We were meant to be together, Sandi Robinson and I.
The two of us met via the net (or whatever you kids call it) on a hockey website, and it's been a dream together ever since. Got engaged at the steps of The Spectrum before it was demolished. We spent some magical time together, none better than our time in Boston for the Winter Classic, hosted in Fenway.
Here is our story, told by my future wife, Sandra Robinson, and what to expect for next week's Magical Winter Classic.
Sandra Robinson | York, PA
Three hundred and fifty dollars. Three hundred and fifty dollars times two? Plus travel, plus food and lodging?
It was a once in a life time opportunity. Tickets would be impossible to come by. The Philadelphia Flyers playing against the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
Fenway Park? In Boston?
It had been my dream since I was a young girl to someday see Fenway in person. Never was there an inkling that the Green Monster would be a towering back drop for a hockey game. That would just be ridiculous.
The year was 2003. I remember watching the steam escaping from the goalie mask of a touqued-up Jose Theodore as the Montreal Canadiens played against Ryan Smyth and the Edmonton Oilers in the sub-zero temperatures of Alberta. It was beautiful and amazing. Beyond words.
The sounds of metal skate blades scraping the ice. The frozen breath of the players as they skated toward the bench at the end of their shift. The long shadows cast by the stadium lights illuminating the rink in the waning daylight reminded me of those long lost days of my youth playing street hockey on those frigid January nights. Temperatures in the teens but only your fingers felt the icy cold. Outdoor hockey; certainly it doesn't get better than this.
I sat in similar awe and enthrallment as I watched the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins as the snow fell at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008, and the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in 2009. Through the sun, snow, sleet or rain, New Year's Day had become something even more special.
Tickets to the upcoming 2010 Winter Classic were beyond any hope but yet my boyfriend and I both entered the NHL's lottery to win a chance to purchase tickets.
"Meh, what could it hurt?" A few weeks later, my boyfriend received the email --
To: [A Lucky Couple]
Sent: Tue, October 20, 2009 6:01:21 AM
Subject: Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic® 2010 Drawing Winner Notification"
Dear [Lucky Couple],
Your name has been selected...
NO WAY! NO EFFIN WAY!!!
"Two tickets may be purchased starting at 11:00 am EST..."
The plan was in place. As soon as he received the email containing the password, I would jump with credit card in hand. 11:00am couldn't come fast enough. I had butterflies in my stomach with the size and temperament of mastodons. It was go time!
Three hundred and fifty dollars. Three hundred and fifty dollars times two? All of those memories of what I had watched on TV came flooding back. I could smell the ice. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would become the regular dinner fare but it would be sooooo worth it.
Shippin' up to Boston? You betcha. Drive six or so hours to Massachusetts? Hotel? Where to stay? How many nights? Yeah, all of the details could be worked out in time. All that mattered was that...WE HAD TICKETS TO THE WINTER CLASSIC!
The game was scheduled for a 1:00 pm start. Adrenaline fueled an early morning start. We spent the previous night in Auburn, Massachusetts approximately 50-miles southwest of our destination and 300-miles from home. Armed only with a computer-printed map of the area highlighting the famous Yawkey Way, we hit the bright and sunny trail.
Terra Incognita? Piece of cake; Massachusetts Turnpike East then look for the landmark that stands out like no other -- the iconic Citgo sign that sits behind the Green Monster of Fenway Park. "Head towards the light." Drive toward the sign. Bingo! We are there.
At 8:30 in the morning, a carnival atmosphere prevailed in downtown Boston. The local pubs were open, music was playing and energized people clad in either orange and black or black and gold filled the streets. Even the uniformed police officers directing cars and pedestrians were upbeat and seemed to be enjoying the party. There were people you recognized, regular attendees of Flyers home games as well as friendly natives of Beantown exchanging greetings and wishes of well-being. We all had one destination in mind and there it was just a few steps away, the block party to end all block parties.
The artist was just putting his finishing touches on the sparkling and intricate ice sculpture that graced the entrance to the block party in an open area across the street from the ballpark. In amongst the sea of blue tents, there were games to be played; 10-foot tall stilt-walkers wearing Flyers and Bruins jerseys, commemorative merchandise to be purchased, not-so-old timer's to meet and have your photo taken with and free give ways. Tons of free giveaways, including the folks from the Golden Arches handing out unlimited free coffee. There's nothing like free coffee on a 30 degree morning. On to Yawkey Way.
Yawkey Way is a narrow street that runs the length of Fenway Park, about two blocks long. By tradition and practice it is closed to traffic on game days. During these times, the street fills with vendors of everything from edibles to memorabilia.
The sweet smells of popcorn and grilled sausage filled the crisp winter air. Colorful vertical banners celebrating the meeting of the teams projected from the green painted shops facades opposite the ballpark. Every window of every store front was a blaze with the brightly colored uniforms of the day's combatants. Puffy grey clouds started to fill the sky while the growing mass of people filled with delight and anticipation bustled from shop to shop as they awaited for the venerable gates to open. We stood at Gate D gazing through the fencing at the wide, concrete staircase that led into the park.
The anticipation mounted. We are here!
When the gates opened people filed through, some walking, fully taking in their surroundings and while others darted up the stairs eager to see the spectacle that awaited them.
And then, there it was, more magnificent than I could have ever imagined. The Winter Classic.
The rest is history. History, mind you, about to repeat itself in a similar fashion. Only this time it takes place on Pattison Ave & Darien Street under the Philadelphia afternoon sky.
Two division rivals; One club is part of the fraternity of the Original Six. The other team happens to be the greatest to ever put on skates.
Two squads. One goal.