Since opening on October 9, 1924; Soldier Field hockey happened for the first time in its storied history. 52,000 lucky fans got the chance to be a part of the experience as CCHA rivals 12th-ranked Notre Dame and third-ranked Miami of Ohio began the festivities.
Despite coming off a 3-1 defeat to the Red Hawks on Friday night, the Fighting Irish took the advantage 1-0 midway through the second period. Jeff Costello then extended the lead to 2-0 8:33 into the third. Miami was able to get momentum back on their side only 63 seconds later shrinking the Irish lead to 2-1. However, the Red Hawks were unable to finish the comeback and Notre Dame came away with a 2-1 victory.
In the nightcap, WCHA rivals 18th-ranked Wisconsin met second-ranked Minnesota. After an uneventful first period, Wisconsin took a 3-0 lead in a 3:19 span. Minnesota made it close after netting two in the third, but, they too, were unable to finish the comeback as the Badgers escaped with a 3-2 win.
The games and teams were outstanding. And Soldier Field was a fine venue for the event. With the ice rink placed directly in the middle of the field, the entire stadium was open for seating. However, vision was incredibly difficult for anyone that sat in the first 15 rows of the stadium. In relation to the rink, my seats in section 436 (high in the upper deck) were perfect! In these outdoor games, the higher you can get the better.
With the popularity of the Winter Classic, it seems as though everybody is trying to get a piece of the outdoor-hockey-game pie. Numerous leagues have participated in outdoor games, and the number of events being held in outdoor venues appears to be increasing. At least six events between a number of leagues were scheduled for outdoors. (The NHL’s Winter Classic was cancelled due to the strike.)
Though trial and error over the years of these outdoor games, these events have really become a pleasure for fans. In 2006, I had the pleasure of going to Lambeau Field for an outdoor hockey game, and although it was a fine time, the outdoor experience has evolved into much more of an event, rather than just a game.
However, although Chicago and Solder Field did a great job of making fans feel at home in a comfortable atmosphere through intermission entertainment, team specific videos on the replay board, and areas to warm up if needed, there was one reoccurring issue; the ice condition. There were numerous times the games had to be stopped in order to fix the ice. This is an issue that many outdoor events have. The sun beating down on Soldier Field made the ice somewhat soft and slushy to play on. The ice actually got so bad on one half of the rink that in the third period of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game, they had to divide it into ten-minute-halves in order to give each team equal time on each side of the ice.
The ice condition was the only poor part of the event. Soldier Field was a great venue that offered a quality product that I feel privileged to have been a part of. I would definitely go to another outdoor hockey event at Soldier Field. I hope there’s more Soldier Field hockey. And if you get the chance to go to a outdoor game, I would highly suggest it.