The rink taking shape at Hersheypark Stadium (Photo via our Instagram account)
Today kicks off our 2013 Outdoor Classic coverage here on Sweetest Hockey. We will be bringing you feature stories about the game and the events leading up to it right here. Check back with us everyday for a few new stories ranging from the assembly of the rink, to player interviews. Hope you enjoy!
In 2008, the NHL introduced a new event that has changed the game of hockey: the Winter Classic. Since then, five other NHL outdoor games have been played across the country. A few years the AHL decided take after their parent league and playing an outdoor game of their own and then officially establishing an Outdoor Classic a few years later. Since then, the Hershey Bears have taken part in two of them, and one of which will be played in less than a week.
One of the first outdoor games in recent years was the 1991 outdoor game in Las Vegas. The game between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings was played in the parking lot of Caesars Palace on September 27th, 1991. The game featured temperature in the 80°s and 90°s, peaking at 95°F.
After that game, the “Cold War” between Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines was played in East Lansing. That game was held just over ten years after game in Vegas, but this one would have more of an impact on the hockey world with attendance numbers of just under 75,000.
The NHL would revisit the great outdoors with the 2003 Heritage Classic between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. This game was the first regular season outdoor game for the NHL, but certainly not the last.
A snowy New Years Day in Orchard Park, New York was the setting for the first ever Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. The game was out of a storybook with snow coming down on Ralph Wilson Stadium and NHL Superstar, Sidney Crosby, scoring the GWSOG to give the Penguins the first ever Winter Classic win.
Since that game, the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and New York Rangers have all taken part in the Winter Classic. The Flyers and Penguins are the only two teams to have played in more than one Winter Classic. (The Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs are tentatively scheduled to play in the next outdoor game, but due to the NHL lockout, the game was canceled for this season.)
After a few of these games, the AHL saw an idea and wanted to jump on it. The Mirabito Outdoor Classic was held at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse where the Syracuse Crunch and Binghamton Senators faced off for the first ever outdoor AHL game. One year later, the Connecticut Whale and Providence Bruins played in the “Whale Bowl” at Rentschler Field in Hartford.
Then came the game Bears fans will know: The 2012 AHL Outdoor Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The Chocolate and White would face off against the Adirondack Phantoms in the city of brotherly love on January 6th. The Phantoms would come out victorious in a great game that would set the American Hockey League attendance record with 45,653 at the home of the Phillies.
Later that month, the Hamilton Bulldogs and Toronto Marlies would play in front of a crowd of 20,000 for the second 2012 AHL Outdoor Classic.
All of this brings us to the 2013 Capital Blue Cross Outdoor Classic. Hershey will play their arch rivals from Wilkes-Barre on January 20th to the tune of over 15,000 fans at Hersheypark Stadium.