Thursday 9 December 2010

Michigan's Big Chill

This weekend sees the first outdoor game of the hockey season in any league as the Michigan Wolverines host the Michigan State Spartans in The Big Chill at the Big House. This game has all the makings of something extra special: two rivals who have unbridled hatred for one another, 110,000 rabid fans, the magic of an outdoor game, and some serious NCAA hockey action. If this doesn't get you into the hockey spirit, I'm not sure you have a pulse. There are so many little details about this game that will make it one of the most memorable games in recent hockey history, and I'm here to outline as many as I can.

First off, this game is completely sold out. There isn't a seat to be had at The Big House on Saturday as 109,901 people will pack the stadium for the outdoor game. Not only will that set an NCAA record for highest attendance at a collegiate-level game, but it will also set the record for the highest attendance at a hockey game at any level. The current record is held by Veltins Stadium in Germany where 77,803 fans packed the soccer stadium to watch Germany play the USA at the 2010 IIHF World Championships. To give you perspective on this, that's 32,098 more people than the Germans' record-setting game, and just slightly less than the 37,592 fans that the 2010 Frozen Four Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit brought in last season. The Big House is going to be a-rockin'!

Of course, there is some great history with this rivalry, and this isn't the first time that these two storied programs have met on outdoor ice. On October 6, 2001, Michigan State University hosted the Michigan Wolverines in front of 74,554 fans at Spartan Stadium for the Cold War. However, nothing was resolved that day as the two teams battled to a 3-3 tie after all was said and done.

There were some pretty recognizable names playing in the Cold War game. Mike Cammalleri, on the right, of the Montreal Canadiens had two goals for the Michigan Wolverines that day. Jed Ortmeyer of the AHL's San Antonio Rampage suited up for the Wolverines. Mike Komisarek patroled the blueline for the Wolverines that day as well. On the other side, Jim Slater, on the left, of the Atlanta Thrashers scored his first NCAA goal in the final minute of the game to propel the MSU Spartans to the tie. Adam Hall of the Tampa Bay Lightning scored the opening goal for the Spartans. Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks scored a powerplay goal for Michigan State as well. Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres was the goaltender of record for the Spartans that day. Not a bad list of players featured in that game!

Here are the vital statistics you need to know for Saturday's game:

  • The rink being used on Saturday will be Olympic-sized: 200' x 100' rather than the NHL-sized 200' x 85'. The center-ice red line will run on top of the 50-yard line, and the end boards will extend to reach the 17-yard lines.
  • All-time, the Wolverines lead the series between these two teams with a 136-121-18 record. MSU's records state that UM actually leads 140-122-18 due to when UM's varsity status was being attained.
  • Michigan has won the last three games against Michigan State.
  • Michigan is ranked #12 in the nation while MSU is unranked at this time.
  • Michigan will wear special jerseys for this game. The Wolverines will take to the ice in throwback jerseys from the 1945-1948 era that look similar to what the hockey players from UM wore those years. Why this era? The 1947-48 Wolverines won the inaugural NCAA Hockey Championship in 1948. Adidas is manfacturing these uniforms for The Big Chill.
  • This will be the third outdoor game for the University of Michigan, and the fifth in NCAA history. Michigan tied MSU 3-3 in the Cold War in 2001, and lost 3-2 to the Wisconsin Badgers at the Camp Randall Hockey Classic in February 2010. Michigan State's only appearance in an outdoor game was in the Cold War game in 2001.
  • This is the 281st time these two teams will battle - the most of any two teams in NCAA history. This is collegiate hockey's version of Red Wings vs. Blackhawks.
  • TV feeds of this game are available on FS Detroit locally, Big Ten Network nationally, and LeafsTV in Canada.
  • Michigan Sports Network will carry the radio feed while the Internet webcast can be found through Fox Sports Detroit.
I, for one, am excited for this game. I think it will be one of the most memorable games in history simply due to the rivalry and the fans. As we've seen in NCAA football and basketball, people bleed for their universities, and there's no doubt that Spartans bleed green and Wolverines bleed maize and blue. One can only hope that this game is of "epic" status to put this in the upper echelon of fan memories. With the temperature forecasted as being between 28F and 34F, this should make for a great winter day!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

100 000+ is a great figure. As large as the Barcelena Madrid derbies.

The NHL not having as large an attendance could be because of a disconnect between fans and the team. Can people get attached when the owners can relocate on a whim.

Soccer clubs have a deep history with their fans. Much like the "original six", the players came from the surrounding neighbourhood and often worked and lived slongside the fans.

I'd like to here why you think attendances are as low as they are in the NHL.


Anonymous said...

Would like to add that a college wouldn't relocate so the community spirit is there.