One of the hot topics of discussion this past summer has been the enormous number of outdoor hockey games that hockey is about to embark on this winter. If we didn’t have enough outdoor games in the NHL already with six outdoor games scheduled, we also have 13 college hockey outdoor games scheduled as well. But that’s not all of the outdoor games, there’s more.
So, if you’re not good at math, counting the men’s and women’s 13 college hockey outdoor games and adding the NHL’s 6 outdoor games, two American Hockey League game and two Ontario Hockey League games we now have a grand total of 23 outdoor hockey games.
If you like the outdoor game, we’re not done yet. There’s also an American Hockey League outdoor game between the Rochester Amerks facing the Lake Erie Monsters in the Frozen Frontier hockey festival, Rochester, New York on December 13, 2013. Add another AHL game featuring the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies on December 29, 2013, at the Hockey Town Winter Festival.
Finally, we can add two more outdoor hockey games between the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires taking on the Saginaw Spirit. Those games will be followed up with the Plymouth Whalers and the London Knights These games are also part of Hockey Town Winter Festival at Comerica Field in Detroit, Michigan on December 30, 2013.
Do you see an oversaturation of outdoor hockey games? One must ask the question: did college and professional hockey overdo the outdoor hockey game this season?
Let’s take a look at the college hockey outdoor games. This is what we have on tap for the 2013-14 college hockey season.
At historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, we have the Frozen Fenway series. On the first weekend, game one is Merrimack vs. Providence (4:00 p.m.). Game two is Notre Dame vs. Boston College (7:30 p.m.). Both games will be on played Saturday, January 4, 2014.
The following weekend on January 11, 2014, we have game three with UMass-Lowell vs. Northeastern (3:00 p.m.) and game four with the classic match-up between Maine and Boston University (6:30 p.m.).
Hockey City Classic
Hockey City Classic will be on January 17, 2014, at TCF Ban Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota. This event includes defending NCAA champion, the University of Minnesota Gophers women’s team vs. Minnesota State University Mankato Mavericks women (4:30 p.m.). The night cap will be the University of Minnesota Gophers men vs. Big Ten Conference foe Ohio State University Buckeyes (8:00 p.m.).
Great Lakes Invitational
Also, the Great Lakes Invitational will take place on December 27-28, 2013, at Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan. On Friday, the Great Lakes will feature Michigan State vs. Western Michigan followed up by Michigan vs. Michigan Tech University. The Consolation and Championship games will be on Saturday.
We also have the Frozen Frontier; this event will take place on December, 13-14, 2013, at Frontier Field, Rochester, New York. This is a multiple day event. At 12:00 p.m., the RIT Women’s Hockey Team will face Clarkson University. Following the woman’s game, the RIT Tigers Men’s Hockey Team will face Niagara (7:00 p.m.). On December 15, 2013, there is also a NCAA Division III matchup between Nazareth Golden Flyers vs. Geneseo Knights (6:00 p.m.).
The outdoor games do have some positives aspects to them. By having a hockey game in a big outdoor venue, it allows more fans to attend the game that might not have been able to attend in a normal hockey arena.
On December 11, 2010, college hockey set an attendance record during The Big Chill at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The record setting game; Michigan vs. Michigan State, and the event in question drew an eye popping 113,411 fans. In case anyone is keeping track, the Michigan Wolverines shut out the Michigan State Spartan 5-0.
The outdoor hockey games also give college hockey teams a chance to market their brand to the college hockey world. A number of these college hockey games will receive extensive television coverage, and that coverage equates to more exposure that helps their team with future recruiting.
Last season, the Hockey City Classic in Chicago, Illinois gave four Division I hockey teams a chance to market their teams in a major sports market. That exposure should give their teams a recruiting boost.
The outdoor game can be seen by some hockey purists as being a gimmick. Hockey games are not intended to be played in a football or baseball stadium. Also, the fans are a long ways away from the field in many of these stadiums, making viewing the game very difficult. You have a much better view of the game from the couch in your living room.
There are also an inordinate number of outdoor games this season, meaning we might be at the point of oversaturation. I must pose the question, how many outdoor games are too many? This oversaturation could actually cause people to lose interest and not tune in to watch them. I can see fans saying, “Oh boy, we have another outdoor hockey game.” Maybe I will watch a different event or sport, instead of watching yet another outdoor hockey game.
Also, outdoor games for conference points might not sit well with some teams fighting for their lives in a conference race, because you’re relying on Mother Nature to cooperate and, at times, she can be really stubborn. A bad bounce, due to poor ice conditions, could cause your favorite team to lose the game due to a bad goal.
Mother Nature will definitely be a factor. Last season during an outdoor game between UND and UNO at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, the game had to be delayed two and one-half hours due to poor ice conditions. There were questions on whether that game would actually be finished. Once the game finally kicked off, there were more problems. While resurfacing the ice after the first period, one of the maintenance workers accidently drilled into one of the pipes under the ice, in the goalie crease, causing antifreeze to gush out on to the ice. This accident caused another unforeseen 10-minute delay in the game while workers cleaned up antifreeze.
With 23 outdoors hockey games this season, there’s bound to be many unforeseen things that will happen. Some of these events will be at the mercy of the weather. Rain, snow, warm weather will play a part in the outdoor game experience. These are things that you’re unable to control, but could affect the outcome of the game.
In conclusion, I would say that there is a plethora of outdoor games for you to choose from this season. Yay! That being said, one could make the argument, that we have an oversaturation of outdoor hockey games, and maybe too much of a good thing. My questions are how many outdoor hockey games are too many? At what point, do we have reach the point of oversaturation? Have we reached that threshold already?
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.