BOSTON — Thirty-nine degrees never felt so warm.

At a venue fit for baseball on a day fit for a few runs down a ski slope followed by several rounds of hot chocolate, 38,112 people huddled to watch two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League battle each other outdoors.

“Anyone can love summer, but to love winter, you have to carry your sunshine around with you.”

Barbara Falla said that. Her husband, the late Jack Falla, a former Sports Illustrated hockey writer, professor at Boston University and author recorded it and published it.

Despite the ominous cloud cover and bone-chilling breeze that was much more evident to the fans in the stands than to the players and league officials on the field, there was plenty of sunshine at Fenway Park on Friday.

The lines started before 9 a.m. By the time the gates opened, thousands of hockey fans — most of them clad in Boston Bruins black and gold — gathered at each end of Yawkey Way, all eager to push through the turnstiles, but none pressing so hard as to cause a stampede. Hockey fans all, respect permeated the air, even through the volleys of chants back and forth between Bruins’ and Flyers’ fans as they strolled from vendor to vendor, and finally into the park.

They all carried their sunshine on this day.

Sausage vendors sent smoke into the sky at every turn, and a brass band filled the air with a throwback sound. If it wasn’t 39 degrees outside, you’d have sworn it was just another pre-game at friendly Fenway.

Among the throngs of hockey fanatics were scores of younger fans, none of whom remember the last time either of the teams playing Friday won a Stanley Cup. (For the record, the Flyers last won in 1975, the Bruins in 1972.) For them, until their favorite team again hoists hockey’s ultimate prize, Friday’s event will be their most precious hockey memory. They pulled on their parents’ hands, leading them through mazes of merchandise and undoubtedly convincing some of them to pull out the plastic and lighten their bank accounts just a little bit.

As these youngsters walked through the brick archways leading to their seats and first laid eyes on the newly-decorated Green Monster, clad in orange, gold and black, mouths dropped open. The scoreboard and division standings along the base of the fence were adapted to reflect the park’s temporary tenants, and during the national anthems, wall-sized flags dropped from the recently-added seats atop the park’s most recognized landmark.

Their eyes beamed with sunshine.

Droves of servicemen and women — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Boston police, Boston fire and even Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts — lined the field for a stirring pre-game ceremony that included a flyover by a B-2 Stealth bomber and fireworks popping from locations around the field. Young ambassadors carried flags representing each of the NHL’s teams, and youngsters simulated the Winter Classic on a smaller, snow-lined rink near center field.

By the third period, as the natural light began to fade and the stadium lights appeared more prominently, wrappers drifted across the ground from used hand and foot warmers. Spectators pulled their tuques more tightly around their ears, and hot chocolate sales remained steady.

But none of them left. Hearty, these New England fans, and far more tolerant of winter than most. They may not love winter for the weather, but they love it for the hockey.

And no matter how cloudy it was Friday, or how dark it got by the end of the game, there was plenty of sunshine to go around.


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