BOSTON -- Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has made a lot of great memories at Fenway Park, and he's hoping to add another one to the list Monday afternoon when his team plays the Boston Bruins in the 2023 Winter Classic.
Sullivan is a Marshfield, Mass., native and has been an NHL coach for many years.
He was even the head coach of the Bruins for two seasons in 2003-04 (Patrice Bergeron's rookie year) and 2005-06. He was fired in 2006 and didn't get another NHL head coach opportunity for almost a decade. Sullivan has made the most of his second chance, to say the least. After taking over the Penguins job in 2015, he helped lead the franchise to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Pittsburgh is the only team in the salary cap era (2005 to the present) to win consecutive championships.
Coming back to Fenway Park for the league's marquee regular season game is special in many ways for Sullivan.
"These types of events are terrific and they're unique and all different in their own way. This one here for me is really unique," Sullivan said. "In an iconic stadium like Fenway Park, this one has a personal level for me growing up in this area and being a Red Sox fan."
Sullivan has a deep love for baseball, one that ran through his entire family and was a critical part of their lives. Some of his favorite moments as a kid came at Fenway Park.
"Baseball in my family has always been a passion, whether it be my brothers or my dad," Sullivan explained. "We obviously got it from my dad, and I don't know if there was a bigger Red Sox fan than him. Maybe one of my uncles. We grew up idolizing the Red Sox and we had the privilege to usually go to one game a year when we were kids, in Fenway, and I remember those events like they were yesterday.
"I still get chills when I walk into Fenway Park and when I take my kids to this day. It's just a really unique place. For someone like myself who's grown up in this area and can appreciate this type of a stadium and being a Red Sox fan, it has extra meaning to me personally. From my family's standpoint it's just always been a passion."
Sullivan understands what sports mean to the New England region, and he's hoping Monday's Winter Classic will be another opportunity for families to come together and enjoy the mix of baseball nostalgia and two of the best teams pro hockey has to offer.
"I think sports have a unique ability to bring people together and families together, and they rally around their respective teams," Sullivan said. "You live and die with your teams. This, for me, is kind of a culmination of that with baseball and hockey -- two of the loves in my family' life, and to be able to experience something like this at Fenway Park is something special."