The Hockey City Classic Review - Is Outdoor Hockey Still Relevant?

The Hockey City Classic was billed as four powerhouse college hockey teams in one iconic venue.  An event in which Miami University would take on the squad from Western Michigan and later in the day Michigan State and Michigan would also drop the puck outside, in the elements, in historic Soldier Field: the home of the Chicago Bears.

 

Players enter the field

The event tried ride the popularity of other outdoor hockey events such as the NHL’s Winter Classic and Stadium Series, in which hockey is played not in an arena, but outdoors; where purists learned to love the game.  But do the fans still love outdoor hockey?

 

Organizers announced a crowd of 22,751, but it looked like there was less than half that number throughout the day.  Speculation was that there have been too many outdoor games in recent years.  There have been at least 9 college hockey events since 2001 in addition to the NHL’s 14, with more on the way.  Are hockey fans suffering from outdoor-fatigue?

 

Goalie

If they are they are missing out.  In the first game Miami took a 4-0 lead, but the Broncos of Western Michigan never backed down and cut the lead to one goal with less than a minute left in the game.  That last minute was agony for Miami, but in the end Miami came out of the game with a 4-3 win.  In the second game Michigan went on to beat MSU 4-1 under the lights.

 

Miami's Captain

“If they invite us again to come back again, we're here,” Miami University coach Enrico Blasi said after the game.   Blasi recognizes how special these games are.  These types of events are pure joy for the players that get to play outdoors.  For them, it is a memory that they will never forget and that shows in their play.  That enthusiasm is contagious – anyone in attendance watching was caught up in how much fun the players were having on the ice.

 

In front of the net

“It’s pretty exciting for me,” said Miami defenseman Louie Belpedio. “This is my first outdoor game, actually, so to be able to play in Chicago, close to home, is exciting to have family and friends here. Even better to get the win. Happy with the way it turned out.”

 

Miami's press conference

Just as many of the players learned to love the game outside on frozen ponds or rivers, the young fans that were in attendance surely will also learn to love the game from watching the game being play outside.  That’s why outdoor hockey is here to stay.

 

Photos: Keith Gerbosi

 

 

 

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