A Great Day for Hockey Greater for Notre Dame
by Caleb Saunders/CHN Reporter
CHICAGO Outdoor games have become relatively more common over the years, but with only a handful at most within a season, they're still a special thing. And for most of the teams involved Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago, it was the first time.
Over 52 thousand (52,051) gathered to watch the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears. The first game featured Notre Dame and Miami, both playing outside for the first time in either program's history.
The later game was Minnesota and Wisconsin. And adding to the significance, both were league games for the participants.
Miami and Notre Dame also both boast several players from the Chicago area, with Notre Dame's campus the closest to Chicago of the four. For those players it was extra special.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Miami sophomore forward Cody Murphy. “Being from Chicago and being able to play in front of my family was something I’ll always remember. I’m very, very fortunate to have had this opportunity.”
Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson echoed similar sentiments on getting a chance to play at Soldier Field.
“We have so many kids from Chicago and so many alumni that it’s like a second home for us,” said Jackson.
When asked if he would be willing to participate in an outdoor game again, Jackson joked, “as long as the weather is like today.”
That's always the trick, of course, although half the fun is battling through the elements — so long as it's cold enough elements to play. Last week, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota had issues when the weather was too warm and wet, and the game had to be delayed.
Said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, “We’re honored to be here at a historic place like Soldier Field. To be playing in a situation like this, in an environment like this against a great team like Notre Dame, just tells you our program is continually trying to be one of the top programs in the country. Typically these games are not for the mid-major schools of the U.S.”
Much of the talk leading up to the game and during the game itself was the condition of the ice and its effect on the final outcome. When playing outdoors, ice condition is a major concern for coaches, players and fans. However, Jackson believes it didn’t influence the final result.
“I don’t think it had a huge impact on the game as much as maybe the style of play,” said Jackson.
Through all the glamour involved in playing on a stage like Soldier Field, some players knew it was still a very important game.
“It’s still just another conference game worth three points that we had to have,” said Notre Dame junior forward Jeff Costello.
Costello scored the eventual game winner in the third period of Notre Dame’s 2-1 victory against conference foe Miami.
Said Costello, “The atmosphere was awesome but we were more pumped about getting the win for our conference standings than anything else.”
That was particularly true because Miami won the series opener on Friday.
The game coincided the USA Hockey's "Hockey Day in America," and there were various events taking place across the country, including a learn to skate program in New York's Central Park.
During the post-game press conference Jackson, opened with his summary of the day.
Said Jackson, “In memory of Bob Johnson, it was a good day for hockey.”