EAST LANSING Ali and Frazier couldn”t have held a better court. The Michigan and Michigan State programs were in the south end zone of Spartan Stadium, ready to add another verse to a rivalry that is about to embark in its 238th game.
A large sign behind the players and coaches said it all: “The Cold War.” It has become an instant classic and, for a rivalry that has seen many an epic match, may stand on top as the most unique and will surely be etched in the memory of anyone who participates in or witnesses the event.
The Michigan and Michigan State hockey programs were there to announce that on Oct. 6 they would meet to play their first game of the CCHA season. Attempting to make history and set a world record for hockey attendance, the game will take place in Michigan State”s football stadium, Spartan Stadium.
Being played in a football stadium, Michigan and Michigan State hope the game adopts the college football atmosphere of fans coming early to tailgate and enjoy what they hope is a beautiful autumn day.
“It will be exciting, it will be an adrenaline rush,” Michigan center Mike Cammalleri said. “I don”t know what I am going to feel. I just know there will be a huge smile on my face and I will be enjoying the experience. You come to Michigan and expect big things and you come to Michigan to play in big-time games and this is as big as it gets. I don”t think it gets much bigger than this.”
“Being that this is in the football season, it is going to have a bit of a football mentality, which is great, the tailgating and all the other stuff,” Michigan State head coach Ron Mason said.
Michigan”s sole trip to East Lansing this year will certainly be a memorable one for the team.
Both teams are hoping to pack the capacity 72,027 seat stadium with ravenous Spartan and Wolverine boosters along with hockey fans desiring to partake in a world record.
“It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to a hockey game on a football Saturday,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “I think it will take the crowd a while to get focused on the game. Now obviously the start of the game will be a big thing. I think that they will realize the pace and the intensity will be something they are a little farther removed from than if they were in Yost Ice Arena or Munn Ice Arena. That will take some getting used to.”
The current record for most fans to attend a hockey game is 55,000 set in 1957 when Sweden defeated the USSR 3-2 in the World Championships in Moscow.
“This is more than just another hockey game between two old rivals it”s an event,” Michigan State Athletic Director Dr. Clarence Underwood said in a press release. “The initial response from fans has been overwhelming and our goal is to break the world record for hockey attendance.”
As of Friday, Michigan State reported over 49,000 tickets sold.
Once just a pipedream, the use of a rock concert”s worth of lighting and materials will help the dream become a reality.
“My assistant coaches warned me that Braun wanted to talk about this game,” Berenson said. “But for the players” sake and for the spirit of the competition, this has to be a legitimate playing surface and that was my first concern with Ron and he has reassured me at length that this won”t be a problem.”
The staging will be laid down on top of the turf by first placing a thin poly surface cover directly over the artificial turf and then a layer of plywood. This will be followed by a staging platform on the playing field with another level of plywood on top of that.
The ice rink will be centered on midfield of the stadium, extending beyond the 20-yard lines. The ice surface is to by supplied by the same company that provided an outdoor rink for the motion picture “Mystery Alaska” and an NHL game hosted in Tokyo, Japan. The ice, frozen by a 281-ton refrigeration unit and a series of aluminum plates, is capable of handling most any type of weather conditions.
“When you play in Joe Louis in the spring, it can get up to seventy or eighty degrees on the ice,” Berenson said. “We are hoping this time of year it will be reasonable and with a little movement in the air. So it is probably going to be ok. But obviously we will have to address it.”
Both teams will be given the Friday before the game to practice on the ice surface and adjust to the play of the boards and glass. This practice time is crucial for Michigan”s Josh Blackburn and Michigan State”s Hoby (SPELLING?) Baker winning Ryan Miller who will be unfamiliar with the play of the glass, making it unfamiliar territory for both goalies.
In the situation that inclement weather makes the game unplayable, the rain-out date is set for Sunday, Oct. 7, still providing crews ample time to deconstruct the rink and stage for Michigan State”s home football game the following Saturday.