An outdoor game between the Ohio State and Michigan hockey programs was imminent in May, nearly a done deal in June, and dead in July.

But now it’s official.

The Cleveland Indians held a press conference Thursday to announce the finalized plans to host their first outdoor hockey game, dubbed The Frozen Diamond Faceoff, at Progressive Field on Jan. 15, 2012.

“You have avid fans from Michigan and Ohio State,” Indians president Mark Shapiro said in an Indians’ press release. “You have a rivalry that’s meaningful. You also have a unique event that will draw some event-goers just to come in to the ballpark. It’ll be the first time in the state of Ohio and be a very special atmosphere. So I think when you combine all those things, it’s our hope that there aren’t any seats open.”

It will be the Buckeyes’ second appearance in an outdoor game, but the Wolverines’ fourth — and their third outdoor match in the past three seasons. Ohio State is 0-1 in outdoor tilts, while Michigan is 1-1-1.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said in a Michigan press release. “It will be the first time I’ve ever been involved or a Michigan hockey team will be involved in an outdoor game in a baseball stadium. We’ve played in football stadiums before and every one of these games takes on kind of a life of its own.

“Even though Michigan has played in three in a row, a lot of our players haven’t had that experience. We have a big freshman class and we’ve got some players on our team that didn’t get to dress last year. This will be right in the middle of the hockey season and something that may not get a lot of attention early in the year, but as it gets closer, this will be a big deal.”

Michigan was a part of the first-ever NCAA outdoor game, the Cold War against Michigan State, in Oct. 2001.
But most fans will recall The Big Chill at the Big House between the Spartans and Wolverines last December at Michigan Stadium. The event drew a world-record crowd of 104,173.

By measurement, The Frozen Diamond Faceoff aims to be the Big Chill’s infant brother. Progressive Fiedd has a seating capacity of roughly 45,200 during the baseball season. Although additional seating may well be installed for a hockey game, it won’t be setting any records.

“An event at a venue like Progressive Field is great for both the institutions and the league as a whole,” CCHA Commissioner Fred Pletsch said in a press release. “We’re looking forward to coming to Cleveland this January to see a terrific rivalry showcased in a distinctive and memorable setting.”

The game will be a part of Cleveland’s Snow Days, which will also feature a week-long youth tournament.

In 2010, the first Snow Days was highlighted by ice skating, sledding hills and snow tubing chutes. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, the event drew 50,000 visitors downtown from Nov. 26 to Jan. 2 last year.

The location of Cleveland is relatively ideal, since it lies equidistant — about 150 miles — from both Columbus and Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines hold an all-time 65-30-11 edge in head-to-head matches against the Buckeyes. Michigan completed the 2010-11 season first in the CCHA, while Ohio State crawled to a ninth-place finish.

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