On Thursday, it was announced that rivals Michigan and Michigan State would once again face off against one another outdoors in the biting and unforgiving dead of a Midwest winter.
Soldier Field in Chicago has been the site of numerous outdoor hockey games, from a number of Winter Classic games, including some nail-biters between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, to NCAA match ups. The Hockey City Classic, which began back in 2013, got its roots in Chicago at Soldier Field when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame played in their first-ever outdoor hockey game against Miami back in February of 2013 (Notre Dame went on to win 2-1).
Last January, the Hockey City Classic moved to TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to host the Minnesota Gophers and the Ohio State Buckeyes, with the Gophers blanking the visiting team 1-0. This season, though, the Hockey City Classic will be back in the Windy City.
The tag "Hockey City" as a moniker for the Classic's home base of Chicago is surely some dig against nearby Detroit and its claim to the "Hockeytown" title, but where college hockey is concerned, the field is more open.
This February, spectators will also receive the added treat (no doubt for being forced to sit through what will likely be a brutally-cold winter day) of being able to witness Western Michigan and Miami (Ohio) face off, as well.
Michigan State and Michigan have faced off against one another in the elements three times now, making the Hockey City Classic their fourth meeting. These have included the first-ever outdoor college ice hockey game, dubbed, The Cold War, back in 2001, where the two teams tied 3-3; the 2013 Hockeytown Winter Festival, where the Spartans blanked the Wolverines 3-0; and The Big Chill at the Big House in 2011, where MSU fell 0-5 to U-M in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game at the time, with an attendance of 104,173.
This time around, with one tie, and one devastating win each under their collective belts, both the Spartans and Wolverines will be looking for bragging rights. Michigan State head hockey coach Tom Anastos told the Detroit Free Press in a phone interview that he and his players were really looking forward to the exciting challenge.
"It's a very unique experience and I know it's one the players really enjoy," Anastos said. "When the right opportunity comes up, which we believe this is one of them, we want to take advantage to give a unique experience for the student-athlete."
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.