Nothing says hockey quite like Fenway Park.
If that connection is not immediately apparent, the National Hockey League is going to extravagant lengths to prove it at the Jan. 2 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Penguins.
In its first return visit to a Winter Classic site — Fenway Park hosted the third Winter Classic in 2010 — the 14th edition of the NHL’s annual outdoor jewel will be a celebration of the 110-year-old baseball stadium’s status as an iconic sports monument.
As part of the Winter Classic’s evolution, the NHL has been incorporating themes into the presentation and marketing. At the 2020 game in Dallas, the Texas State Fair was the theme, and in 2022 in Minneapolis, the focus was on Minnesota as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and the “State of Hockey.”
At Fenway Park, the baseball theme will be amplified from nearly every angle and hue the asymmetric edifice has to offer, including reorienting the main rink so the Green Monster serves as its backdrop; logos and uniforms dripping with splashes and shout-outs to the ballpark’s patented green paint, yellow foul poles, and old-school fonts; an auxiliary “baseball diamond ice rink” in the outfield; and between-periods entertainment that will include appearances from past and present Red Sox and Bruins players.
“The venue is so historic and iconic, it celebrates the history of the Red Sox and sports in Boston so well that it was really in line with how we position the Winter Classic brand, which is really a celebration of hockey and its roots — it’s bringing the modern game into a historic context — and for that reason, we really felt that we wanted to showcase Fenway right off the bat,” said Greg Mueller, senior design director of the NHL.
The newest and biggest twist is shifting the rink’s position from its 2010 layout. It will be roughly centered length-wise across the first and third bases of the baseball diamond so its 200-foot length is stretched along a second-to-third- base axis across the 231-foot width of the Green Monster.
This was one of the first decisions made, said Steve Mayer, chief content officer of the NHL, in the return to Fenway Park.
“A lot of what we do is for television, made for television, and even though we definitely want to create an incredible environment for our fans, playing off of that Green Monster with some of the devices that we have — jib cams, drones, sky cams — that’s what we’re going to do using the relationship between the Monster and the rink. I think it’s going to be very unique and definitely something that will be a huge takeaway for our audience,” said Mayer.
Fenway Park already is in the midst of its busiest offseason ever, with Fenway Sports Management shepherding through Topgolf Live, a Spartan race, Thanksgiving high school football, and the first Fenway Bowl college football game, with college hockey’s Frozen Fenway event coming on the heels of the Winter Classic.
The date of the Fenway Bowl was moved up on the December calendar to give the NHL more time to complete a football-to-hockey-in-a-baseball-stadium turnover that towers above, respectfully, the efforts of the bull gang at TD Garden for its basketball-to-hockey transitions. Once the football field disappears over the weekend, a dedicated NHL crew will get to work, taking a break for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day before returning to complete the job.
“We’ve had a 15-year working relationship with the NHL going back to the first time we did it — our operational team, from security, ushers, ticket-takers, ballpark operations to grounds crew, they work very closely with their operational team, who come in and take over the building — they do all the content, all the programming, all the marketing, it’s exactly like an All-Star Game,” said Sam Kennedy, chief operating officer of the Red Sox in 2010 and now president of the team and FSM. “You’ll see new content elements with the ancillary rink, but I think largely the event is so special sort of on its own, conserving the sanctity of an outdoor game. It’s an amazing event.”
Included in the conversion is the separate diamond-shaped rink in the outfield, where the league plans to have local youth hockey players engage in a variation of shinny, an informal, pick-up “street” version of hockey sometimes played on frozen ponds.
“It’s going to look like a baseball diamond with hockey-centric markings,” said Mueller.
The Green Monster will feature sponsored advertising, as well as a version of the official 2023 Winter Classic logo.
The logo features a black-and-gold (conveniently the colors of both the Bruins, Penguins, and Fenway’s foul poles) puck flying across a frosty cursive “Winter” with “Classic” spelled out below it in the Green Monster scoreboard font, with foul poles framing each side of the green-wall backdrop plus the NHL crest and a “2023″ meant to evoke the distance markers on Fenway’s outfield walls.
The jerseys worn by the players have been carefully designed, with touches such as a vintage white on the Bruins’ black jersey that the NHL says is “meant to evoke aged textile as if this garment was found in [a] trunk deep in the back of an old skate shop.” The Penguins’ uniform is inspired by the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates hockey team, with a gold P stretching across the vintage white jersey.
Bruins president Cam Neely noted another touch.
“When we were going through the jersey designs, the focal point was really, ‘OK, we’re playing in a baseball stadium, let’s embrace the fact that both cities have Major League Baseball teams,” said Neely. “And if you look at the inside collar of our classic jersey, they throw in a little homage to Green Monster, which I thought was pretty cool.”
Details have not yet been released, such as who will be singing the national anthem, but that singer, with Boston ties, will be backed by an orchestral ensemble that also likely has Boston ties. A “Grammy award-winning rock band” will play during the first intermission, with appearances from Bruins and Red Sox alumni between the second and third periods.
About the only unplanned element is the elements, as in the weather.
Frigid, balmy, rainy, snowy, windy, still — anything’s possible, and the organizers are not losing sleep over it.
“It’s the one thing we can’t control and it’s the one thing we can’t forget,” said Mayer. “Boston is typically perfect for a game like this, but let’s talk in a few weeks and I’ll tell you how perfect it’s been.”
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.