By Phil Stacey
When Pete Souris graduated from Beverly High School in 1995, he was an 18-year-old sports nut who dreamed of working for the NBA.
So how did it come to be that Souris, now 32 years old,¬ is helping to coordinate a first-of-its-kind¬ college hockey doubleheader at¬ Fenway Park tonight?
"I was converted into a hockey guy in college (at the University of New Hampshire), and it was a great thing for me," said Souris, who as the Director of Public Relations for Hockey East has had a major part in making tonight's Sun Life Frozen Fenway women's and men's college hockey doubleheader a reality.
Souris, who is serving as a de facto Media Coordinator for the event,¬ has been pulling triple duty in the sense that he's working with three separate groups of people — the National Hockey League, the Red Sox and Fenway Sports group, and members of the media — in getting ready for tonight's festivities. The biggest crowd to ever see a college hockey game in the East will watch the first-ever outdoor women's game between¬ Northeastern¬ and¬ UNH at 4 p.m., followed by¬ the Boston¬ University vs. Boston College men at 7:30 p.m.
Souris has¬ been handling credentials, coordinating practices for both the men's and women's teams at Fenway the past two days, and even has his own makeshift office inside Fenway for this week.
"We're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Souris, who still makes his home in the Garden City. "We're a small office¬ at Hockey East, and this was a pretty big undertaking from when we first thought it might be a possibility back in April. Ever since it became official back in August that the Winter Classic was coming to Boston and we found out we could host some games, it's really been all hands on deck from our end.
"Having said that, it's a really fun thing to be involved in. Joe (Bertagna, the Hockey East commissioner who calls Gloucester home) is a long-time Red Sox fan and worked at Fenway as a vendor in high school, so this is great for him. And most of the staff in our office are all Red Sox fans, so getting to do this at Fenway is a big deal for us, too."
That includes Souris, a huge baseball fan who says the folks at Fenway have "made me feel like a part of the staff" during the past week.
"Sam Kennedy (the Executive Vice President/Chief Operations Officer for the Red Sox) and (Special Assistant) Fred Olsen, you couldn't ask for anything more than the support they've given us," said Souris, who played golf and tennis at Beverly High and also served as manager for the boys basketball team. "It's tough to duplicate what the NHL did for the Winter Classic (on New Year's Day between the Bruins and Flyers), but Sam and his staff are trying to replicate it as much as possible to create a great fan experience for these college games. And Joe and Sam have formed a terrific working relationship."
The in-house scoring and timing and the boards inside the Fenway rink for today's games will appear as they did during¬ the Winter Classic, courtesy of the NHL, said Souris. The regular NHL crew that¬ scores the games at TD Garden will be working the two contests tonight, and¬ nuances such as players' time on ice will be shown on the scoreboard in center field (as it was for the Winter Classic), with the stat¬ crew from UMass Amherst handling those¬ chores.
"As much as¬ it's all a lot of work in the present," said Souris, "I know I'll be able to look back and say it's a great experience."
Coordinating major events is nothing new to Souris. Previously the sports information director and men's hockey contact at UNH, Souris has been the primary media coordinator for¬ the NCAA men's Hockey Northeast Regional tournaments in Manchester, N.H. in both 2004 and 2007. He's also worked at a plethora of¬ other¬ events in a media support capacity including the last nine Frozen Fours, the 2003 and 2007¬ Red Sox playoffs, and is a member of the New England Patriots gameday media relations staff.
"I told Joe (earlier this week) that I thought the Regionals were the biggest thing I had been in charge of in terms of media. But this, by far, eclipses that," said Souris. "The uniqueness of the event, how recognizable Fenway is, the fact that both games will be broadcast in HD on NESN and the NHL Network ... it's a whole different level.
"When the pregame ceremonies are underway for the men's game, probably around 7 p.m., I feel like I'll be able to enjoy things a little more. Until then, I'll be fielding a lot of questions, calls and whatnot. But when that time goes, I'll be able to realize what a great spectacle this will be."