How do you combine a football-tradition school with a successful hockey program?
Answer: Play a hockey game inside the football stadium.
That is what the University of Michigan did on Saturday, Dec. 11. The anticipation of the game felt almost like a football game. All week, there were special events leading up to the Big Chill at the Big House.
My family, friends and I tailgated in our usual football spot, one block from Michigan Stadium. We could hear the announcements inside the stadium prior to the game. While colder than most football games, the hockey crowd was similar to the football crowds.
There were tents, alcohol, tailgating games and the excitement of the game. When we went into the stadium, there were a lot of people. The only difference between football and hockey were the lines entering the sections. They did not wrap around the stadium. Everyone seemed to move quicker in order to get in to their seats.
The Big Chill began like a football game. The band marched in on the football field, the Drum Major did his traditional backbend without his hat and touched his head on the ice. The hockey team even marched in under the banner.
Michigan did an excellent job of hosting this huge event. They combined football traditions with hockey traditions. They added some fun new additions such as the score count on the big screen and the fireworks after each goal.
I went to both the Cold War and the Big Chill. Both were special in their own right. The Cold War was exciting because it was the first time it had been done. The Big Chill was just a little bit better and more exciting.
The Big Chill had the advantage of having some experience and a great athletic director in charge. All week, the Guiness Book of World Records people were on campus, observing. Without an official count, this event would not have been considered the largest event.
A total of 113,411 fans entered Michigan Stadium to watch the Michigan hockey team crush Michigan State 5-0. These fans endured the cold, wind and a little snow to watch this epic event.
Before the game, Denard Robinson was honored as the Big Ten Most Valuable Player. Coach Rich Rodriguez handed him the Silver Football. The football team sat about 15 rows in front of us in our section.
Michigan counted down the Top 10 best moments in Michigan hockey history as voted on by the fans. No. 1 went to Brendan Morrison and the 1996 National Championship team. Morrison scored the goal in overtime to win the National Championship.
Jon Merrill and Carl Hagelin each scored two goals for the Wolverines. David Wohlberg knocked in another one. Shawn Hunwick, who was pulled in to the starting role after an injury during warmups, stopped all 34 shots he faced.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the game. The game lived up to the hype. I heard one fan as he walked out say, "Well, it was a win, but not that exciting." How much more exciting did you want? 5-0 against your in-state rival in front of a record crowd inside the Big House.
Nothing can beat the Big Chill. David Brandon was handed a plaque from Guiness for having the largest crowd at a hockey game. I don't think he will have to relinquish that title any time soon.
Thank you University of Michigan for putting on such an amazing event. The event was well-organized, exciting and incorporated football and hockey traditions.
The Michigan hockey team did something the football team couldn't this year...beat Michigan State inside Michigan Stadium. It was a great way to end the 2010 calendar year and close out the last event in 2010 inside the stadium.
The Big Chill was truly epic.