The ferry ride that links Martha’s Vineyard to the Massachusetts mainland can be exciting or uneventful, depending on the sea life spotted along the 45-minute cruise.
Despite talk of a pod of rare whales spotted in the waters of the Cape Cod Canal, the attention of many of the younger passengers was occupied by the new toys, electronic gadgets and i-everythings recently unwrapped over the holidays.
Mostly, there was the excited chatter of 9- and 10-year-olds sporting Bruins hats, jackets and thick hoodies, some younger ones unaware of the significance of this special day for two island
On the bus ride into Boston, with bags stacked, sticks strapped and mouth guards tucked in their pockets, they appeared like any other youth hockey team on its way to just another game. But this was no ordinary bus ride to any old rink. This was something special, as was summed up by an exclamation that came from somewhere on the bus:
“There it is! There’s FENWAYYYY.”
For the second time in three years, Fenway Park, a Boston landmark on par with the Old North Church and Faneuil Hall, became a frozen field of dreams for local hockey teams.
While most of the time slots were allotted for high-profile college and high school games — with record turnouts of fans descending upon the field — a few chunks of time were set aside for other teams. The challenge, as it turned out, was securing one of those precious spots.
Peter Gillis, a parent and coach for one of the two island teams, looked into getting ice time shortly after the event was announced, but was denied like a shooter on a breakaway against Tim Thomas.
Fortunately, Bob Mone, a long-time youth hockey supporter, came to the rescue and pulled enough strings to secure some Fenway ice.
Families quickly began fundraising efforts to pay for the ice, and with the generous contributions from a wide variety of island companies, team parents and relatives were able to provide the Squirts with this once-in-a-lifetime post-Christmas gift.
Upon arriving, the teams filed through the chilly concourses, past the empty hotdog stands, through the Red Sox clubhouse and into the subterranean batting cages that would serve as makeshift locker rooms.
Players and parents took turns walking into the Red Sox dugout and had their pictures taken on the same wooden benches where their Red Sox heroes sit throughout the season.
At 1:30 p.m. sharp, the puck dropped and teams sporting the purple and white of Martha’s Vineyard buzzed around the Fenway ice. Players seemed to forget where they were as they skated hard and battled harder during the competitive contest. Eventually, as the clock wound down and the temperature dipped below freezing, the Squirt 1 team came out on top, 5-4.
As they marched off the ice and back into the Red Sox dugout, the faces of players, parents and coaches alike were glowing with pride. In the end, the score wasn’t really important. What mattered most was that these future stars had the opportunity to skate on their own frozen field of dreams.