By Seth Daniel
When the late Bryan McGongle’s mother, Barbara, reports to work every day at the Schrafft’s Building on Sullivan Square, she can look out the office window and, down below, see the rink that carries the name of her son Bryan, who died tragically in 1991.
Over the years, it’s been something that has carried her through the tough days – a huge pick-me up – but the street hockey rink in Ryan Field has begun to look its age recently. Though it isn’t run down, in recent years it was evident – from above and below – that it could use a little elbow grease.
But it has gotten a whole lot more than elbow grease; it’s gotten a complete first-class makeover thanks to the National Hockey League (NHL) and the City of Boston – who will unveil the fruits of a $350,000 renovation project on Dec. 17 in conjunction with the NHL’s WinterFest game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at Foxboro Stadium on Jan. 1.
“We ran a street hockey tournament down there for 17 years as a way to say thanks to a community that embraced us after Bryan died,” said Joe McGonagle, Bryan’s uncle. “The tournament ended about five years ago and the rink started to look its age. Ironically, Bryan’s mother works in the Schrafft’s Building and looks down at the rink every day from her window. She finds that to be a wonderful experience. This community never forgets and they never forgot us…It still hurts, but there are more smiles than tears now. It’s the good memories that put a smile on your face.”
Certainly the family is excited and smiling about the renovation project.
The rink is named in memory of the late McGonagle, who was a young Charlestown hockey player when he died in 1991 at the age of nine after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle.
In celebration of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic coming to Foxboro on New Year’s Day, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will join Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook, and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs for the unveiling of the completely renovated Bryan McGonagle street hockey rink at Ryan Playground on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 4:30 p.m.
The renovation project was funded in part by 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Legacy Initiative powered by Constellation.
The Bryan McGonagle Rink has been totally renovated to include a new asphalt-playing surface and sealcoating, state-of-the-art fiberglass dasher boards with curved corners (a first for a City of
Boston street hockey rink), new fencing around the rink, players benches, spectator bleachers, trees to provide shade, trash cans, recycling containers, bicycle racks, a scoreboard with the names of Ryan Playground and the Bryan McGonagle Rink, accessible paths to and around
the rink, accessible gates for entry into the rink, vinyl dasherboard graphics in the rink, new Musco light poles for the court donated by Musco with installation donated by Constellation, and a new drinking fountain and bottle filling station.
The total budget for the project was $354,790 with $150,000 donated by the NHL, Boston Bruins, and Constellation and the remaining $204,790 provided by Mayor Walsh’s Capital Improvement Program.
“We’re excited,” said Joe McGonagle. “It’s going to be one of a kind and we couldn’t be happier. If they had wanted to take Bryan’s name off of the rink when they renovated it, we would have been okay with that. But the fact that the mayor said he wanted to keep it in Bryan’s name meant the world to us. It has made Bryan’s mother, grandmother and brother very, very happy.”
On Jan. 1, 2016 the Boston Bruins will host the Montreal Canadiens in an Original Six match-up at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. The puck will drop for the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic outdoor game at 1 p.m. on NBC. The rink renovation is part of the publicity surrounding the game, which seeks to leave a legacy project in each host location annually.