Commentary: Hockey At The Horseshoe?

The Ohio State men’s hockey team played a historic away game Saturday at Lambeau Field. The Frozen Tundra Classic was a fantastic event. Only the second outdoor NCAA game in modern hockey history, 40,000 crazed fans braved 20 degree temperatures and snow flurries to watch some great hockey between two talented teams. Overall, we here at OSU could blow that event out of the water.

Don’t get me wrong, the game in Green Bay was a fantastic event. It matched two extremely skilled teams together in one of the five most historic stadiums in American sports. For the people of Green Bay, who have the Packers and, well, not much else, this was a great opportunity to enter their hallowed grounds to cheer on a home team (the Wisconsin Badgers). Usually at this point in the year, these fans have to wait until August to do that again.

Add to that the fact that the Packers are a publicly owned team, so the event not only gave the people of Green Bay something to do, but it also was something that had a direct impact on the team they own.

That being said, here at OSU, we have this somewhat overlooked structure called Ohio Stadium. It’s kind of hard to notice and people don’t talk about it all that much, but it’s somewhere between Cannon Drive and Tuttle Park Plaza. And oh yeah, it’s one of the most legendary stadiums in college football and it holds almost 105,000 people.

If you want to turn NCAA hockey on its head, give the nation something to talk about and give the currently uninhabited Horseshoe a little love, then how about setting up an outdoor hockey game in Ohio Stadium between the Buckeyes and another team? I don’t know, maybe a rival? Maybe one of the better hockey teams in the country? Maybe … Michigan?

If there is one thing that will always hold true in Columbus, it is that if an OSU team is playing Michigan in anything, the game will be darn near sold out with rabid fans. It might be a sport few people know about, but if it involves the opportunity for dominance over that school up north, the fans will be out in full force. Put that event in the Shoe and you are almost guaranteed to have yourself the biggest NCAA hockey crowd in history.

That record-setting crowd, which was set in 2001 in an outdoor game played between Michigan and Michigan State, stands at 74,554.

While I am not naive enough to believe that Ohio Stadium would sell out, I would be willing to bet that with the proper marketing and notice, OSU could certainly bring in more than 75,000 fans.

Coach John Markell seemed enthused about the idea last week before the team headed to Green Bay.

“It would be up to the administration,” he said. “I think we could draw a pretty good crowd here against Michigan. Should we use that to our advantage? Maybe we should. Michigan and Michigan State is a big rivalry, but Ohio State and Michigan is a huge rivalry. Maybe that is something we would suggest to Gene Smith in the future to try and get going.”

OSU hockey has been consistently in the top of the CCHA standings the past few years and is getting closer year after year to breaking into the group of elite hockey schools that have dominated the national scene for decades. Not only would a game in Ohio Stadium represent a great opportunity for the current players, it would be an excellent recruiting tool and perhaps the spark for a younger generation of future Buckeyes. Hockey does not have the same prevalence in Ohio as it does in states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan and perhaps an event as influential as this would help change that.

Obviously, a ton of work would need to go into setting up such an event. Schedules between the two teams would have to be arranged, sponsors would be needed and there would have to be a guarantee not to ruin the Ohio Stadium turf. But if they can do this in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I see no reason why we here at OSU cannot accomplish something similar. Something that would be a spectacle unlike anything college hockey has ever seen.