By Adam Brady
For most of the Anaheim Ducks, playing a game outdoors in an iconic ballpark against a bitter rival this evening will be a brand new experience. But it will be a slightly familiar feeling for Ducks center Nick Bonino.
The 25-year-old Bonino has done this once before, as a junior at Boston University, when his Terriers battled rival Boston College in a game called “Frozen Fenway,” played in the legendary home of the Boston Red Sox.
Bonino had the game-winning assist in a tight 3-2 victory over the Eagles, in a much different setting than he’ll see tonight at Dodger Stadium. That game, the first outdoors between BU and BC, was played in sub-freezing temperatures and a light snowfall. Tonight’s temperature should be under clear skies and a temp that likely won’t get under 60 degrees.
“I don’t think I took a sip from a water bottle that whole game in Boston,” Bonino said. “My body heat compared to the outdoor cold was a perfect temperature. It should be a little hot, but it’s Southern California and you’re playing outdoors. Guys know what they’re getting themselves into, and we’ll battle through.
“This one will be a little different, but I think walking onto that field is going to be a pretty big thrill. Everyone will be screaming and we’re playing outside.”
Bonino made sure to soak up the memories four years ago at Fenway, even during the intense battle. He told a reporter right after that game, “I had one of those [moments] in the third period. I know I probably shouldn’t have been reflecting on it, but I leaned back on the bench. They were pretty comfortable benches. I just looked at the whole stadium and I tapped [Chris] Connolly on the shoulder and said ‘take a look at this.’”
That game was played a week after that year’s Winter Classic, played between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Bonino wasn’t at that game, but he felt its impact that day from his home at BU.
“It was crazy. We lived so close to Fenway at BU that when we watched the Winter Classic on TV, we could hear the fighter jets flying over us,” says Bonino. “It was snowing, and stuff like that, which will be a little different here. But we’ll get the eye black going and all of that. We’ll have a lot of fun with it.”
Bonino led his Terriers to the national championship that spring, and soon afterward made his debut for the Ducks. He’s having his finest season so far, ranking third on the team in scoring with 39 points (including 16 goals). But it wasn’t until the team held a practice and family skate yesterday evening at Dodger Stadium that he was really able to turn his focus to tonight’s historic game.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said while leaning on a wall in front of the visiting dugout. “It’s been in the back of our heads all year. But it kind of snuck up on us. It came out of nowhere, but we’re all really excited to get going.”
Looking past the uniqueness of the game, it’s still a battle against a hated division rival, one the Ducks edged two nights ago at Honda Center, 2-1.
“Just to play an outdoor game in California is fun enough on its known,” Bonino said. “But I think when we get down to it, it’s going to be a big divisional game against a team that hopefully we’ll see in the playoffs. It’s going to be a memory of a lifetime, and I think everyone is looking forward to it.”
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