On February 18th, 2023, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines played in the Faceoff on the Lake, the first-ever outdoor hockey game at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Pretty cool use for a fully outdoor stadium sitting on the banks of a lake in a Midwest city, huh?
More than 45,000 people showed up to watch the historic game, a huge number for an outdoor college hockey game, but certainly nothing that should come as a surprise for anyone familiar with this hockey-obsessed region that has a long history of supporting the game.
It doesn't hurt either that we're talking about Ohio State and Michigan here, both of whom are top-ten hockey teams this season and enjoy quite a healthy rivalry in these parts.
It ended up being the perfect weather for hockey, too - a crisp 45 degrees while the sun was still out for the 3 p.m. start that only continued to drop as the game continued. For the die-hard fans in attendance, there's just no better feeling. This was pure hockey.
Once the sun did eventually go down, those of us in the stands were pulling down our hats just a bit more, putting on gloves, and maybe reaching for the hand warmers. But nobody cared all too much - we were all too enamored with the communal spirit of the people in the stands and the hockey game taking place on the same field where the Browns disappoint us each and every year. Still, it was a good day to wear as many layers as possible.
Nothing - not even multiple game delays to fix the ice - would be enough to damped anyone's spirits. It should be noted that some of the stadium did run out of beer by the second period, but if that's not going to start a riot, especially among freezing hockey fans, nothing will.
As for the game, fans were treated to a great one, which saw Ohio State top Michigan 4-2. For many in attendance, it didn't matter how cold it was, just so long as the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines.
With such a great turnout and reception, one hopes this is the start of an annual tradition in downtown Cleveland (the added momentum of the AHL's Cleveland Monsters playing at FirstEnergy should help, too). It's kind of nuts it never happened sooner, but let's just hope it's here to stay.