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Posted on Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 6:04 a.m.

Saturday's Big Chill hockey game could heat up sales for some Ann Arbor restaurants

By Janet Miller


Good Time Charley's on South University is expecting a crowd after Saturday's Big Chill hockey game. files

Will Saturday’s Big Chill at the Big House bring in big bucks for area businesses? Or will it bring a big chill of another kind?

Ann Arbor bars, restaurants and other businesses don’t know what to expect from Saturday’s 3 p.m. sold-out hockey game at Michigan Stadium between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

They do know it is expected to be a historic event (largest attendance ever for a hockey game), and that it will bring out 110,000 fans.

Bars and restaurants are gearing up for a crowd, adding staff and stocking their pantries as if it were another football Saturday.

Mike Flore, owner of The Arena Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Ann Arbor, is firing up a half-dozen propane heaters and will host a first-ever tailgate outside of the U-M stadium with chili, pulled pork and other chill-chasing foods. It’s a way to introduce the bar and grill to a new audience and lure them after the game is over, Flore said.

“We have a loyal football base, but we want to build a hockey fan base. This will be a new crowd, a different crowd.”

Flore said he expects the Arena to be at capacity Saturday after the game, just like after a football game.

“During football Saturdays, we have to lock the doors for up to six hours when we turn away 100 to 200 people,” Flore said. “I expect we’ll have to lock the doors for at least a couple of hours this Saturday.”

About the only thing that could dampen projections is rain, Flore said “But it’s supposed to snow and be cold. People expect the cold.”

Justin Herrick, owner of BTB Burrito on South State Street and BTB Cantina and Good Time Charley’s, both on South University, isn’t so sure. The cold could see fans rush home after the game to warm up.

Still, he’s preparing for the size of a rush that comes from “a slow home football game” with extra staff at all three businesses. That would mean a 20 to 50 percent uptick in traffic, Herrick said.

Herrick and his staff have been debating the potential crowd for two weeks. His conclusion: It won’t be as busy as a big football game.

“Hockey isn’t football,” he said. But facing cross-state rivals MSU adds interest and draws the Lansing crowd.

Conor O’Neill’s on Main Street is preparing for a crowd, said General Manager Caroline Kaganov. They’re added extra staff and opened up the Celtic Room, which is usually reserved for private events.

“We’re preparing like it’s a football Saturday,” she said. “In this economy, it’s a bonus for us.”

And exactly how busy the pub gets depends, just like on football Saturdays, whether Michigan wins of loses, Kaganov said. A win always brings a bigger crowd.

For other local businesses, especially those close to the stadium, the hockey game could bring a different kind of freeze. Football Saturdays can hurt business as local shoppers stay home to avoid the crowds, said Dan Centurione, owner of Great Harvest Bread, located in the Woodland Plaza on the corner of Ann Arbor-Saline Road and South Main Street.

With Ann Arbor-Saline Road traffic re-routed only to travel south and Woodland Plaza parking lot entrances barricaded once a game lets out, traffic inside the store evaporates, Centurione said. In response, he bakes less bread on game days.

“On a usual Saturday, I’ll make 90 loaves of asiago-pesto bread. On football days, I scale it back to 40 loaves, and even then I have a bigger than usual donation to Food Gatherers,” he said. And he closes early on some football Saturdays.

Fans may stop in for a sweet or cup of soup, but not bread. “The likelihood of seeing someone carry a loaf of bread under their arm into the stadium is pretty remote,” Centurione said.

But the Big Chill remains an unknown for Centurione. It’s on the second Saturday before Christmas, usually a peak day. And many locals don’t know about the hockey game and may go shopping unwittingly. He won’t decide on Saturday’s baking level until he sees what happens Friday. If Friday is a big day and people are stocking up, he’ll make less for Saturday.

Still, Centurione isn’t a killjoy. The games are good for Ann Arbor.

“They ding us a little bit, but it’s not a big hurt. We adjust. Some of my crew are going to the hockey game,” he said. “My wife and I like to partake in all the fun, too.”

Janet Miller is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to



Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 12:14 a.m.

They had 110,000 plus, phooie on you

Ann English

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 8:42 p.m.

"... fans arriving from all over the world"? From Russia and Scandinavia is credible; our non-North American NHL players are from those countries. Six of our NHL teams are Canadian teams, so perhaps we should rename the league "International Hockey League."


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 3:50 p.m.

The ice is being refrigerated so even if we do get a significant warm up tomorrow the ice will stay intact, no slush. The world record is 77,000ish so as long as we beat out that number I'm happy. I hope we eclipse 100K but I think there are enough Michigan fans (regardless of hockey or football) who will be out to see this event. I have seen many people over the week walk in and be astonished by the sheer size and magnitude of being on field level at the Big House. This will be a great event. Don't forget we are just a short drive from Canada where hockey is life for most people. Yost usually has fans who are on bus trips from Windsor attend games, I don't see why this would be any different. Last report from NOAA is 20% chance of rain between 1pm and 7pm...I hope they are right.


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

@sigdiamond... Also, I just heard that the game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Detroit and The Big Ten Network. So thats going to knock out those hockey fans who would prefer a dog and a beer during the game (as opposed to expensive food and Kool-Aid). Local bars who have those networks will do big business. But, there wont be 109,000 fans in attendance.


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

@sigdiamond...spoken like a true Kool-Aid drinker. However, according to David Brandon, this morning on WJR, more than half the tickets were "give-aways"...mostly to students and faculty from both schools. Then he said that when he got back from New York last night he was told that there were a large number of "give-back tickets". He encouraged everyone to drink the Kool-Aid and then go on-line and buy some tickets (which, you can still do as of 5 minutes ago). Also, not miserable...just having lived in other parts of the USA, I know that hockey is only popular in a few small enclaves such as SE Mich., Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc. And even in those towns, hockey runs far behind other activities in popularity.


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 2 p.m.

Say or think whatever you want. I'll be in my seat rain or shine! GO BLUE!!


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 1:48 p.m.

So, why does anyone think that 109,000+ fans will show up for the Ice Bowl? Uhh, because 109,000+ fans bought up all the tickets? God, the sheer, seemingly boundless misery of the people who post on this message board is astounding.


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

I know that this is an area where hockey is so popular that most local fans think hockey is equally popular everywhere in the country. And, as I heard David Brandon say on the radio this morning, there are masses of rabid fans arriving from all over the world for this once in a lifetime event. He even sounded like he might actually believe it! Where do they sell that Kool-Aid?? The fact is, that its not uncommon for the UM, MSU and Red Wings to have empty seats at their games all season long. And how many seats do each of those venues have anyway? 7,000? 10,000? According to David Brandon, none of the hockey players participating in tomorrows game have ever played in front of more than 7,000 fans. So, why does anyone think that 109,000+ fans will show up for the Ice Bowl? 109,000??? I hope sobut, I havent had any of that hockey Kool-Aid.

4 Fingers

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

so? what happens if it does rain??? slush hockey?


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 10:51 a.m.

this event is about being a money maker period... and the 'we can get more people outside for a hockey game than you can' (U-M >MSU) maybe they should've called this the "Big Slush" :0


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

Maybe the big house home team will actually see a winning team....some RR could only dream of!!

ET Crowe

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

Rain, snow, whatever, Your Wolverine State Brewing Co Tap Room is open early, with round trip trolley rides to and from the Big House!


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

What will happen if it does rain? Rain can't be good for the ice.

Tom Joad

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

it's gonna rain tomorrow