NHL hits a home run at Fenway: Wharnsby

The latest edition of the Winter Classic outdoor game was, well, a home run.

The latest edition of the Winter Classic outdoor game was, well, a home run.

The conditions were ideal Friday, with temperatures slightly above freezing and no snowfall. The fans were loud and animated. And there was a dramatic ending in overtime at Fenway Park, a baseball stadium dressed up wonderfully to look like a hockey facility.

There was even a puck that was flipped out of play in the first period that banked off the Green Monster on one bounce, making 4 Yawkey Way in Boston a hockey address — for one afternoon, anyway.

The sellout crowd of 38,112 fans, many of whom made the trip from Philadelphia, was revved for the game in style.

Local rockers, the Dropkick Murphys, performed Shipping Up to Boston. Singer-songwriter Daniel Powter of Vernon, B.C., sang O Canada and the legendary James Taylor followed with his rendition of the U.S. national anthem.

Classic treat

The fans from teams received another treat when hockey hall of famers Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke led their respective teams, the Bruins and Flyers, out of the dugouts and to the ice surface.

"I asked him why he let Clarke beat him on the ceremonial face-off," said Bruins defenceman Dennis Wideman, who stood beside Orr during the anthems. "That was so cool to be beside him in that atmosphere."

Just before puck drop, a stealth bomber cruised overhead and everybody, including the players and on-ice officials, glanced skyward to take in the incredible sight.

"Man, that stealth was unbelievable," Boston's 41-year-old forward Mark Recchi said. "It was amazing. I didn't know what was coming there."

Late in the game, during a television timeout, actor Denis Leary and a local firefighter led the crowd in singing Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, a tradition at Boston Red Sox games.

The fans deserve credit for making this game a special one in Fenway Park. The ones sitting in the lower level stood for the entire game in order to have a better vantage point.

There wasn't a complaint from the players. They had to adjust to conditions they are not accustomed to and that had them playing a careful game, but they adapted and enjoyed their time outdoors.

"I thought just walking out today with all the fans in their seats, gave us a little taste of what a baseball player would like," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "That was cool for me because I grew up playing baseball, also."

Even Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who hails from the Boston area, enjoyed the atmosphere despite the 2-1 outcome in the Bruins' favour.

"It was awesome," he said. "Right from the start, from the anthems to the stealth plane that flew overhead to the fans. Fenway Park, just looking around and taking it all in, I think that's why maybe it started cautiously for both sides."