Archive for December, 2015
The 12th man in football refers to the fans of a team. For the New England Patriots, they have a 13th man. Or in this case, a Calvary. These are the men and women who comprise the New England End Zone Militia.
The Militia, which was formed in 1996 as a color guard, honor the real New England Patriots – the people who were brave enough give their lives for a revolution of independence as a separate country from the British Commonwealth. These men and women are Revolutionary War reenactors. They are normal people like you and me, but they have a love for both history and for the New England Patriots. Originally a volunteer group, the members of the Militia finally became paid by the Patriots in the 2013 season. They are clad in authentic Revolution-era uniforms, which range up to $2,000 in cost, and they carry authentic muskets from that era. They also have to pay for their own gunpowder for their muskets. 20 members of the Militia are at the game, 10 in each end zone. When the Patriots enter the field, they fire their muskets in salute. During kickoffs, Patriots touchdowns, Patriots extra points, and Patriots wins, they fire their muskets. It’s truly one of the best things to see during games at Gillette Stadium. Not only do they work at Patriots games, they work at New England Revolution soccer matches, where they fire their muskets after kickoff, Revs goals, and Revs wins. If you want to be a part of the End Zone Militia, it’s not going to be easy. You have to be in good standing for at least three years, and, even then, there’s a wait list to get into this exclusive club.
The following two clips come from WPRI’s The Rhode Show, talking with the End Zone Militia, days before the Patriots played in the Super Bowl. The first one was filmed before Super Bowl XLVI. The other one was filmed before Super Bowl XLIX.
And this clip is from ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown in which senior writer Rick Reilly gets to live a game day in the life of the Militia.
And with that, that’s all for the countdown to the 2016 NHL Winter Classic. Hope you enjoy the game, and have and have a safe and healthy start to 2016!
Oh, and as a postscript, check out my previous article when Rob Gronkowski spiked the puck prior the Bruins game after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.
If you took a look at the previous event logos for the NHL Winter Classic, there were some icons that gave the event its signature touch.
- 2009: the Wrigley Field marquee
- 2010: a Boston post light frozen amidst the exterior of Fenway Park
- 2011: the Fort Pitt Bridge and the frozen banks of the Monongahela River
- 2012: the Liberty Bell
- 2014: Michigan Stadium aka The Big House
- 2015: the United States Capitol building
What did Fanbrandz, the creator of the event logos for the Winter Classic, do to create the event logo for the 2016 NHL Winter Classic? Well, Foxborough doesn’t have a significant icon other than Gillette Stadium itself, so they expanded the idea to cover the entire New England region. And therein lies the inspiration. Across the entire region are wood-carved signs. These are signs crafted by woodworking artisans. Signs that pilgrims crafted when they came across the Atlantic from the English Commonwealth in the 1600s to identify a home or a place of business. The ice blue border melds well with the navy blue interior and mahogany accents at the top of the sign. As an homage to the stadium, the bridge at the north end zone of Gillette Stadium is on the logo.
To see more on how the 2016 NHL Winter Classic logo was created, click here.
For the final part of the countdown to the 2016 NHL Winter Classic, I will be talking about the New England End Zone Militia. Stay tuned on Thursday for the grand finale!
For 36 of the 56 seasons of its existence as a professional football team, if you heard the New England Patriots on the radio, you heard the voice of Gil Santos. “The Voice of the Patriots” was one of the longest-tenured local radio broadcasters in NFL history. Santos began calling games for the Patriots in 1966 as an analyst on WBZ NewsRadio 1030. When the team moved to Foxborough in 1971, he transitioned to become a play-by-play announcer. For most of his time in the booth, his broadcast partner was “Mr. Patriot”, former Patriots wide receiver, Gino Cappelletti. Gil and Gino were in the Patriots’ radio booth for 28 seasons (1972-1978, 1991-2011), which is the longest radio pairing in modern-day NFL history. Together, they called a combined 585 regular-season and postseason games, which included a NFL-record six Super Bowls.
Santos’ first stint as “Voice of the Patriots” prematurely ended when the New England Patriots Radio Network switched its flagship station to 590 AM WEEI in 1980. During his time away from the Patriots, Santos called Boston Celtics games for WBZ-TV and WLVI-TV with Celtics legend Bob Cousy from 1981-1989. Santos’ became the “Voice of the Patriots” once again when the New England Patriots Radio Network switched its flagship station back to WBZ NewsRadio 1030 in 1991. (His predecessor is current NESN Bruins studio host Dale Arnold.) When the New England Patriots Radio Network switched its flagship station to The Rock of Boston, WBCN (104.1 FM) in 1995, Gil and Gino moved with them, because WBCN is owned by CBS Radio. During their 13-year run on ‘BCN, the Patriots went to five Super Bowls; winning three in a four-year span. This was the call of the final moments of Super Bowl XXVI:
In 2009, the New England Patriots Radio Network switched its flagship station to its current home: Boston’s Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub. Gino Cappelletti retired after the 2011 season, his last game being XLVI. Gil Santos retired the following season, and during his last game, a Week 17 match-up with the Miami Dolphins, current Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak turned the booth over to Gil and Gino for the opening quarter, so that Patriots fans who were listening over the radio can hear them one last time. The following video was the final moments of his last broadcast: the 2012 AFC Championship game, in which the Patriots fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, 28-13:
In 2013, Santos became the first broadcaster, and the second non-player, to be enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“For me, this is a legacy project. This is where I come to work every day. We want to build something special.” — Robert Kraft
When Gillette Stadium was envisioned, Robert Kraft wanted the stadium to be a centerpiece of a year-round destination that Patriots fans and all New Englanders can visit. Ground was broken on March 24, 2000. The 68,000-seat stadium was built at a cost of $325 million, all of the income coming from private funds. Gillette Stadium was modeled after M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens. However, Patriots owner Robert Kraft insisted on the stadium having a “front door” with a Disneyland-like entrance. That “front door” would be located in the north end of the stadium. Standing at 130 feet, The Lighthouse and Bridge are the most prominent feature of Gillette Stadium. A coastal seawall was constructed using sculpted rock formations around the base of the Lighthouse to mimic the lighthouses that cover the North Atlantic coast. The bridge next to the lighthouse was designed after the Longfellow Bridge that connected Boston’s Beacon Hill to Kendall Square in Cambridge across the Charles River. It is underneath the bridge the Patriots take to the field to the sounds of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”. The Lighthouse was originally designed to shoot a beam of light 2 miles into the sky, but instead, displays video, and flashes strobe lights as the Patriots take the field, score a touchdown, or win the game.
Gillette Stadium originally had a natural grass playing surface, but in November 2006, a rainstorm pretty much destroyed playing field. Instead of re-sodding the field (which takes a lot of time and cost a lot of money), the Krafts replaced the grass field with FieldTurf during the middle of the season. Installation of the new surface took less than a week to complete. At around the same time, Patriot Place, the shopping center and entertainment complex that surround the stadium grounds was being built. The first phase was built southwest of the stadium, with its signature being a Bass Pro Shops store and nature trail and cranberry bog behind it. Phase Two would be completed two years later, which includes:
Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel
Showcase Cinema de Lux Patriot Place
CBS Scene Restaurant & Bar and WBZ-TV Game Day Studio
Splitsville Luxury Lanes
The Hall at Patriot Place Presented by Raytheon
Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center
- TB12 Sports Therapy Center
During the 2010 season, the Patriots introduced the Foghorn. When the Patriots defense take the field, the horn is blasted, signaling Pats fans to make noise. During third and fourth down plays by the visiting team, the horn is blasted and the strobe lights inside the lighthouse flash. The foghorn might be familiar to Bruins fans for one reason:
This past season, 2,000 seats were removed from the south end zone to create the Optum Field Lounge. The Lounge is literally the best seat in the Stadium, because, from the outdoor terrace, you’re on the field, feeling you’re a part of the game. Field Lounge memberships are exclusively available to Patriots Season Ticket Holders. For this season, along with their tickets, inaugural Field Lounge members had to pay an extra $3,750 for a three-year membership (with a minimum purchase of two memberships) or an extra $1,500 for a one-year membership (with a minimum purchase of two memberships).
Ever since Gillette Stadium opened, the Patriots have sold out every game they’ve played there. In fact, the Patriots have sold out every game they’ve played in since the streak began on January 2, 1994: the 1993 season finale in which Michael Timpson caught a 36-yard pass from Drew Bledsoe in overtime to beat the Miami Dolphins, 33-27.
When the Patriots held their first regular-season game, a Monday Night Football match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, their Super Bowl XXXVI championship banner was unveiled on the pedestrian bridge at the southwest end of the stadium. So were their next two Super Bowl championship banners. When they won Super Bowl XLIX last season, they had no room to place the fourth Super Bowl championship banner. Had they placed the banner in that area, nearly most of the people who wanted to see the game from that area would have an obstructed view of thew field. During the Patriots’ season opener against those same Steelers, the four Super Bowl championship banners would be placed on top of the scoreboard in the south end zone.
The first pro football team in Boston was the Bulldogs. They lasted for only one season in 1929. Three years later, the Boston Redskins became Boston’s NFL team, until 1936, when founder George Preston Marshall decided to move his team to his hometown of Washington, D.C. There was no pro football again in Boston until 1949, when Ted Collins, manager of Kate Smith, had an NFL franchise in his name. The team would be called the Boston Yanks, with the intention of moving the team to New York and have the team play at Yankee Stadium. The team did move to New York in 1949, but didn’t last much longer as the team played two more seasons before spending its final season in Dallas as the Texans.
Boston Businessman Billy Sullivan was trying to find a way to bring professional football back to the Boston area in its fourth attempt. Having failed to be granted an NFL franchise in 1959, Sullivan was granted the eighth and final charter franchise for the new American Football League for $25,000. That team would be known as the Boston Patriots. During their time in the AFL, they made it to the championship game only once, in 1963, where they got blown out by the San Diego Chargers, 51-10. Then came the day that changed football forever: when the NFL and AFL decided to merge and become one league in 1966. One of the mandates of the merger was stadiums seating less than 50,000 were declared to be inadequate for professional football’s needs. The big problem for the Patriots was they truly never had a stadium to call home yet. Boston University’s Nickerson Field sat 10,000, Boston College’s Alumni Stadium sat 32,000, and Fenway Park sat 35,000. Harvard Stadium could seat 52,000, but the University would not lease the stadium to the Patriots. Which led to Bay State Raceway in Foxborough donating some of its land to build the Patriots’ new home (To read more, check out my previous article). With the move, the Boston Patriots became the New England Patriots (originally it was supposed to be the Bay State Patriots, but the NFL denied Sullivan’s request). Ground for Schaefer Stadium was broken in On September 23, 1970, and the $7.1 million facility that sat around 60,000 opened on August 15, 1971. The Patriots home was built at the time when playing on AstroTurf was starting to become commonplace. When Anheuser-Busch bought pouring rights in 1983, Schaefer Stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium. It would stay that way until 1988, when the Sullivans sold the Patriots and the stadium was renamed Foxboro Stadium. In 1991, the Astroturf surface was replaced by a natural grass surface, but by that time, Foxboro Stadium had become outdated. There was no luxury seats, most of the seating was on bleachers with no seat backs, and worst of all, the plumbing was crap as toilets overflowed constantly in the restrooms, leading to fans having to resort themselves using porta-potties. There was no shade to escape the summer heat, the grass parking lots became buddy when it rained, and during the New England Winter, the benches on the field froze. The final game played at Foxboro Stadium would turn out to be legendary.
On January 19, 2002, the Patriots would face the Oakland Raiders in a AFC Divisional Playoff game. Trailing 13-10 in the fourth quarter, amidst blizzard conditions, Charles Woodson thought he had the game-winning turnover when he sacked Tom Brady and Brady fumbled the ball. Officials reviewed the play to see if the ball was “tucked” as in this rule, which was instituted for the 1999 season:
Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
The controversial overturn of the fumble call gave the Patriots a second chance, and they would cash in on that opportunity when Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal that tied the game and forced overtime. The Patriots took the ball and went all the way to the Raiders’ 6-yard line. Vinatieri would nail a 23-yard field goal to cap off the win and send the Patriots to the AFC Championship game the following week in Pittsburgh. They beat the Steelers, 24-17, to punch their ticket to Super Bowl XXXVI, where they were huge underdogs to St. Louis Rams and “The Greatest Show on Turf”. In one of the most of the dramatic Super Bowls ever played, the Patriots won their first Lombardi Trophy by beating the Rams 20-17 on a walk-off 48-yard field goal by Vinatieri. By that time, Foxboro Stadium would be demolished to make way for Patriot Place, the shopping center that surrounds the grounds of Gillette Stadium.
Well, it’s the last Coach’s Corner of 2015, and how appropriate is it that it’s on the day after Christmas aka Boxing Day? It’s the traditional start of the World Junior Hockey Championships, and for the first time in a long while, Canada and the United States don’t meet on New Year’s Eve. If you missed it, here’s what happened:
This is the first part of a six-part series counting down to the 2016 NHL Winter Classic. These are tidbits you might not know about the game site (Gillette Stadium), the culture of its primary tenant (New England Patriots), or the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry itself.
Before Gillette Stadium was built, or its predecessor, Foxboro Stadium, the site where the 2016 Winter Classic will be held began its life as a horse racing track. In 1947, movie theater magnate Elias (E.M.) Loew, horseman and race promoter Paul Bowser, and racing secretary Ed Keller opened Bay State Raceway on September 1, 1947. It was built equidistant between the cities of Boston and Providence on U.S. Highway 1. 12,000 people attended the first night of racing and the track’s $55,523 handle broke the record for a new track on its first day of operation. The harness racing track it featured many modern amenities, including lights for night racing. However, some of the barns and buildings were still not completed. Those were finished in time for the Spring meet in 1948. Many people might remember the big neon billboard on Highway 1 outside the track that had the horse’s legs moving and the carriage wheels turning and the harness drivers’ arm moving the whip. The welcome sign was there for years to greet race fans that often times numbered over 10,000 a night. The all-time handle at Bay State Raceway was $737,838 in 1969, and its most attended race day came when 16,006 patrons gathered there in 1970. Then professional football came to Foxborough. Loew donated a part of the track’s site to Billy Sullivan, owner of the American Football League’s Boston Patriots, to finally build a stadium his team can call home (That part will be further explained in Part 2). In 1976, Loew sold Bay State Raceway to Boston sports personality Ed Andleman and greyhound racetrack owner Ed Keelan. The track renamed itself as New England Harness Raceway, but unfortunately there was a problem. The Patriots’ new stadium was actually built on track property. Had racing occurred, the New England Patriots would have started the 1976 season in Pittsburgh against the defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers. From there, it want all downhill. Poor gate revenue and even poorer outside investments reportedly made by Chuck Sullivan saw the track fall into serious debt. The track went into bankruptcy in 1986 and was closed in 1987.
In 1985, Kraft Group president Robert Kraft and business partner Stephen Karp acquired a parcel of land adjacent to the racetrack and stadium in an attempt to buy the New England Patriots from the Sullivan family. In 1988, the Sullivans did sell the Patriots…to Victor Kiam for $84 Million. However, the land in which Foxboro Stadium was on still belonged to Kraft. In 1990, Charles Sarkis, CEO of Back Bay Restaurant Group and owner of Wonderland Dog Track in Revere, Massachusetts, persuaded the Massachusetts Racing Commission to reopen New England Harness Raceway, this time as a thoroughbred/standardbred venue. The renamed Foxboro Raceway reopened in May 1992, with the track open to thoroughbreds during the Summer and standardbreds in the Fall. In 1992, Kiam sold the Patriots to James Orthwein, a member of the Busch family, who wanted to moved the Patriots to St. Louis after Bill Bidwill moved the St. Louis Football Cardinals to Arizona in 1987. Robert Kraft made it adamant that the Patriots would not be moving anywhere as long as Foxboro Stadium was around. Orthwein would eventually sell the Patriots to Kraft in 1994 for $172 Million. In 1996, Kraft bought Foxboro Raceway for $16 Million in the hopes of building a new stadium for the Patriots. The last race at Foxboro Raceway was on August 18, 1997, and the track was closed for good. The track stood vacant for three years until it was finally razed to make way for the construction of the Patriots’ new home, Gillette Stadium.