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Article: Everything I Learned From Attending An Outdoor Stadium Game

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#1 Nathan Wells

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Posted 19 February 2016 - 11:00 AM

With the Stadium Series quickly approaching, Nathan Wells writes about the things he carries with him from attending two outdoor stadium games. Going back to his pond hockey roots is not one of them.The game was cold.

Single digit temperatures were not the only takeaway I had from being at an outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium. There are others. It’s not even the biggest.

Instead, the bitter cold, the “I’m wearing more layers than degrees,” the “oh my God why does someone choose to live here, let alone stand outside for two hours” cold that we Minnesotans like to say doesn’t bother us yet secretly does is a good place to begin.

On a Friday night in January two years ago, I had the chance to cover the 2014 Hockey City Classic between the University of Minnesota and Ohio State. Dressed up in a style what can only be called “cold weather casual,” there was the best of both worlds.

Inside the press box was a warm oasis, several stories up and seemingly miles away from the action. Outdoors, the game was a blur, one roar after another in front of 45,000 roaring fans witnessing the first outdoor hockey games in Minnesota during the modern era. (In addition to the Gopher-Buckeyes men’s game, the Minnesota and Minnesota State women’s teams played earlier in the afternoon.)

Oh the roar.

It’s far easier to explain a night where the temperature dipped to six degrees than walking on the field to the roar of 45K people at once. Both are easy to remember. Only the cold, with its physical reminder of what happens when your hands are outside your gloves for a minute, leaves a physical mark. That goes away after finding heat and shelter. The roar stays with you.

Walking out in front of a stadium full of people, even as accidentally as I did when going out to take photos and watch the third period from the glass, is surreal.

Those goosebumps have never left. As a writer and someone who spends a lot of time working in isolation, being the focus point (okay being in the periphery of the focus point) of a large event is a strange feeling to be a (very small) part. So is being part of the crowd, however.

A year before I was, taking in the experience at Soldier Field in Chicago as a face in the seats. Taking in the game - in better 30-40 degree weather, mind you - with friends meant doing something only talked about. The game was a trip. The game was a celebration. It was shared camaraderie with old friends and new, and participating in a stadium-wide “Harlem Shake” video because this game was taking place during the 2 weeks “Harlem Shake” was a thing (remember that?).

Two different games and two different experiences. They were just that: personal experiences. While the games are sold to the masses on nostalgia for the days of skating outdoors as kids on frozen ponds, no one grows up in a stadium. This weekend’s Stadium Series won’t be mistaken for the pond hockey championships or even reliving past days winning three post.

And to be honest, that is okay.

This weekend should bring its own nostalgia to those in attendance. Whether it is the cold or the people, or an accidental roar, there is something for everyone to take away. Seeing players from Minnesota’s past and present play a unique game is something that can be passed down. It’s no experience of strapping on skates in the bitter cold nor does the weekend pretend.

Everyone has their own. Attending an outdoor game is much more about the game to the point where this is the third to last paragraph and I haven’t even mentioned the games on faraway ice or how Taylor Camamrata’s goal at TCF Bank Stadium - the only goal in a 1-0 Minnesota win - was the type of goal which you only see on the uneven, unforgiving outdoor ice.

To be honest, I had to double check the score of the Chicago outdoor game. I still remember the floor a friend lived on that I stopped at before heading to Soldier Field.
The final score or the game itself doesn’t matter as much. No, my takeaway of an outdoor stadium game is everything else. To those going this weekend, relish the experience.

--
Nathan Wells is a freelance hockey writer based in Minnesota. He also covers college hockey for SB Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @gopherstate.

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#2 Vanimal46

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Posted 19 February 2016 - 11:55 AM

I was in the stands for the Minnesota v. Ohio State game 2 years ago, in the open air west side of the stadium. That game got brutally cold towards the end, but with the help of toe and hand warmers, and some flasks that were brought in for nourishment, we were able to stick it out in the single digit temps. 

This weekend it sounds like it's much better weather, in the 40's?! Should be a fun time.


#3 rghrbek

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 01:25 AM

Great story and article.I love outdoor hockey.When my kids were younger (mites) they got lots of outdoor ice time. I stil think we are spoiled from the very first NHL classic,with the snow, and the great game (fantastic and different).

However, I wish you could find an environment, where it's slightly more intimate. Like putting the rink in the endzone super close (maybe sideways), and put temorary seating on the field, making it more intimate, and closer for the fans. We all love the idea, but after to being at an outdoor event myself, it's not great viewing if you are veiwing the big screen more than what's happening on the ice itself.

 

Just my opinion.

 

I think you could sacrifice 20K fans and still have 35K there and it would be more impactful. I still think it's a good idea, but having 35K or 40K in the right environment would even mean more. Not sure what places could do this.


#4 terrydactyls1947

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 10:03 AM

I was the backup goalie with St. Mary's College for an outdoor game against Bemidji State in Bemidji in February 1967. The temperature was around 30 below with a strong north wind. When we got back to our hotel, the weatherman said the wind chill was minus 79. Now that is Minnesota outdoor hockey. My toes still are cold.