First Fenway, then the Garden?

Winthrop High hockey coach Dale Dunbar has traveled hockey’s holy grail from the Pee Wees to the pros (NHL), from the Bantams to the Beanpot, and played in some of North America’s most celebrated arenas.

But even Dunbar says that what awaits his Winthrop High School hockey team – scheduled to play Marblehead High in a conference game Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at historic Fenway Park in Boston – is beyond description.

“It’s probably going to be the biggest event for Winthrop hockey since the 1976 team won the state championship. The euphoria and the anticipation – everybody in the town is pretty excited. My players are totally ecstatic about playing a game in Fenway Park. As long as Mother Nature cooperates, this should be a real amazing event.”

Dunbar clarified that as long as the BC-BU hockey doubleheader goes on as scheduled Friday, the stage in the shadow of the Green Monster on Saturday will belong to Winthrop and Marblehead hockey players – weather permitting, of course.

Dunbar said the man responsible for Winthrop and Marblehead being given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is assistant coach Mike Eruzione, the 1980 U.S.A. hockey captain and Olympic gold medalist.

“Michael got this done,” said Dunbar. “Typical of Michael, he doesn’t want any of the fanfare, but believe me when I tell you, this game at Fenway is because of his efforts.”

Dunbar said he grew up in Winthrop playing outdoor ice hockey, universally known as pond hockey. He played on outdoor ice surfaces at Fort Banks, Pico Park, Ingleside Park, the tennis courts across from the high school, “and I learned how to skate right at the end of my street at Pond Street Park.”

The Viking Pride Foundation, an organization that supports Winthrop High sports and other extracurricular endeavors, has stepped up to the plate and arranged for bus transportation to the game for fans and donated winter clothing items for the players and coaches.

“[President] Al Petrilli and his group are awesome,” said Dunbar. “They’ve purchased hats for the kids and they’re providing our staff with winter jackets. They’ve been unbelievable.”

Some prep schools reportedly paid as much as $30,000 to play a hockey game at Fenway. But the cost to Winthrop High will be zero – and again Eruzione’s influence is present.

Dunbar’s Vikings, coming off a Northeastern Conference championship season in 2009, carried a 4-1-1 record into a game against Saugus Wednesday night. Winthrop is highly regarded once again and ranked as a contender for the state title.

Asked if a possible Fenway Park-TD Garden (site of the state championship game) dream double could be on the horizon, the Viking coach replied, “That would be nice.”

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