It's Official: Neb-Omaha, UND Outdoor Hockey Set For 2013OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Organizers announced a 2013 hockey doubleheader at the home of the College World Series on Tuesday, including a headliner between traditional power North Dakota and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
By: Eric Olson, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Organizers announced a 2013 hockey doubleheader at the home of the College World Series on Tuesday, including a headliner between traditional power North Dakota and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
UNO and UND will play Feb. 9, with the second and third periods under the lights at TD Ameritrade Park, after a junior game between the Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League.
The Omaha Sports Commission announced the "Battles on Ice" in 40-degree weather on the concourse of the 24,000-seat ballpark in downtown Omaha.
"The conditions hopefully will be the same — sunny," UNO coach Dean Blais said with the snow-covered baseball field behind him. "I think the teams are going to have to wear sunglasses. The skates get dull a little bit faster, but it's extremely fun. Most of the players from up north played their youth hockey on the outdoor rinks, and here we're going to bring it to Omaha."
Commission President Harold Cliff said the rented ice-making equipment for the hockey games will be moved across the street from the CenturyLink Center, where it will be used for the practice rink for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January. Tickets starting at $30 are good for both games and go on sale in October.
North Dakota has been interested in playing an outdoor game for years and welcomed the invitation from the Mavericks, UND athletic director Brian Faison said. Previously UND had talks with Minnesota about playing at Target Field in Minneapolis but couldn't come to terms.
Adding intrigue to the matchup with UNO is that Blais won two national championships at North Dakota and was either an assistant or head coach at the school for 19 years. He is in his third season at UNO.
"Dean's always a great storyline in relationship to North Dakota," Faison said. "He'll always be in our hearts, but we want to beat him."
Blais said it was important to find a high-profile opponent for an event of this magnitude.
"It's like Nebraska in football," he said. "Everyone knows who the Fighting Sioux are."
Outdoor hockey's popularity has surged since 2001, when some 75,000 fans attended the Michigan-Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. The NHL has gained exposure from the annual outdoor Winter Classic games that began in 2008.
A college hockey game in 2010 between Michigan and Michigan State at Michigan Stadium set a Guinness World Record for most fans at a hockey game with 104,173.
Blais said he expects a sellout shortly after tickets go on sale.
"I think it's a once — not in a lifetime — but it won't be a regular thing," he said. "We'll do this (in 2013), and it might not happen again for quite a while."