Michigan-Michigan State Hockey: Nearly 110,000 Expected at The Big Chill

Joel GreerCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2010

Wolverines gather after a practice session on the Big House ice (photo: Michigan Athletic Department).
Wolverines gather after a practice session on the Big House ice (photo: Michigan Athletic Department).

From the corner of Stadium and Main, the scene will be reminiscent of any late fall Saturday.  Fans will be patiently waiting at gate four, anticipating their trek into the huge stadium affectionately known as the Big House.

Instead of football gear, these fans will be dressed in woolen hats and hockey jerseys. When the first puck drops Saturday at 3pm, they will be part of the largest crowd ever to attend a hockey game anywhere in the world...

Nearly 110,000 fans will watch Michigan and Michigan State compete in the Big Chill at the Big House, shattering the mark of 77,803 set last summer at the IIAF world championships in Germany.

While the name of this game may be linked the 1983 cult classic, “The Big Chill,” the original idea of these outdoor hockey spectacles originated with the 1999 film “Mystery Alaska” starring Burt Reynolds and Russell Crowe.

In “Mystery Alaska” a small village bonded together when it was learned that the NHL New York Rangers would face the locals in an exhibition match.   

“The Big Chill” which was written by Michigan’s Lawrence Kasdan and Barbara Benedek, featured Kevin Kline, William Hurt and Glenn Close.

While the sport’s roots originated on small outdoor rinks, the first of the mega-outdoor extravaganzas was played at Spartan Stadium back in 2001. Michigan and Michigan State skated to a 3-3 tie in the “Cold War” before a then-record crowd of 74,544.

It was just a matter of time before Michigan returned the favor. The Wolverines and Spartans have battled fiercely over the years, with Michigan winning its last CCHA crown in 2008 and Michigan State in 2001. The Wolverines have nine NCAA titles while Michigan State has three.

Interest in the “Big Chill” is huge even outside of Ann Arbor. Like football, alumni clubs have organized game-watch parties at sports bars across the country. 

The weather channel predicts a game time temperature of 35 degrees with cloudy skies, and an increasing chance for light snow or possibly rain as evening approaches. 

Surprisingly, a few tickets still remain.  Call 866-296-6849 for further details.