the air, but the Boston Red Sox “turned down the temperature” on Friday afternoon at Fenway Park as Hockey East took center stage to unveil plans for Citi Frozen Fenway 2014, which is set to take over the beloved ballpark for the third time over this upcoming December and January.
While Frozen Fenway will include Boston city public skating and a variety of other hockey showdowns, the centerpiece continues to be college hockey. This year, eight of Hockey East’s 11 teams will take part in four games over the first two Saturdays of January.
Among the participants in the 2014 event will be league newcomer Notre Dame, led by its ninth-year head coach, Jeff Jackson. The nationally-prominent Fighting Irish will take part in the nightcap of the Jan. 4 doubleheader, lining up against their Holy War rivals, Boston College.
“This is one of the reasons we want to be in Hockey East,” Jackson said, standing along the first base line at Fenway Park following the afternoon press conference. “They have events like this and they have high-profile teams that are going to give our program a little recognition. … We’re proud to be part of this event.”
The Eagles and Irish have rekindled their ice rivalry over recent years and coincided the matchups with their historic football rivalry, which dates back numerous decades. To have such an event in such a setting to kick off a new chapter is something special for both sides.
An added bonus to the day for the newcomers was the opportunity to take in the historic surroundings before the Boston Red Sox took the field. Irish senior captain Jeff Costello, a native of Milwaukee, Wisc., threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox took on Chicago.
During media availability, Costello, who will lead a senior-laden squad in 2013-14, stressed his sheer excitement for such a unique opportunity. On the other hand, Jackson had some choice comments on the situation, stressing his “high expectations” for the pitch.
The first Hockey East game of the year at the park will take place on that same Saturday at 4:00 p.m., as a pair of first-time Fenway participants, Merrimack and Providence, take to the ice.
Although the event represents new beginnings for Jackson and the Irish, numerous locals -- including UMass-Lowell senior Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) -- were certainly excited about the opportunity to take to the ice at the beloved ballpark.
“It’s real cool,” said Pendenza, who grew up in Everett, Mass., before moving a bit north to Wilmington. “I’ve been to Fenway Park many times, watched the Bruins play here. … I always thought it would be pretty cool to play here, and was really hoping it would happen.”
Any New England-born sports fan has at least one Fenway memory, and while most involve baseball, Pendenza could not believe he would be adding hockey to his list of recollections at the old ballyard.
“It was just kind of me and my dad,” the Hockey East All-Conference Second Team member said. “We used to go on kind of like a father-son trip. … Even me and my buddies, we used to buy grandstand tickets for 20 bucks on a day when we had nothing else to do. It was just those kind of little things ... but nothing hockey-related.”
As far as outdoor hockey, Pendenza’s memories date back to childhood skating behind the frozen-over area behind the Flynn Rink in Melrose, Mass.
Of course, nothing has or ever will compare to the feeling of stepping out on the ice with his River Hawk teammates at 3 p.m. on Jan. 11.
“I’m really excited for it, but I’m just hoping it’s not too cold. I can’t wait to get out there ... with the boys and get at it.”
2014 Citi Frozen Fenway
Dec. 28, 2013 to Jan. 13, 2014
Public skating will take place on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 and Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Ticket information will be released in the coming weeks.
Hockey East doubleheader tickets will go on sale Friday, Sept. 6 at noon on www.redsox.com/frozenfenway. All four games will be televised by New England Sports Network.
Jan. 4: Merrimack vs. Providence (4:00); Notre Dame vs. Boston College (7:30)
Jan. 11: UMass Lowell vs. Northeastern (3:00); Maine vs. Boston University (6:30)
Information for other hockey events, including a Division 3 matchup between Salem State and UMass Boston, will be released at a later date.