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Monday, December 21, 2009

First Skate at Fenway Park

Posted by Matt Pepin, Staff

Former Boston Bruins greats Bobby Orr (left) and Terry O'Reilly (right) help Milt Schmidt off the ice while participating in the First Skate at Fenway Park event in Boston, Massachusetts December 18, 2009, in advance of the NHL Winter Classic game
(Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt, and Terry O'Reilly / Reuters)

Years ago, Ray Bourque got the chance to take batting practice at Fenway Park.

Cranked four over the Green Monster, he said.

But what would he have said if someone that day had told him one day he'd go ice skating at Fenway Park?

"You're crazy," Bourque said Friday after being one of the first to go ice skating on the rink that has been constructed at Fenway for the NHL's Winter Classic on Jan. 1.

"But I really think the NHL has a great thing going here. Never would I have thought I would see a rink in the middle of Fenway Park," said Bourque, who played 1,518 games from 1979 to 2000 for the Bruins and had 1,506 points and 395 goals.

It was hockey weather indeed at the historic ballpark on Yawkey Way, and Bourque was one of many Bruins legends who donned sweaters with the spoked B and skates despite extremely chilly temps.

The lineup included Cam Neely, Ken Hodge, Terry O'Reilly, Rick Middleton, Bob and Don Sweeney, and Bobby Orr. A youth hockey team from Somerville also participated, and even Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek laced up a pair of loaners and tested the ice.

"It's nice. The ice is only going to get better," Bourque said. "It's a special place to play that game. I'm jealous."

The significance of the Winter Classic not only coming to Boston but involving two of the city's historic franchises was not lost on Neely, who played 525 games for the Bruins from 1986 to 1996.

"Two organizations that are kind of original within their respective sports, it's kind of neat to see them come together like this," Neely said.

Many players were asked if skating outdoors at Fenway brought back memories of playing outdoor hockey as youths.

"It's similar, but different," Neely said. "We're used to skating with a bunch of trees around you and you've got to watch out for leaves in the ice, but it does bring it back, skating outdoors."

One current Bruin, Milan Lucic, also attended, although he did not skate because he is still recovering from an ankle injury. However, he said he'll give his teammates -- who begin a three-game road trip tonight in Chicago -- some intel on the rink, including sun glare and other issues they may have to deal with on gameday.