BOSTON — If you love hockey, odds are you’ve been swept up by the game’s outdoor craze of the last six-plus years in one way or another.
Salem State’s players are no different. Most of them were playing high school or junior hockey when the NHL debuted its Winter Classic in 2008. All the members of the skating brotherhood in New England had eyes on the 2010 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers at historic Fenway Park, and the slew of Division 1 college hockey games played there in both 2010 and 2012.
Watching those games on TV, they let their minds wonder what it would be like to play in one themselves — especially at Fenway.
Amid frigid temperatures yesterday, Salem State’s players took center stage and had their own Frozen Fenway experience, a 4-2 loss to old ECAC East rival UMass Boston.
Skating on an ice rink sitting roughly where they’d seen Stephen Drew and Dustin Pedroia turn double plays for the World Series winning Boston Red Sox a few months earlier was absolutely surreal for both the Vikings and the Beacons.
“Going back to the first Frozen Fenway (in 2010) I’d thought about it, but I never thought we’d be able to play here. Growing up I never would’ve guessed it,” said Salem State captain Kyle Phelan, who grew up in Barnstable and likened the frozen ice surface to the iced over cranberry bogs he played on as a kid.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to comprehend it for a few days. Being a kid, watching the Sox break the curse and win two more champsionships, and then playing a hockey game here? It’s unbelievable.”
It’s hard to imagine Bill O’Neill ever considered that his team would play a game at Fenway Park when he took over the Salem State hockey program in 1981. The Vikings (7-5 this year) have seen just about everything under his steady stewardship since then: six NCAA tournament appearances, Division 3 Frozen Four berths in 1992 and 1994, and more than 500 wins among the highlights.