CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohio State and Michigan plan to drop the puck outdoors next season.
Bitter rivals in football _ and just about anything else for that matter _ the schools are finalizing details to play each other in hockey at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press that the Buckeyes and Wolverines will skate in January at the 43,000-seat ballpark.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations were ongoing and any announcement on the first major outdoor hockey game in Ohio is still days away.
Ohio State and Michigan are members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, and the matchup would be a home game for the Buckeyes.
Michigan has already played wildly successful outdoor games, hosting rival Michigan State last December in “The Big Chill at the Big House,” which drew more than 100,000 fans to the Wolverines’ colossal football stadium. In 2001, the Spartans hosted Michigan in a hockey game at their football stadium.
An outdoor hockey game would be the latest attempt by the Indians to generate revenue with their downtown ballpark. Last winter, the Indians hosted “Snow Days” at Progressive Field, turning the 17-year-old stadium into a winter wonderland with a tubing hill and skating track.
Last week, the Indians hosted just the second musical concert in the ballpark’s history. Country star Brad Paisley and other acts drew more than 25,000 fans for the first show at Progressive Field since 1995, when Jimmy Buffett played in what was then known as Jacobs Field.
Outdoor hockey has become very popular in recent years, transporting the sport back to its purest fresh-air roots when kids learned the game on frozen ponds. The NHL’s Winter Classic, played last season in the rain in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, has given the league a showcase event to draw fans from outside its hardcore base.
Previous Winter Classics have been held outdoors in Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.