BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily News Editor
Published December 15, 2010
Last Saturday’s world-record setting Big Chill at the Big House wasn’t quite as well attended as the University’s Athletic Department officials initially claimed.
According to the official tally by Guinness World Records, 85,541 people attended the hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State. The tally is significantly lower than the attendance of 113,411 announced by the Athletic Department during the third period. However, the Guinness World Records count still sets the world record for “highest attendance for an ice hockey match.”
Guinness World Records spokeswoman Sara Wilcox wrote in an e-mail interview that “after further reviewing ticket scans,” Guinness’s estimate of 85,541 attendees is actually the record-breaking number.
“The number announced by the University during the game was unofficial and an estimate of all individuals present in the stadium at the time,” Wilcox wrote.
The University’s attendance figure of 113,411 made the Big Chill the most attended event in Michigan Stadium history, as well as the largest in-person audience to watch any NCAA event.
Athletic Department spokesman Matt Trevor said Wednesday that several differences in how the Athletic Department and Guinness count attendance are the reasons for the inconsistent numbers.
“We’re not surprised there are two different numbers,” Trevor said. “That’s because the Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t count media or other people that are working at the game, like concessioners and so forth.”
Trevor added that the Athletic Department includes all tickets sold in its attendance figure, while Guinness World Records only counted tickets that were scanned as patrons passed through the gates of the stadium.
Additionally, Guinness only counted tickets that were scanned — not tickets that were ripped to show admittance, Trevor said. Because of the cold temperatures, some of the scanners’ batteries died, Trevor said, so those admitting people into the Big House had to start ripping tickets instead of scanning them.
“At some point during the day most (employees) who had scanners had to change out the battery, and during that time they had so many people still trying to come through,” Trevor said.
In a Dec. 14 blog post on the Guinness website, Mike Janela, the Guinness World Records representative who attended the Big Chill, and was responsible for certifying the record was indeed broken, wrote “it was necessary to provide scanned evidence of the bar codes on each spectator's ticket.”
Janela also wrote that the 85,451 tickets scanned as of the third period announcement was “more than enough to certify a new record,” though the numbers were still rising from that point.
Trevor said the Athletic Department is going to continue to work with Guinness World Records to determine the final official attendance mark.
Aside from determining the tallying patrons whose tickets were torn instead of scanned, Trevor said the Athletic Department is considering examining photos of the stands from the game to count the attendance.
“We might have to try and look at pictures and count people,” Trevor said. “That’s, honestly, a valid way to count someone. If there’s someone sitting in a seat they’re there.”
There isn’t a timetable, however, for completing the process, Trevor said, adding that he didn’t know when the count would be finalized.
Before Michigan’s 5-0 win over Michigan State at the Big Chill, the previous record was set during the opening game of the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in May at Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Germany defeat the United States 2-1 in overtime as 77,803 patrons watched.