My Day With 113,410 of my Closest Friends

Saturday afternoon was unlike any other in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sure they are used to having over 100,000 fans jammed into popular tailgating spots such as Pioneer High School, U of M Golf Course, and parking lots in the athletic complex. This was unlike any other because instead of seeing football jerseys and footballs being thrown around, you saw makeshift hockey games with garbage cans as goals. You also saw hockey jerseys and other cold weather apparel being worn. At The Big Chill hockey game at Michigan Stadium, it was truly a once in a lifetime event.

View from my seat as the third period began at The Big Chill

When I attended college at Ferris State University, I attended sporting events in a media capacity during my four years. I never had the opportunity like my friends who went to schools such as Michigan, Michigan State, and others and enjoy the complete tailgate experience. This was my first time arriving at the venue several hours prior to kickoff or the puck dropping to hang out, chat, and enjoy a beverage of choice. When I attended games, I would usually show up 30 minutes prior to the game starting, head straight to the press box and kept my nose in front of media guides, a laptop computer, or various pregame statistical information before the game starting. It was something that I really enjoyed doing, I hope to do the tailgate thing before a Michigan State football game next fall.

I tailgated at Pioneer High School, across the street from Michigan Stadium. There was an interactive Fan Fest for the fans as well. They had several activities for both children and adults. They had activities such as a shooting net, concerts, contests, and mini hockey games going on. The presenting sponsor of the game, Arby’s, was also giving out free roast beef sandwiches to fans.

Inside the stadium, there was a B-2 Stealth flyover after the national anthem. I had never seen one in person, and they are truly amazing to see. You won’t know it flew over you unless you looked up and seen it. They were that quiet. One of the first things that I noticed about the ice was that it looked bigger than what I seen in Madison, Wisconsin for the Camp Randall Classic. At most other non-traditional hockey games, they used the regular NHL sized rink. But for The Big Chill, they used the wider Olympic sized rink to make the size of the rink look larger on the football field. Good decision by the planners because it didn’t seem as small and allowed the fans to feel a few feet closer to the action. Another positive for the game was putting fireworks around the perimeter of the rink that was set to go off before the game, after Michigan goals and during the post-game fireworks display.

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of post-game fireworks. It’s similar to things like a parade, the Detroit Auto Show, and Dick Clark’s New Years Eve: Once you’ve seen it once or twice, you’ve seen enough of it. But never before at Michigan Stadium had there been fireworks placed and set off atop of the east and west sides of the stadium where the press box and club seating is located. I loved the use of various colors, patterns and how it was set to accompanying music.

I don’t know if I will attend another outdoor hockey game of this magnitude again. But I do know, organizers of future games will have a difficult time matching the experience I enjoyed Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

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