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Winter Classic a natural fit for Fenway

Winter Classic a natural fit for Fenway

BOSTON -- For the big games -- and there are lots of them every summer at Fenway Park -- the Red Sox are usually the ones who orchestrate everything and make it an experience to remember.

For Friday's Winter Classic, they were the facilitators, opening their home to the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and the National Hockey League.

The event lived up to all the advance billing and more, with the Bruins thrilling a packed house of 38,112 with a 2-1 victory in overtime.

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"You feel as stewards of the Red Sox that anything we can do to strengthen the community is a good thing," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "I know the Bruins were very interested in having this event here today. It's been a very, very successful marketing event for the NHL. We just did what we could to try to get NBC to bring this game here today. A lot of great things have happened at Fenway Park, but I don't think we've ever seen a goal scored, like today."

The buzz preceding the Winter Classic was palpable to anyone in or around Boston in recent weeks.

"It's all anybody seemed to be talking about," said Werner. "It's going to be a lot of buzz about this, not just today, but there's a college game between BC and BU next weekend and lots of events in between. We're really using this ice to have people come to Fenway and see what a special venue it is."

Yes, Fenway proved again during the Classic that it is a venue that can transcend baseball. In recent years, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have played Fenway. Friday was hockey's turn.

"I think it's great," said Werner. "I remember the first time I came to Fenway when I was a child. The fact that this place has hosted so many special events, not just baseball, but I actually came here in college and saw a Patriots-Jets game here. Now to see hockey, it's another great moment for the ballpark."

Several Red Sox employees played vital roles in the preparation for the event, including executive vice president of business affairs Jonathan Gilula.

"Obviously, there are challenges you can anticipate in welcoming a capacity crowd in the heart of the winter," said Gilula. "Mother Nature cooperated with us today and went a long way. We did have challenges yesterday, bringing a big crew to remove snow out of the seating bowl. The preparation to accommodate 38,000 fans on Jan. 1 is a lot different than the summer months of the baseball season."

In the end, it all went off smoothly.

"It's such a jewel event," Gilula said. "We're happy that Fenway is able to host such events. We're very thrilled."

Before long, the Red Sox will once again be hosting their own games. Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla. in a mere six weeks.

The Bruins started 2010 with a walk-off win at Fenway. The Red Sox hope to finish the calendar year in much the same way.

"I'm very much looking forward to this," said Werner. "Our goal last year was to make the playoffs and then to try to go far. We didn't do that. I think we've got something to prove this year. We're in the toughest division in baseball and the Yankees, I think, made some improvements in the offseason. I don't think anyone can quarrel with the depth of our pitching. I think our defense has improved. [General manager] Theo [Epstein] is not done yet."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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