Three years ago, the last time Hockey East ran a Frozen Fenway, I wrote this column where I grumpily told you why outdoor hockey has lost its novelty, and in reality, it’s not fun or special anymore.
Now three years wiser, I’d like to take that column back. At least certain elements of it.
Truthfully, I mostly still feel the same way I did in 2014. To me, the novelty has worn off. To me, it’s growing old.
But the thing is, these games aren’t about me.
Hockey East and the rest of the sport wouldn’t continue to run these games if they didn’t draw money. They draw money because people show up, and people show up, theoretically, because they care. So as long as they are drawing large crowds and it pays off for the leagues and teams to play outdoors, I get it. I might not like it, but I don’t have to. There might be 25,000 people at Fenway Park this weekend that disagree with me. That says it all, doesn’t it?
Three years ago, the first night of Frozen Fenway drew more than 30,000 fans, according to the box score. That’s about six times the largest crowd for any individual Hockey East game on any given night throughout the regular season.
Even if half that number paid for tickets, it’s still a crowd that is exponentially bigger than a normal Hockey East crowd.
That’s a good thing. It’s drawing revenue, and it’s getting eyeballs on college hockey.
There’s also the fact that these games mean something to the players. While some on the BU roster have played a Fenway before, a good chunk of those kids haven’t, even though their team has played there almost a handful of times at this point. There’s turnover in college hockey. A once-every-three-year event isn’t a big deal.
This weekend, you’ll hear players talk about how special these games are. To jaded fans (myself included), this is the fourth time we’ve seen outdoor hockey at Fenway Park. Whatever, right? But for a lot of these players, it’s the first time they’ve played on this stage.
A good chunk of BU’s freshmen class was 11 or 12 years old when BU first skated at Fenway in 2010. Maybe one of the local players went to that game, cheering for BU. And now, here they are.
So if you’re a jaded, grumpy old man like me, just remember that this sport isn’t your private club. You don’t have to like outdoor hockey, because these games aren’t for you (or me). They’re for the teams, the schools, and the probably 30,000 people who will bundle up and head to Fenway Park this weekend.