We sat on the paint-chipping wooden seats, soggy from the moisture in the air. It was an overcast 60-degree day in the middle of January –hardly ideal for outdoor hockey. My women’s crew team had been encouraged to attend the Conn vs. Bowdoin Women’s hockey game at Fenway to support fellow Connecticut College athletes. A number of us had driven or taken a train into Boston. Looking down the 105 year old ballpark seats, the men’s hockey team sat a couple of rows ahead in matching jackets. They held inflatable noisemakers that they smacked together creating excitable noise. There were students not associated with athletic teams too. Groups of friends sat chattering in the stressed seats. One thousand fans all-together.
“Please stand for the national anthem,” a voice boomed over the loudspeaker. A men’s acapella group from Bowdoin walked across a carpet laid out on the ice. Gathering in a circle, they made a smooth, “hummmm” to ensure all singers where in the correct key. And then they sang. Hands on hearts and eyes on the flag, the melody echoed off the green siding. Camels and Polar Bears faced the same stars and stripes hanging from the scoreboard.
Once the National Anthem was a whisper on the wind, the presidents of both colleges walked on the fuzzy aisle towards the center of the rink. Connecticut College’s Katherine Bergeron and Bowdoin College’s Clayton Rose stood face to face. A referee facilitated the puck drop.
“It was nerve wracking,” Bergeron said later, pulling her camel stamped scarf around her shoulders against the spitting sky. “But a lot of fun. I got to keep the puck!”
Then the game began.
Frozen Fenway was started back in 2010. Fenway hosted its first hockey game during the NHL Winter Classics game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers on New Years Day in 2010. The NHL had honored other cities’ football and baseball stadiums since 2008, but playing in the Big Green inspired a new tradition for Boston. The rink, already set up, made it easy to allow other teams to play in the iconic venue. Frozen Fenway became a stadium for Division 1 schools’ ice hockey teams to compete.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t a NESCAC,” Francis Shields, Connecticut College Director of Athletics, said, explaining how a D3 team was performing at a traditionally D1 venue.
Sam Kennedy, President of the Red Sox, graduated from Trinity College in ‘95. After a number of years of the stadium hosting Frozen Fenway, Kennedy encouraged the series to supply game time for one NESCAC game each year. The men’s hockey teams from Trinity and Williams faced off in 2014 in the first NESCAC game. Being a fair organization, the game alternates between men’s and women’s teams and switches between the different NESCAC schools. Now, watching the women race around the ice and the excitement vibrating in the stands, it is not surprising this is still a new experience for Conn.
“It warms my heart that the College is gathering alumni, students, parents and trustees in an iconic sports venue,” said Shields.
“Connecticut College did a great job with the alumni outreach and encouraging current students and faculty to come to Fenway to support us,” said Julie Beattie ’17. Geoff Norbert, Assistant Dean of Student Engagement, sent out multiple emails to the students and staff. Advancement reached out to alumni, trustees, and parents. The Camel Athletic Club reached out to donors.
Camel Athletic Club (CAC) funds recruitment, equipment and facility upgrades, team travel, nutrition and training for current and future athletes. When individuals donate money, they also receive benefits of exclusive invitations to regional athletic events, CAC hosted events, and the Athletic Hall of Fame yearly induction.
Frozen Fenway is considered a regional athletic event. Robert Young, Liaison for the Camel Athletic Fund, helped set up numerous booths for coaches, donors, trustees, and parents attending the game.
“We’re here to support our team,” he said. By being at Frozen Fenway, “We can show our Camel pride outside New London, Connecticut. This is how we build a network around athletics.”
Even before entering Fenway Park, it seemed like the entire neighborhood around the Big Green was full of fans. Walking down Ipswitch St., the worn brick and the seemingly precariously stacked green bleachers dwarfed my teammate and me as we hurried down the road in search of a bathroom. The two-hour drive, in which we passed many Conn bumper stickers, was pressing on my bladder. Turning the corner, we noticed a Starbucks sign.
“In the state of Massachusetts, if you’re serving food there needs to be a restroom,” I remembered. Nearly sprinting up the escalator where the Starbucks was nestled, I noticed a number of fellow Camels on the opposite escalator going down. When I was speed walking toward the bathroom door, a man with a faded Connecticut College shirt sat hunched on bench.
As I passed, he grinned, “Go Conn Go! You here for the game too?” The faint lines around his eyes crunched together and the grey in his stubble seemed to fade for a moment. I nodded over-enthusiastically as I ran into the bathroom.
The cheer did not stop at all throughout the evening. When the rain started to settle in veils, fans moved higher up into the stadium under cover. The men’s hockey team still whacked their inflatable noisemakers to the beat of the music between goals and timeouts.
While Conn didn’t win, “the team played really hard,” said Kylie Wilkes ’20. Overall, Conn had 6 more shots on goal, 2 fewer penalties, and 10 more face offs won.
“Anytime you get the chance to play in an outdoor game it is an experience,” explained Ashley Carbone ’20. Part of playing an outdoor game is adjusting to the weather conditions.
Stephanie Izzi ’17 added, “They were far from perfect, with it being 60 degrees and raining slightly at night. It made the ice really wet and slow, which was a hard adjustment for our team. Bowdoin was able to take advantage of the conditions with their grind-it-out style of play, and in the end they caught some lucky bounces and won the game. Still, I don’t think any of us would trade the day for anything.”
Shields summarized, “Because of all the Connecticut College fans that made an effort to be here, it has become an experience not just for the team, but for the whole school.”