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Posted on Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 6:45 p.m.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon says Big Chill at the Big House may not be the last of its kind

By Jeff Arnold


Fireworks erupt over Michigan Stadium Saturday night following the Big Chill At The Big House hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State.

Lon Horwedel |

When Dave Brandon first announced plans for the Big Chill at the Big House, the Michigan athletic director characterized the event as once-in-a-lifetime.

It appears the success of Saturday's outdoor hockey game that drew an announced crowd of 113,411 for Michigan's 5-0 win over Michigan State has caused the Michigan athletic director to reconsider.

Brandon said Saturday night he could see a scenario where Michigan Stadium could host an outdoor hockey game every four years. The Big Chill was the second outdoor meeting between the Wolverines and Spartans and came nine years after The Cold War was played at Spartan Stadium.

"That's not something you do every year," Brandon said after the six-minute fireworks display that capped Saturday's day-long festivities. "You've got to make it special."

Michigan officials made sure the inaugural outdoor hockey game inside the 83-year-old Ann Arbor landmark was memorable. Fireworks highlighted a pre-game ceremony that also included a stealth bomber flyover and followed each of Michigan's five goals.

Microphones were placed at ice level, piping the sounds of the game into the stadium's bowl to provide fans a more traditional hockey experience. There were video highlights played on the end zone scoreboards throughout the game, leading up to a choreographed fireworks display set to music from "The Big Chill" movie.

"We really tooled it up to make it a great experience," Brandon said.

The production cost was estimated to be around $1 million, according to Michigan spokesman Bruce Madej. Nearly half of the budget was spent on the installation of the Olympic-sized rink the game was played on.

Although the threat of possible inclement weather worried Brandon, he deemed the event a success, partially because it introduced hockey to fans that may not have seen a game before.

"From a marketing guy's perspective, I think it was a great opportunity for sampling the product," Brandon said. "Our team played great and we won a big rivalry game and I'm hopeful that we'll see it show up in season ticket sales and single ticket sales at Yost because I think there’s a lot of people today that really saw what Michigan hockey’s all about."

Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson was also impressed with Saturday's production. He said the attention paid to the event was a positive step in further marketing college hockey.

While he said such a spectacle could lose some of its luster if done too often, Berenson said he wouldn't be opposed to seeing a similar event return to Michigan Stadium. Berenson's associate head coach, Mel Pearson, said early last week he would like to see an outdoor game played every four years, allowing each incoming freshman to play outdoors once during their Michigan career.

Although plans for any future outdoor games are far from even beginning, Berenson couldn't help but be impressed with the first one.

"This was really something," he said. "You can see as a participant that there was something special about it ... This was a great event and it was exactly as we advertised and it was the real deal. It couldn't have been any better. I'm not disappointed in anything, but I'm not surprised, either.

"Once they sold the tickets as quickly as they did and once we knew the weather was going to be OK and once we practiced all week and got used to that, there have been no hiccups in this whole scenario."

Jeff Arnold covers Michigan hockey for and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.



Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

It was a great event. While I was delighted with the M shut out,it would have been nice to see one of the Chelios brothers score a goal for MSU,and their father,a Red Wing legend.----------------GO BLUE!


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 11:04 a.m.

The Big Chill was great - the Ann Arbor event of the decade. Too bad that the City of AA wasn't more aware of the size of it, to provide some positive traffic awareness. Example: From the Blue Lot on Hoover Street it took almost exactly ONE HOUR to go North, just to Liberty Street, where I turned over to Division where the traffic was somewhat "normal". The green traffic lights meant nothing, as traffic was so stopped up that not even one car passed through four or five light changes. Seems like the traffic lights would have been adjusted to move cars(a half dozen or so) through alternately. Marty Baldwin

Seasoned Cit

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

The Big Chill was a success in many ways, but I think a major plus for UM and Hockey has been passed over too quickly. I'm speaking of the couple dozen other hockey games played on the ice prior to the big game. What a dream come true for the players especially the midgets and HS teams.. and I'll bet even the Seniors who played will be telling their story of playing in "The Big House" for years to come. Good move Athletic Dept.. sort of like the old Band Days..and on top of it all, the extra games all helped improve the ice sheet for the big game. One question; Did the U.S. taxpayers pay for the jet fuel for the B1 to fly from Montana and back or was there some payment made to the Air Force?


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

It was great event for the UM and City of Ann Arbor. It's an example of an event that Detroit should copy. We are big sports fans in the State of Michigan. Get those Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings into the playoffs and the people and money will come on dowtown.

Buster W.

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

I'm not a big hockey fan but took the family and had an excellent time. Very well done, all around!! However, not to be Debbie Downer but how in the heck did they arrive at 113,411 for attendance? The Big House rededication vs. UConn had 113,090 which included more media, football alumni on the field, etc. Also, there was a strip of 4-6 rows that were empty in the "football student section". Just being realistic.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

tater, ATM? No, it's to raise money to offset the losses in revenue caused by RR being the football coach. My wish is that $2.5 of it will go to RR after the first of the year as a going away gift. What a money pit he has been. Great job by Red and the Michigan hockey team. At least someone shutout MSU at the Big House this year.

Steve Pepple

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

A comment containing a personal attack has been removed because it violated our conversation guidelines.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

Although unable to attend the event, from all I've seen and heard it was a totally awesome event for the great folks of Ann Arbor. Please, this needs to be repeated. And, a huge thank you to all of the folks who worked extensively to bring this event together. Thank you, thank you.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

Funny. I think going to an open air stadium to view a Hockey game is sort of like watching the Iditarod from mid-course... foolish!Why not simply host a these "Games" at Yost? Past by Packard and State on Saturday night, only to witness a bar brawl spilling into the street. Evidently, the Packard Pub is a "success". He-hehe...


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 7:43 a.m.

What a great event - What a great game. Yes do it every four years. Come on Red Wings - Ann Arbor is not so far away. You can't buy press like this! Congrats to UM staff and management.

Brian Bundesen

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 7:21 a.m.

It was a spectacular event, was executed perfectly, and I was happy to have been there. IMO, the next natural progression would be a Wings v. Canadiens or Wings v. Maple Leafs on a New Years Day (assuming the football team in National Championship game every year;). Once every four years would be nice from a player perspective, but I do think that this was sold out because it was the first, and for all we knew, the only. I think the novelty wears off quickly, and it would be tougher to get a sellout, unless ticket prices are low. All around, a great weekend at the Big House! Much thanks to the weather Gods.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 7:02 a.m.

Can anyone imagine how chilly it may be if the football team has another season like 2010. Fire Richrod and bring in Red for the football team.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 12:46 a.m.

Lumberg: I agree with your points, though the Bama game does generate some excitement as would a game at the Meadowlands, or something like that. But your point is well taken and valid. I just read the interview of David Brandon in the Detroit News, and frankly, he worries me. He has what sounds like an arrogant attitude as to how he wants to run the ship. He basically admitted that he does not care to listen to people because they/we do not have 'all the information', and that he thinks of himself as having all the answers. He wants to make Michigan a big brand, which is great, but he wants to do it on his own terms and that is problematic as he should answer to the regents, and really should answer to the alumni and fans. And given that he WAS a regent, I believe they will rubber stamp anything he wants. His answers just did not make him sound like he is willing to consider anyone outside of himself for what is best for UM, and it is troubling. HIs ideas may be great, and he is the boss, but arrogance will get you more enemies than friends.


Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 11:34 p.m.

I don't think these gimmick games are good for the overall future of the sport! They are quasi exhibitions and overshadow the season itself. I know these events are fun to watch and participate but is there evidence it helps grow the sport? Other than some fake/useless world record for games played outsdoors, it completely ovewhelms the season. Think about it: U-M could make the Frozen Four and it would NOT receive the same type of media-agenda attention! A college hockey game in December should NOT be the biggest event of the season! The Frozen Four ends in April folks; the season just peaked and its before X-Mas! Once every ten years is enough. And while I am at it - U-M should NOT be playing Alabama in Texas... yet another gimmick game that does not benefit the season ticket holders of either school and makes a non-conference game a spectacle... when the spectacles should be conference/rivalry based on competition. Stay warm!


Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 9:49 p.m.

I don't know the wisdom of repeating this event every 4 years. If it becomes commonplace, it becomes really risky for attendance, and would be a big disappointment if they don't fill the house. It would end up looking like an MSU football game, which would be bad.


Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 9:26 p.m.

113411 x $15 yeah I think there will be another. It my be the best games played in Michigan Stadium for awhile. It certainly was this year. Red understands how to handle the spartans. The 5 to 0 beatdown was totally awesome! The stands had very little pukey green and white which is how it should be. A totally enjoyable experience. I loved it.


Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 8:56 p.m.

XTR, Over 100k paid to watch he hockey game means lotsa dough for UM! Yep, it actually is called, "The RR Buyout Fundraiser" in private.


Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

Over 100k paid to watch he hockey game means lotsa dough for UM!

David Briegel

Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 7:15 p.m.

Congratulations! Great Event! You just missed "the weather". Wings-Habs, Original 6 would have been a spectacular addition.