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'Trip of a lifetime' to Beantown

By: Terry Frey

Posted: 06/6/2019 10:09 AM

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Thomas Friesen (left) and Gary Toews taking in a Boston Red Sox game at iconic Fenway Park.


Thomas Friesen (left) and Gary Toews taking in a Boston Red Sox game at iconic Fenway Park.


For a fan of hockey, or sport for that matter, it just doesn’t get any better than the trip that two Steinbach men took to Boston last week for game two of the Stanley Cup finals featuring the legendary Bruins against the St. Louis Blues.

Lifelong acquaintances who have lived all their lives in Steinbach, including a long association with hockey in the community, it was the "trip of a lifetime" said both Thomas Friesen and Gary Toews in describing their whirlwind junket to Boston last week.

This wasn’t a planned affair, it all came about kind of last minute when Friesen was notified that he won a Honda Canada contest, a trip for two to Boston to see the Stanley Cup finals, which included airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to the game.

That was on Friday, May 17, and what followed was a flurry of confirmations, waivers, and quickly planning for the trip to Boston. Friesen said at first he thought it was a prank phone call. He says he enters all kinds of contests online and couldn’t remember entering this one.

The caller from Honda Canada assured him it was legit and eventually the follow-up and subsequent emails confirmed it.

With the prize being a trip for two, one of the first orders of business was who he was he going to take. Well, that wouldn’t be much of a problem. Friesen, no doubt, would have a long list of takers for a trip like that.

Friesen knew he was going to Boston as the finals were to open in Boston, but at that point, he didn’t who the opponent would be, not that it really mattered.

Originally, he was told he had won the trip for game one of the finals. But he quickly checked the Boston Red Sox schedule, and saw they weren’t playing at home then. So Friesen asked if they could instead attend game two of the series, which was when the Red Sox were also in town against the Cleveland Indians, and those arrangements were made.

The trip was set, game two of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday, May 29 at TD Garden in Boston. They flew out of Winnipeg early Tuesday morning, arriving in Boston through Toronto in the afternoon.

They were staying at an airport hotel, the Hilton as it were, it was an NHL headquarters of sorts, which included NHL reps, media and other various prize winners from across the continent that were in town for the finals. Shuttles ferried them to the game downtown.

At any rate, it was a quick refresh at the hotel (in the lounge) and then they made their way to historic Fenway Park for the Red Sox game, where the Cleveland Indians rallied to beat the Sox 7-5 on a rainy night at Fenway.

And if you are sports fan like these guys, watching a game at iconic Fenway Park was as much as highlight as any part of their trip. They immediately struck up a conversation with a couple of young fans, both university students in the area, and they spent the whole game with them, watching the game from several different places in the stadium throughout the evening as some of the seats were vacant because of the rain.

"Fenway was awesome," said Friesen, "It was a great experience, just being there and talking to the fans was tremendous."

The next morning was game day, they went on a tour of TD Garden and saw the pre-game skate. "Ray Bourque was sitting right there," said Toews, "I thought of going up to talk to him but I didn’t want to bother him."

During the Stanley Cup finals, the war room where plays are reviewed on video, is moved from Toronto to the city where the finals are being played. They toured that room and saw the 20 different cameras that are used for reviews, most of which are not seen on television.

The game, later that evening, was a spectacle, as expected. With the Bruins winning game one of the series, there was anticipation among the hometown fans that the Bruins could take a 2-0 series lead back to St. Louis.

It looked like that was exactly what was going to happen. The Bruins took an early 2-0 lead, the place went bananas and it looked like the Bruins were well on their way. Well, the Blues tied it before the first period was over and eventually won it, 3-2 in overtime.

As you can imagine, that went over a like a lead balloon among the Bruins’ faithful as they silently filed out of the Garden. Much like when the Blues scored with 15 seconds remaining in Winnipeg during their playoff run, to essentially end the Jets’ chances.

Yes, there was a street party before and after the game in Boston, but Toews said it paled in comparison to Winnipeg. "I just kept thinking what Winnipeg would be like if the Jets ever make to the finals."

At any rate, this whirlwind trip was coming to an end. They eventually made it back to their hotel, "what happens in Boston stays in Boston" type of thing. Thursday morning they were headed back to the airport and the two-day junket was over.

In an interview a few days later, now back in Steinbach, Friesen summed up the 48-hour excursion, saying "for a sports fan, this was a dream road trip."

And as most of you know, after the two teams split the first two games of the finals in Boston, and also the next two games in St. Louis, game five will be played in Boston tonight with the series tied at two games apiece.


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