The Winter Classic - the NHL's annual regular season game played outdoors - is all the rage in professional hockey. The event is being played to record crowds and drawing huge TV ratings (for the NHL, anyway). So why should the pros have all the fun? College hockey is increasingly getting into the business of hosting regular season outdoor games, and this trend shows no signs of stopping.
First it was Michigan-Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in 2001 in front of a record 74,554 crowd. In 2006, Ohio State and Wisconsin attracted 40,890 fans to an outdoor game at Lambeau Field. Then Hockey East got in on the action with Boston College-Boston University at Fenway Park. Next weekend, Wisconsin-Michigan will meet in the second outdoor game this season at Camp Randall. Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves says that over 42,000 tickets have been sold for the Badgers-Wolverines game. (I'll be making the trip to Madison next weekend to check out how Wisconsin will pull off the event).
Next up, and just announced, Michigan-Michigan State will faceoff again outdoors, but this time, on an even bigger stage:
Michigan and Michigan State will take their hockey rivalry to another level in December when they play outdoors at the Big House.
The deal was recently finalized, a U-M official said, and the Wolverines and Spartans will take the ice at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.
College hockey at the Big House? Yes and please.
These outdoor regular season games are a great way for college hockey to market and showcase the product and generate buzz and interest in the sport. I, for one, hope that Boston College, Boston University and Hockey East are seriously looking at ways of incorporating an event like Frozen Fenway into future seasons. Besides, why should the Wolverines and Badgers have all the fun outdoors?