AHL Outdoor Classic
The Outdoor Classic is a series of games played outdoors in the American Hockey League. Paralleling the National Hockey League's Winter Classic and Heritage Classic, the Outdoor Classic pits two regional rivals in a game in an outdoor stadium; with the AHL being based mainly in minor league cities, the stadiums are usually smaller than the ones the Winter Classic uses. To date, all of the Outdoor Classics have featured two teams from neighboring or nearby cities (or, at the very least, teams with connections to nearby cities); the first two games were held on the third weekend of February (coinciding with Hockey Weekend Across America), while later versions have shared ice rinks with the NHL Winter Classic and thus have been scheduled for early January.
The Mirabito Outdoor Classic was the first ever outdoor hockey game in the 74 year history of the American Hockey League (AHL) as well as the first minor league outdoor game. The game was put on by the Syracuse Crunch and played at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York. The game took place on Saturday February 20, 2010 when the Syracuse Crunch beat the Binghamton Senators (Binghamton, NY) 2–1. The game set an AHL attendance record with 21,508 people making history. The title sponsor of the game was Mirabito Energy Products with other prime sponsors: Time Warner Cable, Toyota, Labatt Blue, Coca-Cola, Dunkin Donuts, Wynit, Syracuse Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Renaissance Syracuse Hotel.
A 2011 edition of the Outdoor Classic, known as the Whale Bowl, was held between the Providence Bruins and the recently rechristened Connecticut Whale on February 19, 2011 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The game was held one day before the NHL's 2011 Heritage Classic and Hockey Day in America celebrations, and took place as part of USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend Across America promotions. The Whale Bowl was a highlight of a multiple-day "Whalers Hockey Fest" organized by the Whale in honor of the former Hartford Whalers; prior to the game, two other hockey games were held on the outdoor surface, including a college hockey game between the Army Black Knights and American International College (Army won 4–1), as well as an alumni game between alumni of the Boston Bruins and Hartford Whalers (which ended in a 4–4 tie) which drew 10,000 fans. 21,600 tickets were sold for the feature event, but only 15,234 fans actually showed up at the stadium to see the game due to severe weather. The Providence Bruins defeated the Connecticut Whale in a shootout, 5–4.
The AHL scheduled two outdoor games for 2012, one in the United States and another in Canada (a first for the series), both of which were referred to as the "Outdoor Classic."
The first of the two was scheduled for January 6, 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Adirondack Phantoms (who formerly played in Philadelphia and are the farm team to the Philadelphia Flyers), faced the Hershey Bears (themselves a former Flyers farm club). The Phantoms scored with 20 seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime. Shane Harper scored 58 seconds into overtime giving the Phantoms a 4–3 victory. The game was being held in conjunction with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, which was held at the same venue four days prior. The game set an AHL attendance record with 45,653 fans attending, it was more than double the previous record of 21,673.
Another outdoor game was held at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ontario, which featured a match-up between the Toronto Marlies and the Hamilton Bulldogs, on January 21, 2012. A crowd of 20,565 spectators watched the Marlies beat the Bulldogs, 7–2. Included in the festivities were two college hockey games hosted by the Brock Badgers: a men's test against the Waterloo Warriors and a women's contest against the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks. The event was known as the "Steeltown Showdown" in reference to Hamilton's steel mills.
On March 24, the AHL and the Hershey Bears announced via Twitter that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears were to play the 2013 Outdoor Classic on January 20, 2013. The game was be played at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hershey took the lead in the second period but the Penguins scored a goal in the third to send the game to overtime. Paul Thompson would score in overtime, winning the game 2–1 for the Penguins. The game was played before a crowd of 17,311 spectators.
As a result of the 2012–13 NHL lockout, a second planned outdoor game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies to be held in Detroit's Comerica Park December 30 was moved indoors to Van Andel Arena and back a day as the second game of a two-game series between the two teams on consecutive nights. Because of ticketing issues, the rescheduled game was not part of Griffins season tickets and had special requirements to redeem as a home game for season ticket holders.
The 2013-14 AHL Winter Classic, also known as Frozen Frontier, will be hosted by the Rochester Americans, who will face the Lake Erie Monsters at Frontier Field on December 13, 2013. The game will be the first in a ten day festival that will include college hockey games hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology men's and women's teams, high school hockey contests, and a matchup between Americans alumni and the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team. The Americans announced their participation on March 21, 2013. Each team will wear throwback uniforms for the event, with the Monsters donning a jersey worn by their predecessors, the Cleveland Barons.
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- "Crunch to host AHL's first outdoor game". American Hockey League. February 23, 2010. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- "The American Hockey League | Whale to host outdoor game Feb 19". TheAHL.com. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- Photo by Richard Orr. "American International College experiences outdoor hockey at Rentschler Field". masslive.com. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- "Wind Chills Whale Bowl Attendance – Hartford Courant". Courant.com. February 19, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
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- NHL.com. "Flyers' AHL team to play outdoors vs. Hershey". Retrieved September 26, 2011.
- "Record crowd watches AHL outdoor game". Globe and Mail (Canada). January 6, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- "It’s a classic: Bulldogs vs. Marlies at Ivor Wynne". TheSpec. August 25, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- "Bears, Penguins to head outside". Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - Hershey Bears game summary". January 20, 2013.
- The 2012 SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival™ Refund Policy. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
- Comerica Park game cancelled. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- AHL Rochester Americans to host outdoor game. Associated Press. Retrieved March 21, 2013.