Tonight’s B1G hockey coverage begins at 6 PM ET with Frozen Friday: Face-Off, hosted by BTN’s Rick Pizzo and analyst Paul Caponigri. At 6:30 PM ET, Michigan State hosts Penn State, followed by Gophers vs. Buckeyes at 9 PM ET in the 2014 Hockey City Classic. The night concludes with Frozen Friday: Final Rush at approximately 11:30 PM ET
The 2014 Classic at TCF Bank Stadium is the first outdoor college hockey game at the University of Minnesota in over 80 years and fans are buzzing with excitement.
I took a few minutes to sit down with Brian Deutsch, Gophers’ Assistant Director of Athletic Communications to discuss.
Extra Points: How would you best describe the fan excitement surrounding tonight’s event?
Brian: The state of Minnesota has never had an outdoor game of this magnitude, so needless to say we are very excited for the Hockey City Classic. This is something that people have been wanting here for a long, long time, and with Minnesota’s passion for hockey – especially outdoor hockey – there’s been a lot of buzz.
Extra Points: How about the excitement within the Gopher Athletic Department and among the student athletes?
Brian: Playing in Minnesota, where outdoor hockey is part of this state’s history and culture, there’s definitely been a buzz the last couple months around the programs and the Athletic Department. It’s been hectic trying to get everything organized, but when the puck drops, I think we’re all going to be very excited to see that hard work come to fruition.
What I’m looking forward to most, and what I think a lot of people would say, is seeing 50,000 people watching the Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium. We have the best fans in college hockey. They are passionate, and they are proud of this program and its history, and I’m excited to see the kind of atmosphere we can create when we mix our fans with the experience of outdoor hockey.
Below is a picture of the giveaway Gopher students will receive upon entering the stadium.
Extra Points: A lot has been written about the work that has gone into transforming TCF Bank Stadium, and the steps that are being taken to ensure the rink is ready. From your up-close perspective how does everything look?
Brian: It takes a lot of work to prep a stadium of this size for an event like this, and everyone has done a great job. The good thing for us is that we’re all used to living in Minnesota, so the snow removal process just comes naturally to most of us.
Some of us had a chance to go out and play a little bit earlier this week, and the ice looks and feels great. Since last Saturday when we left for Penn State, they’ve had five high school hockey games on the ice, and there was great feedback from those programs, so we are confident the ice will be in great condition tonight.
Extra Points: In terms of actual game play, what is most unique about playing outdoors and under the lights opposed to inside? Does strategy differ? What impact, if any, do you expect to see?
Brian: I’m not an expert on the matter, but I think there are a couple factors that will probably influence the game. Even with the best ice you can have on an outdoor rink, it’s still not as consistent as playing indoors. I know we’ve talked about sight lines being different for the goalies, and I’d imagine the lights will be a bit of an adjustment for everyone on the ice. And obviously the weather will play a part in the game, especially if it’s windy or starts snowing. I don’t know that your strategy changes all that much for an outdoor game, but you just have to be aware of the different variables that come with it.
Extra Points: One of the most highly anticipated traditions of outdoor hockey — the stocking cap over the goalie helmet – any special “teaser” about what we may expect to see on Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox?
Brian: I think Adam is playing that one a little close to the vest. I don’t think he did anything special last year, but he’s one of our more colorful players – personality wise – so you never know what to expect with him. I’d like to see him come out in a Jacques Plante-style mask from the old days, but I’m pretty sure that’s not acceptable equipment in this day and age.