The University of Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers announced that the Badgers will play Ohio State at the Packers’ Lambeau Field on Feb. 11, 2006.
“The Packers organization is honored to join two outstanding collegiate hockey programs in creating a new chapter in the history of Lambeau Field,” said John Jones, Packers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “Wisconsin and Ohio State have produced many great football players for the Packers and the NFL. Now the Badger and Buckeye hockey players get a chance to compete on Lambeau Field.”
“This is going to be an event, not just a hockey game,” said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. “It will be something that the players, coaching staff and everyone involved will remember for a lifetime. It will be something for these young men to share with their kids, that they played in a football stadium in the middle of February in Green Bay.”
“This game will bring a lot of recognition to college hockey. Only six teams in North America have had the opportunity to play in an outdoor game in a large stadium and we’re privileged to be one of them,” Markell said. “Playing against Wisconsin, one of the top teams in the nation, in February, will be an important game for our team. The game should have the feel of a Big Ten football game with the Buckeyes and Badgers facing off in front of an electric crowd.”
Discussion of Lambeau Field as a college hockey venue surfaced in February, when the Wisconsin State Journal reported that the Badgers were considering Michigan Tech as an opponent for an outdoor game. Instead, scheduling Ohio State — a Big Ten football rival for Wisconsin — required OSU to rearrange an already-set CCHA game set for the same day against Michigan State.
As an outdoor attraction, the Lambeau game follows in the footsteps of the Michigan-Michigan State “Cold War” game on Oct. 6, 2001, which drew over 74,000 fans to Spartan Stadium, shattering the all-time hockey attendance record of 55,000 set during the 1957 world championships.
Lambeau Field will likely not threaten that record. In February, Jones said plans call for creating an amphitheater effect at the north end of the stadium with seating for 30,000 to 35,000, according to the State Journal.
“We’re just trying to give a great location and atmosphere for the Badger skaters to get on the ice and have a good game. That’s our vision,” Jones told the paper.
A portable rink will be set up on the north half of Lambeau Field. Total seating of 38,000-40,000 is expected for the game, including indoor club seats and private boxes. Portable bleachers will be placed on the field at the south end of the rink.
The game will prime the pump for two more college hockey spectacles in coming months. Green Bay’s nearby Resch Center will host the 2006 NCAA Midwest Regional, while the 2006 Frozen Four will also be in Wisconsin, at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center.
“Our goal was to create special events like this at Lambeau Field ever since the stadium renovation was completed nearly two years ago,” Jones said. “The Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic will bring a mid-winter economic boost to the Green Bay area as we showcase collegiate hockey on football’s hallowed ground.”
The possibility also exists that Division III St. Norbert will play the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers during the same weekend as Wisconsin and Ohio State, given that the ice surface will be available. No official announcement on such a game has been made.