- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Outdoor hockey is coming to Toledo.

The Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League will play twice over the holidays at the downtown ballpark that’s the summer time home for baseball’s Mud Hens.

It will be the first outdoor hockey games for the league.

The first game is Saturday night against the Kalamazoo Wings and the Walleye will play another outdoor contest against the Fort Wayne Komets on Jan. 3.

In between, there will be open skates for the community, youth hockey games and a game involving Bowling Green State University.

Toledo Walleye president Joe Napoli said that even though the National Hockey League has been playing its Winter Classic outside since 2008 and college teams and minor leagues have gone outdoors, the event will still be unique for the city and the area.

“We’ve seen that phenomenon happen across the country. It might seem, if you’re on the outside looking in, that there are a lot of these types of events, but it’s what’s important to the local and regional community,” he told The Blade (http://bit.ly/13rTV4J).

The Walleye, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, and Toledo-based hospital chain ProMedica are paying for the event, putting up about $750,000.

“Major sporting events like outdoor games, All-Star games, and home run derbies, because your community typically doesn’t host events of that magnitude very often, they are fresh for your community,” Napoli said.

The players are excited.

“Just being able to watch it be built and to see all the promotions that are going up, it’s going to be a special experience,” Walleye forward Tyler Barnes said.

ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said he thinks outdoors hockey games still create a buzz.

“I could change my opinion in the future,” he said. “But we have so many mid-sized markets who have an interest in this, who have the qualities and the support to do something like this.

“If it’s every year or if there are multiple events, it could tire. But we’re nowhere near the point of saturation.”

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Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/

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