When Angela Ruggiero invited me to come watch her practice with the rest of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey team at Fenway Park in Boston this morning, I could not resist. It was truly a great way to begin what I know is going to be a very special year for me and the Youth Sports Parents team.
I had had a chance to watch them in action last month at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center Arena in Durham, New Hampshire as they beat the Hockey East All-Stars 4-0 during the Qwest Tour. It was great to see them in action again.
But watching today's practice at Fenway Park was a unique and special experince, ranking right up there with watching the 2006 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team win a silver medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics during that magical two weeks four years ago.
As a born and bred New Englander and Red Sox and Bruins fan I enjoyed watching the National Hockey League's annual outdoor game on New Year's Day between the B's and the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in the 2010 Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic. But it was not quite as exciting for me (watching on television from the comfort of my home) as it was for my friends whom actually attended the game in the freezing cold.
My earliest sports memories are of sitting on my dad's lap in Fenway Park as a three-year-old and, right around the same time, going to the old Boston Garden to watch the Bruins. A huge fan, my dad had season tickets for both teams. Growing up around Boston was such a treat but to have regular seats was very special.
So, here I was this morning watching women play hockey on the field at Fenway. It was an amazing, almost out of body, experience to be sitting there, my feet deep in snow, watching my favorite sports team practice smack in the middle of the infield on the most beautiful sheet of ice imaginable. It was almost surreal to see the Zambonies (Zambonies?!) putting down a new surface.
If only I had been able to add to the lists of "firsts" actually seeing this group of young women play a game at Fenway and for it to be televised so the entire country could get to appreciate and share in the experience. The enthusiasm, athleticism and character they all displayed was a breath of fresh air,
As the Olympics approach, I will have more to say about Angela, her team, her mom, Karen, and my memories of watching her play over the years. Until then, Happy New Year and go U.S.!