CLEVELAND — The bitter Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is about to get really icy.
The two schools, sworn enemies in just about everything, will play the first outdoor college hockey game in Ohio at Progressive Field — home of the Cleveland Indians — on Sunday, Jan. 15. The matchup, dubbed “The Frozen Diamond Faceoff” will be the marquee event as part of the Indians’ second “Snow Days” promotion at the ballpark, a two-month winter-themed experience that drew over 50,000 fans in its first year.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines will play on a regulation-sized rink situated on the Indians’ infield, stretching from the area around home plate down the first-base line.
The AP first reported the event in June.
Indians president Mark Shapiro is hoping the 43,000-seat ballpark will be packed.
“We think it’s going to be sold out,” Indians president Mark Shapiro said. “You have avid fans from Michigan and Ohio State, and you’ve got a rivalry that’s meaningful. And, you also have a unique event — just coming into the ballpark and seeing something for the first time in the state of Ohio. You combine all those things, and it’s our hope that there aren’t any empty seats.”
The teams will meet in Columbus on Jan. 13 before traveling to Cleveland in what will be a Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) home game for Ohio State.
The Wolverines have already played in a wildly successful outdoor game. Last December, they hosted cross-state rival Michigan State in “The Big Chill at the Big House,” a game that drew over 100,000 fans to Michigan’s mammoth football stadium.
“It’s a great way to promote college hockey,” said Josh Richelew, Michigan’s director of hockey operations. “There’s no better way than taking the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and bringing it to a wonderful facility. This is one of the premier ballparks in the country. We’re very excited about it.”
Both schools will sell tickets on campus, and they each get a share of the gate.
CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch said the game made sense to all parties.
“Any time you can play in front of this many people potentially, it’s a win for everyone,” he said. “The sight lines are unbelievable for fans and it’s a great student-athlete experience. Who wouldn’t want to play in front of nearly 50,000 fans? The coaches are into it. It’s a conference game, three points are on the line, and the exposure for the sport and college hockey in general is just great.”
But there is already bad blood between the Buckeyes and Wolverines, and with so many fans in attendance, the atmosphere will be super charged.
Pletsch laughed when asked if he was worried the teams could set a conference record for penalty minutes.
“We’ve been pretty tame that way the past few years,” he said. “I’m hoping not.”
As for “Snow Days,” which will begin with “Snopening Day” on Nov. 25 and run through Jan. 16, the Indians decide to bring it back after getting a strong response from fans, who enjoyed the chance to ice skate and ride tubes down a 10-lane hill inside the downtown ballpark.