BOSTON -- As you drive down Brookline Avenue -- or, as those familiar with coming to Fenway Park know it better, that street with the bridge over the Mass Pike where the Cask'n Flagon is -- you notice almost immediately that Fenway Park is no longer The Home of the Boston Red Sox, at least for the remainder of the week.
Instead, it is very much The Home of the 2010 NHL Winter Classic.
I say that because the NHL has taken over pretty much anything.
The first thing I noticed was that the parking lot, where I had planned to park while picking up my credential and checking out the area, had been closed. It was taken over by a crew setting up a number of heated tents and what appeared to be the beginnings of a stage.
At first I thought this would be some sort of mobile base of operations for the NHL, but I got an email that explained this would, instead, be the site of a free fan festival on both Thursday and Friday -- which would include live interviews with Bruins alumni (your chance to ask a question of Jean-Yves Roy, perhaps?); a live performance by a local band; some other interactive attractions and games; and contests to win tickets to the game.
But it had taken over my intended parking spot, so it wasn't all good.
After picking up my credential (and a bag of free stuff which we're going to give away as part of the Winter Classic Parade Float Contest), I kept an eye out for any official sign that the Boston Red Sox actually operated out of this building, but it was rather hard to find. The old sign next to Beer Works, which is usually a bat and baseball that says "Boston Red Sox," has been replaced covered over by this:
(The 2010 home games the sign advertises are for the Red Sox, but that was pretty much the last of anything baseball-related.)
Then, when you head down Yawkey Way, the familiar "FENWAY PARK, YAWKEY WAY" banners that feature the Red Sox logo and overhang the street were replaced with these banners at every single gate:
Sharp-eyed readers familiar with Yawkey Way will also notice that Fenway's brick façade, which usually hold banners commemorating each of the Red Sox' seven World Series titles, instead displays banners for the Bruins, Flyers and Winter Classic. Here's a close-up of those:
(By the way, it's something of a coincidence that the two teams playing in the Winter Classic have as many Stanley Cup titles combined as the Sox have World Series titles -- five by the Bruins, two by the Flyers -- so it would've been pretty cool to see those years commemorated on these banners as a nice little touch that discerning fans might have noticed instead of these generic banners ... but I guess that's a small quibble.)
Partially to get out of the rain for a few minutes because I wasn't sure Fenway itself would be open, I ducked into the Red Sox' giant souvenir store to see if there was any Winter Classic merchandise set up and for sale yet.
There was. Lots of it:
I had been asked by Mr. Wyshynski to note how much the merchandise cost, and while I made notes on a few of the pricier items, it turned out that they cost exactly the same as the list prices on NHL.com, so there ya go.
The difference, though, was in selection. On the NHL's online shop, you can buy Bruin T-shirts with the name and number of three different players (Zdeno Chara(notes), Milan Lucic(notes) and Tim Thomas(notes)) and three different Flyers (Jeff Carter(notes), Mike Richards(notes) and Chris Pronger(notes)). In the store, there were seven different Bruins (the above three, Blake Wheeler(notes), Patrice Bergeron(notes), Marc Savard(notes) and David Krejci(notes)) and four different Flyers (the above three and Simon Gagne(notes), although there was literally just one Gagne shirt in the entire store, so they probably weren't done unpacking the Flyers shirts).
Also, not surprisingly, I think they're expecting the crowd to be largely pro-Bruins:
After that, I decided to try my luck getting into Fenway itself. One gate was open and there were people there, so I walked on in, searching for the media work room to see if there was any info to get that I didn't yet have. Several people nodded hello at me. Two very nice women held an elevator for me. The signs meant to direct foot traffic were not especially helpful in getting me to my destination. At one point I somehow ended up on the fourth level, where the roof box seats are, and got a pretty decent view of the entire park.
But at no point did anyone ask me for my credential, who I was, or what I was doing wandering aimlessly around Fenway Park. I thought that was odd, but there were a lot of workers that seemed very busy, so maybe potential trespassing wasn't high on their priority list.
Eventually, I located the media room, had a nice conversation with a security staffer who said there wasn't much going on at the park this week (he did ask to see my credential, to his infinite credit) apart from the practice on Thursday and the game itself. So with that, I was headed home.
On the way out though, I did see the immediately-recognizable Rob Simpson (of XM's Home Ice, the NHL Network and formerly of NESN) and a crew that seemed to be following him around, being asked for their credentials. I thought that was kinda funny.
Ryan Lambert is covering the Winter Classic for Puck Daddy, and publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.