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Let’s play hockey… outside!

TCF Bank Stadium will be opening its gates on Friday to some good, old-fashioned, outdoor collegiate hockey.

January 15, 2014

The stage is set for some memorable hockey this weekend. And what makes it more exciting is just where that stage is set up.

TCF Bank Stadium, home to Gopher football for five seasons and 35 games, has been winterized this year in unexpected new fashion, and will be opening its gates on Friday to some good, old-fashioned, outdoor collegiate hockey.

The Hockey City Classic on Jan. 17 will feature the Pride on Ice times two. The U women’s team hosts Minnesota State at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Gopher men’s team taking on new Big Ten “rival” Ohio State at 8 p.m. in the nightcap.

Moving hockey back outdoors is a popular trend. The National Hockey League recently began featuring one game per year in an outdoor stadium, and this year’s contest on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor drew more than 105,000 fans.

These will be the first outdoor hockey games at the University of Minnesota in the modern era, and TCF Bank Stadium is the perfect venue. More than 40,000 tickets have already been sold, a testament to Minnesota truly being the “State of Hockey.”

Our new arena-within-a-stadium actually debuted last weekend, when 10 high school teams competed in the Hockey High School Faceoff.

The rink is situated lengthwise in the middle of the football field. With a sheet of ice 200 feet long, it fits loosely between the 20-yard lines, and there’s not much of a need for protective netting above the end glass, as it would take a heck of a slap shot to reach the stands at either end.

Mother Nature appears to be smiling on Friday’s event, even as she reminds everyone to wear their scarves and mittens. The forecast for the women’s game, with a puck drop right before sunset, calls for about 10 degrees (above zero!) and light winds. In other words, it won’t be much colder than the football game against Wisconsin this year.

Don’t think you can make it for six hours straight outdoors?

Fear not; the U’s got you covered. Literally. Mariucci Arena will serve as the State of Hockey’s largest warming house from 2 to 8 p.m., selling food and refreshing (read: warm) beverages and showing the women’s game on video screens. Re-entry into the stadium will be permitted from 3:30 to 8 p.m.

If fans need any other incentive to take in this historic event, consider this. The hockey doubleheader (might as well mix in a baseball term) features the No. 1-ranked women’s and men’s teams in the nation. Yes, that would be the two-time defending national champion Gopher women (20-1-1) and the Big Ten–leading Gopher men (15-3-2).

A doubleheader of hockey games on a football field, with or without opera glasses. It’s an event tailor-made for young, old-school, and renaissance sports fans alike.

For information on tickets, see mygophersports.

Contact the writer at moore112@umn.edu.

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