This winter, outdoor hockey will return to the Twin Cities for the first time in 80 years.
The University of Minnesota announced Tuesday that TCF Bank Stadium will host the 2014 Hockey City Classic on Jan. 17.
“Every player on our team learned to play on an outdoor rink,” Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia said. “It’s only fitting that we host this event.”
The Gophers men’s team played in last year’s inaugural game in Chicago against Wisconsin.
This year, the women’s team will play Minnesota State-Mankato in the first game of the event, and the men’s team will play Ohio State in the second game of the doubleheader.
“Our women’s hockey program has never had an outdoor game,” said Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost. “It’s going to be a huge thrill.”
The Hockey City Classic is organized by Intersport, a Chicago-based entertainment and marketing agency. The game will be part of a winter festival consisting of a variety of hockey-related events.
Last year’s game in Chicago drew more than 52,000 fans, and more than 100,000 people attended the winter festival events.
Drew Russell, vice president of owned properties at Intersport, said the goal of the event is to bring more excitement to college hockey.
“We wanted to create a bowl game atmosphere for college hockey,” he said, adding that it made sense to bring the event to the hockey-obsessed state of Minnesota.
Minnesota hockey icon Lou Nanne attended the announcement Tuesday, and he called TCF Bank Stadium an ideal venue to host the event.
The 72-year-old Nanne gushed about the sightlines at TCF Bank Stadium, calling them the best he’s ever seen for an outdoor college hockey game.
“I don’t think the fans understand what a great thrill this is going to be,” he said.
While the temperatures in January may be well below freezing, Lucia said he expects a packed house because the outdoor atmosphere will resonate with fans.
Because many Minnesota hockey fans grew up playing outside, he said, the game will bring back the memories of when they first discovered their passion for the sport.
Senior captain Nate Condon said he learned to play hockey the same way, and he’s excited to play outdoors at the Hockey City Classic for the second year in a row.
“It takes you back to when you used to have to walk eight blocks and go to the local rink,” he said. “It’s fun.”