Big Chill outdoor hockey game planned for Michigan Stadium in December
Red Berenson is no stranger to outdoor hockey.
When the idea of renewing Michigan's hockey rivalry with Michigan State in an outdoor venue was proposed, the veteran Wolverines coach couldn't have been more pleased.
Nine years after the two schools took part in The Cold War at Spartan Stadium, Michigan and Michigan State will face off at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11, the two schools announced Thursday, calling the game "The Big Chill at the Big House." Ticket information is expected to be released by the end of February.
The playing surface will be placed in the center of Michigan Stadium. The red line (center ice) will run on top of the 50-yard line, and the end boards will extend to reach the 17-yard lines.
"Never in a hundred years did I ever think I would ever see anything like this here," Berenson said in an interview Thursday afternoon. "It was never even a concept until the game at Spartan Stadium, but when we changed over from grass and the concept of outdoor hockey continued to grow, we saw it could happen.
"It will be an unbelievable event. Unforgettable."
The game, which will be played at 3 p.m. on Dec. 11, will be the fifth Division I hockey game to be played at an outdoor venue. The Michigan hockey team - which has a pair of games against Michigan State this weekend in East Lansing and at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit - will travel to Wisconsin for the Camp Randall Classic next weekend.
The Big Chill game will serve as one of Michigan's two home games against the Spartans next season.
For Berenson, the outdoor game brings back memories of his hockey beginnings. Like many Canadian youngsters, he began playing on frozen ponds. Although many of his players haven't experienced competing outdoors, he said it makes for a memorable event.
"To me, it's a throwback because it's how I started," said Berenson, who coached Michigan in its 3-3 tie in the Cold War game in 2001. "It's just a little of everything and you see the players enjoying it and the fans enjoying it. There's just something magical about it."
Since the Michigan-Michigan State game nine years ago, the concept of outdoor hockey has carried over to the NHL, which hosts its annual Winter Classic. The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks drew 40,818 fans last year at Wrigley Field before 38,112 turned out at Boston's Fenway Park for this year's game that involved Philadelphia and Boston.
But given the rivalry that exists between Michigan and Michigan State, officials from both schools expect next winter's game in Ann Arbor to be enhanced by the surroundings.
"The Cold War game has led the way to some exciting opportunities in college hockey and the NHL. It's a nod to tradition but also a very modern, exciting thing for our student-athletes and fans to experience," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said in an statement issued Thursday. "There are always great crowds when these teams meet, and we expect another fantastic gathering of hockey fans in the state of Michigan to embrace this exciting event."
Jeff Arnold covers Michigan hockey for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or 734-623-2554. Follow him at Twitter @jeffreyparnold.