Hockey to make debut at Progressive Field

Hockey to make debut at Progressive Field

CLEVELAND -- The exact forecast for Jan. 15 at Progressive Field is, sadly, unavailable. Extended forecasts are only so extended, after all.

But if we know anything about Northeast Ohio, we know bone-chilling cold and a fresh heap of snow are a reasonably safe bet to be a part of the picture. And it is in the midst of the winter weather that the young men who make up the Ohio State and Michigan hockey teams will renew their rivalry on the ice at a place ordinarily reserved for the boys of summer and fields of green.

It'll be old-school ice hockey in a new setting. And those due to take part are looking forward to what the Indians are calling the Frozen Diamond Faceoff.

"There's nothing like it," Buckeyes coach Mark Osiecki said. "Nothing like it. It brings you back to the roots of the game."

Tickets for this particular game will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. ET and will be available on indians.com, with general admission tickets beginning as low as $5. For the first time, area hockey fans will have a chance to experience a growing trend in the sport.

An outdoor hockey game has become an annual New Year's Day treat for NHL fans, and events such as the Cold War in East Lansing, Mich., the Big Chill at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Frozen Tundra Classic at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc., have brought the collegiate game out into the cold. The Frozen Diamond Faceoff will not only be the first hockey game in the history of Progressive Field but also the first outdoor college game in the state of Ohio.

"I've been a big fan of these outdoor games," Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

Berenson's team has been a part of three previous outdoor games, the first of which was the aforementioned Cold War against Michigan State on Oct. 6, 2001.

"We were worried about things like the ice and boards and lighting and so on," Berenson recalled, "but everything turned out to be terrific."

The conditions, of course, are out of the coaches' control, and it can certainly be an adjustment for the players, most or all of whom grew up playing in temperature-controlled arenas and not on frozen ponds.

"Two things we talk about are effort and compete level," Osiecki said. "That won't change. The players are in charge and ultimate control of that. The only thing you do talk about is taking care of the puck."

This is not an exhibition for entertainment purposes. This is an important game between two Central Collegiate Hockey Association foes, one of whom -- Michigan -- is in the top five in the national rankings.

"This is a serious game," Berenson said. "I know it has the novelty and the backdrop of a fun event. But from a player's standpoint, they'll be playing hard and playing to win."

For the Indians, this is yet another opportunity to make full use of the facility. Last year, the club debuted Snow Days, its winter wonderland of snow tubing, ice skating and family fun. Snow Days will be back this winter, with a 33-day schedule that begins the day after Thanksgiving.

The Frozen Diamond Faceoff adds a new element to the winter events, and it will be a showcase for the ballpark and the programs alike.

"I think the Indians doing this is tremendous for our athletic program," Osiecki said. "And an opponent like Michigan adds to the flavor of it. I'm sure Red would say the same thing. We're in the business of trying to promote hockey. We're trying to push that envelope. These outdoor games are an avenue for us to push that envelope and grow college hockey. You put two teams like this on a stage like that, and it's good for college hockey."

No matter the forecast.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.