Oh, man, things are really going downhill fast at what is now the third staging of Frozen Fenway. All the fun began Saturday at the snow-covered lyric little bandbox, where the 17-day show has evolved into more than just a lonely hockey rink in the outfield.
This year, for the first time in the century-plus history of all things sun ‘n’ slope at the Fens, a big ol’ sledding hill has been constructed in front of the Green Monster. For $25, they’ll hand you an innertube, point you up a 20-foot flight of stairs, and for an hour you can repeatedly dash down a snowy track of some 75 feet, straight in the direction of the Red Sox bullpen.
Sorry, Boston cop Steve Horgan will not be there, both arms raised in joy, to meet you at the end of your triumphant run.
“Our original idea was to have a sled hill coming right off of the top of the Monster,’’ said Sox executive Sam Kennedy, noting Fenway’s iconic Wall is 37 feet high. “So you would be in the Monster seats and start your way down. Well, that may work in a year that we don’t have a hockey rink, too. Because, if you do the math, for a 20-foot hill, to give the sort of slope that would be good for kids and adults so it wasn’t a triple-black-diamond experience, we needed that 75-foot runway. To start at 37 feet high, you’d need almost 150 feet [of run] — a much bigger production.’’
A bigger production, as in ending the run near second base or the center-ice faceoff circle, depending on the imagination of your chosen season.
So, honey, the Sox shrunk the hill. But that won’t stop them from maybe bringing a bigger mountain to Fenway in subsequent years if/when the hockey rink isn’t Frozen Fenway’s raison d’etre. Kennedy figures then they could start from the top of the Monster, or even from high up in the center-field bleachers.
These sorts of manufactured winter hijinks are nothing new to the Hub. Boston Garden, under the vision and genius of Walter Brown, introduced indoor ski jumping to Causeway Street in the mid-1930s. Yes, ski jumping, of the variety that for years was used as the thrill-and-agony intro to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
From a height of approximately 85 feet above the Garden floor, the jumpers took off from near the back row of one of the steeply-pitched end balconies. Crowds of 12,000 — a full house, given the arena’s configuration for the event — packed the Garden for the show. By the third season, 1937, a tow rope was added to the hill, a marvel in itself for the day.
“Amazing,’’ mused Kennedy, when apprised of the Garden’s winter festivals some 75 years ago. “A lot of stuff we have done over the last 12-13 years is not really new. We just got this deal done to play a college football game [Boston College vs. Notre Dame in 2015], and football at Fenway was commonplace way back in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, all the ways into the ’60s. They had wrestling at Fenway, all sorts of political conventions, wakes, all sorts of stuff. Which is to prove there really are no new ideas — just refreshed ones.’’
A humongous, snow-covered ski hill inside the Garden was certainly a new idea in the ’30s, and Brown for years was praised in the press for developing the spectacle. In those pre-NBA days, US arenas needed events of all kinds to fill up dark days on the calendar, whenever the Bruins weren’t playing and prize fights weren’t being fought.
Boston’s Winter Sports Carnival became an early-December staple on Causeway Street through the 1940s and into the ’50s, much of it a means for sporting goods manufacturers to show off their latest ski equipment lines and New England ski resorts to market their hills and accommodations. The show lives on today as the Boston.com Ski and Snowboard Expo, staged each November at the Seaport World Trade Center, but no one in today’s show is barreling down a hill from 85 feet above the exhibit hall’s floor.
During the Garden’s earliest Winter Carnivals, Globe files chronicled such spectacles as:
■ Mrs. Eve Seeley, whose sled dogs pulled 1,000 pounds of sand — presumably in burlap bags — around the arena floor. The yelping dogs, kept at Seeley’s kennel in Wonalancet, N.H., were born in Antarctica during one of Admiral Richard Byrd’s legendary expeditions. They were dogs with pluck and pedigree.
■ Many members of the nearby Boston Skating Club performed on the ice, but none so bravely as Norman Faulkner, a World War I vet from Toronto who skated on the leg he didn’t lose in battle.
■ By 1937, the event expanded from three days to a week, with slaloms built into the majestic ski course and the never-before-seen tow rope added.
■ Perhaps the piece de resistance, snowshoe racing, also was added to the menu in 1937. Fights routinely broke out on the course.
“Despite the fact that the patrons believe that the snowshoers are kidding and fooling in their mad dashes around the edge of the Garden arena,’’ wrote the Globe’s reporter on scene, “this department has it from an authoritative source that the race is strictly on the level and that any brawls in the show . . . may be classed as the real thing.’’
Well, we have it from an authoritative source that Frozen Fenway 3 will positively not feature ski jumpers, dashing snowdogs, one-legged skaters or snowshoers, be they of the brawling or any other nature.
They’re going to play a bunch of hockey games and operate the Monster Sled course, the single biggest snowjob in town, excluding, of course, the State House.
Because we all know the biggest snowjob in town is staged 52 weeks a year on Beacon Hill. Some things truly stand the test of time.