My Weekend Without Wings: Part Two

Turns out that I didn’t miss the Red Wings’ game in New Jersey Saturday night after all, so my weekend wasn’t quite as Wing-less as expected. After missing Friday night’s win over the Canadiens, I’d expected Saturday’s Big Chill at the Big House to be all of my hockey for the day.

One could probably argue there wasn’t much hockey being played in Ann Arbor, as only one team showed up for that one.

Disclaimer here: I went to MSU but have about as little school spirit as anyone could. I like to see my school win but when they lose I don’t care. I worked for the university for too long to give them any effort cheering for them. I pay even less attention to college hockey on a daily basis than I do to the AHL. I’d like to think that gives me a neutral perspective of the game and the event.

On the game side of things, it was all Wolverines. I complained last night that the Griffins looked sloppy but compared to the Spartans they may have been an All-Star team. And Michigan made them pay. Repeatedly.

I didn’t like a couple of the penalties and I think the called-back MSU goal is the reason there need to be allowances for a goal to be scored when the net is off its pegs. The position of the goalposts had absolutely nothing to do with the trajectory of that puck or anyone’s ability to stop it.

Not that one goal would have made a difference, though.

As far as the event goes, I’m a little torn. There’s always this insane “cool” factor with the outdoor games that comes with seeing a sheet of ice where it shouldn’t (or should, depending on your view of things) be. You walk through the tunnel into the bowl of the stadium and see the ice and it’s fantastic.

That said, I’ve been trying to compare the Big Chill to my previous outdoor hockey experiences and it just comes up lacking.

The 2001 Cold War had a lot of the same negatives as the Big Chill. There are reasons I don’t go to college football games. Too many people in too little space. Crazy college traditions that seem ridiculous to me. But at least the Cold War was a good hockey game.

The 1999 Winter Classic in Chicago is still the gold standard for me. The atmosphere was amazing. The game was pretty good, with the Blackhawks getting their early lead and Detroit rallying back to win.

The Big Chill? The atmosphere wasn’t quite there and the game was awful. If I’d had a rooting interest it might have helped, I’m sure Michigan fans would say it was great but I’d ask if that was the game or the outcome (the same way a ‘Hawks fan might not think the Winter Classic was as good of a game). It was unique but at the same time not because it felt so much like being at a football game.

Maybe that’s a sign that outdoor hockey events are getting played out or that they’re better-suited for baseball stadia. I don’t know.

Speaking of outdoor games in general, there’s something I noticed about hosting one of these events that I think is worth mentioning.

I don’t have a perfect memory but in 2001 it felt a lot like even though MSU was hosting the Cold War, it was a joint effort between them and U of M. The first Winter Classic was the same way, with promotional material playing up both teams. Since then, however, it seems like all of the focus is on the host team.

While the 2008 Winter Classic seemed like it could have been a neutral site game, the 2009 edition was clearly a Chicago home game with Detroit just a part of the show. The Big Chill was all about celebrating U of M in the same manner. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I just think it’s interesting to see the change from the inaugural event.

In the end, I had a great time but it didn’t live up to expectations. I kind of feel bad saying that ’cause I’d do it again (maybe wouldn’t drag the wife along) but things don’t have to be perfect.

Author: Clark Rasmussen

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.