Friday, January 30, 2015

Showdown in the Shoe

Why an Ohio State vs. Michigan matchup in the horseshoe needs to happen

By Miles McQuinn

On Oct. 6, 2001, on a beautiful fall night in East Lansing, Mich., Michigan State and Michigan faced-off in what was easily dubbed the "Cold War." The prized outdoor game set a new outdoor hockey attendance record, as more than 74,000 people watched two of the nation's top five teams battle to a 3-3 tie in Spartan Stadium.

A little over nine years later, Michigan put on their own show in what was known as "The Big Chill at the Big House." The score was not nearly as even as the Wolverines dominated from start to finish, winning 5-0 in front of more than 104,000 fans.

Ohio State wanted to get in on the action. But instead of playing rival Michigan at Ohio Stadium, they took the contest with the Maize and Blue two hours north to Cleveland. "The Frozen Diamond Faceoff" was held at Progressive Field, home of Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians, in mid-January of 2012. The then No. 15 Wolverines pummeled the then No. 2 Buckeyes 4-1 with 25,864 on hand on the shores of Lake Erie.

Let this be my first call for and outdoor game to take place at Ohio Stadium, home of the national champion Buckeye football team. If this were to take place, here is what needs to happen, and here's how I think this will play out (Bear with me fine readers).

First, an Ohio State/Michigan contest must be paired with the NHL Winter Classic.

Hockey has made significant strides in central Ohio, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are the main cause of it. A playoff appearance last season, an NHL All-Star Weekend to boast this season and a potential that is through the roof but has been delayed due to the team's injury rate throughout the 2014-15 campaign.

Following the All-Star Game on Sunday, Fox Sports Ohio's Jeff Rimer asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman the possibility of a Winter Classic at the Shoe. In short, Bettman explained, that because Columbus just received a major event, it would be a few years before the city would get another one.

But imagine this.

Ohio State takes on Michigan on New Year's Eve on a Saturday afternoon on Dec. 31, 2016, followed by the Blue Jackets facing-off against the Detroit Red Wings the very next day.

It's a scene too beautiful to imagine.

As an Ohio State student, I have enjoyed taking in OSU football Saturday's during the fall for the past two years. I took in my first Michigan game last November. I can assure you that tailgaters would come out in full force to cheer on the Scarlet and Gray in a checkers match against Michigan.

Now the Buckeye hockey team hasn't beaten the Wolverines in regulation since November of 2011, so that's an issue head coach Steve Rohlik and his team will need to resolve if they want to please those present at the stadium. 

On top of that, a weekend series won't be possible until 2021-22, in which case the games will come on Friday and Saturday.

Given the choice of when the game would take place, I would prefer to see it in 2016-17 for the fact that the novelty of the outdoor game hasn't completely worn off yet. 

With the NHL's Coors Light Stadium Series games happening each year, the spectacle of watching hockey outdoors isn't as "fresh" as it was during the original Winter Classic game in Buffalo seven years ago.

Realistically, the latter situation of 2021-22 is more likely to happen. Who knows, by then the Jackets might be a legitimate contender year in and year out, and the recruits Rohlik brings in could put Buckeye hockey on the map.

Heck, who's to say if, or when, Ohio State will reach No. 2 (or near that) in the rankings anytime soon. The hyped "national implication" matchup opportunity might've flown out of the window three years ago.

No matter what happens, it would be sheer lunacy to not see Ohio State and Michigan play on the banks of the Olentangy River at some point in the future -- the timing just has to be right.

No comments:

Post a Comment