Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Winter Classic

James Taylor will perform the National Anthem at the 2010 NHL Winter Classic.

Steve and I both look forward to the new tradition of watching the Winter Classic. We will settle in with our New Years food and watch the game. That first year was fabulous! The Penguins, the snow, the sheer joy with which they all played. It was great! Last year, the game wasn't as good (to me) and I got sort of bored with it by the end.

The Winter Classic is, of course, played outdoors. There is something about this particular game that captures what I think must strike right to the young hearts of all hockey players. There is something magic about skating outside in the cold and the wind, the snow, if you're lucky, playing a game that they so clearly love.

This year we have Philadelphia v. Boston, and Fenway is ready:

Here is my post from last year about the Winter Classic; in it I wrote about Jack Falla and his book Home Ice, about backyard skating rinks. The book is an ode to hockey and is beautifully written. Falla describes his initial trial and error attempts at building his own backyard rink. When he finally gets it right, he says:

Late that night I still had my skates on and was scraping the ice while listening to an oldies radio station...when my friend Doc showed up, skates and hockey stick in hand and a six-pack of Molson beer under his arm. We stuck the beers in a snowbank and wedged the bottle opener into a gap in the boards. 'I knew you'd build a rink and forget to attach a beer opener to the boards,' said Doc.

Falla's backyard rink attracted lots of friends and the friends of his children. They eventually installed lights and a stereo system and even started their own tournament. What fun that must have been! Falla's favorite memory seems to be of those late night solitary skates or those with his wife, after everyone else has gone.

The Winter Classic always makes me pull Falla's book off the shelf and re-read parts of it. One of my favorite vignettes is when, after an interview, Wayne Gretzky asks Falla "You shoot left?" and he gives Falla one of his old hockey sticks. While some people would have put it on eBay, Falla says

I appreciated the stick, but not as much as the question that suggested exactly what Gretzky intended I do with that stick. The same thing he'd do. Use it.

Eventually the worn out and battered stick served an end-of-life purpose as a tomato plant stake.

I've already bought a corned beef brisket and last night Steve bought the biggest cabbage in the whole wide world for us to eat New Years Day. I'll cook some black eyed peas and cornbread to go along with it all. Traditional New Years food.

I don't want to wish my vacation away, but I can't wait!

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