Good Afternoon Wilderness... Wow! Beautiful weather we're having here in the North Country. Yep, that would be sarcasm. As I write this, it's literally -21 below zero, that's before the wind chill is factored in. With the current wind chill it's actually -45 below zero. Schools in Minnesota and North Dakota cancelled school yesterday. Can you imagine skating on an outdoor rink today? I can't actually.
If my math is correct, this season counting the NHL, AHL, CHL and NCAA hockey, we have over 23 outdoor games. Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson things there's too many outdoor games. I agree with him. There does seem to be an over saturation of outdoor games. At one point, do we hit that magic number? How many games are too many? At what point do we hit that threshold where the fans stop watching these games?
Jeff Cox of SBN College Hockey says the hockey world needs to listen to what Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson has to say about the outdoor game.
"Outdoor hockey is where the game started and where it was played, but there's way too much of it going on right now. They're ruining it. There's too much. It's nice to have this event for Hockey East. It's great, but there's way too many outdoor games right now. It's great for shinny, but there's just too much," said Jackson.
Brian Favat from B.C. Interruption brings up an interesting point. Coach Jackson didn't complain about the outdoor game last year, when the Fighting Irish were beating Miami at the Hockey City Classic in Chicago, Illinois. If you ask me, Brian has a point too.
The outdoor games do have many positives aspects to them. By having a hockey game in a big outdoor venue, it allows more fans to attend the game that might not have been able to attend in a normal hockey arena. That's a plus, if you want to grow the game.
On December 11, 2010, college hockey set an attendance record during The Big Chill at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The record setting game; Michigan vs. Michigan State, and the event in question drew an eye popping 113,411 fans. In case anyone is keeping track, the Michigan Wolverines shut out the Michigan State Spartan 5-0.
The outdoor hockey games also give college hockey teams a chance to market their brand to the college hockey world. A number of these college hockey games will receive extensive television coverage, and that coverage equates to more exposure that helps their team with future recruiting. Last season, the Hockey City Classic in Chicago, Illinois gave four Division I hockey teams a chance to market their teams in a major sports market. That exposure should give their teams a recruiting boost
The outdoor game can be seen by some hockey purists as being a gimmick. Hockey games are not intended to be played in a football or baseball stadium. Also, the fans are a long ways away from the field in many of these stadiums, making viewing the game very difficult.
You have a much better view of the game from the couch in your living room. There are also an inordinate number of outdoor games this season, meaning we might be at the point of oversaturation. I must pose the question, how many outdoor games are too many? This oversaturation could actually cause people to lose interest and not tune in to watch them. I can see fans saying, "Oh boy, we have another outdoor hockey game." Maybe I will watch a different event or sport, instead of watching yet another outdoor hockey game.
Also, outdoor games for conference points might not sit well with some teams fighting for their lives in a conference race, because you're relying on Mother Nature to cooperate and, at times, she can be really stubborn. A bad bounce, due to poor ice conditions, could cause your favorite team to lose the game due to a bad goal.
Mother Nature will definitely be a factor. Last season, during an outdoor game between UND and UNO at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, the game had to be delayed two and one-half hours due to poor ice conditions. There were questions on whether that game would actually be finished. Once the game finally kicked off, there were more problems. While resurfacing the ice after the first period, one of the maintenance workers accidently drilled into one of the pipes under the ice, in the goalie crease, causing antifreeze to gush out on to the ice. This accident caused another unforeseen 10-minute delay in the game while workers cleaned up antifreeze.
You can see that there are many positives and negatives to the outdoor game. We have to decide as a sport if we're at the threshold turning off the viewing public. It will be interesting to see how cold it's is when Minnesota plays OSU in the outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium, January 17, 2014, at 8:00 p.m. central. Based on the current weather, it could end up being pretty miserable if it doesn't warm up soon.