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Outdoor Hockey Returns To ‘U’ After 80 Years

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The cold didn’t stop thousands of hockey fans from filling TCF Bank Stadium for the Hockey City Classic.

Friday afternoon’s match-up marks the first time that hockey has been played outside at the University of Minnesota in more than 80 years.

The Gopher women took on the Mavericks of Minnesota State University – Mankato in the early evening, while the Gopher men will face off against Ohio State University at 8 p.m.

Related: Minnesota Tops Ohio St. 1-0 In Hockey City Classic

A clean sheet of ice is an inviting stage for any hockey player. It’s even more appealing when the arena is The Bank.

“I’ve been waiting for the game since I saw it on the schedule,” said Gopher hockey fan Joe Lindeberg.

Blue lines now replace yard lines for the Hockey City Classic. Drew Russell, vice president of Intersport, says the transformation from football field to hockey rink took weeks of preparation and months of planning.

“It’s a big undertaking, but … it’s all going to be worth it when we drop the puck,” Russell said.

But organizers aren’t the only ones who’ve done their fair share of planning. Fans have also been preparing for weeks.

Lindeberg and dozens of his friends were out tailgating as soon as the parking lots opened. Hockey doesn’t normally see the tailgate crowd, especially in the dead of winter. But hockey fans brought along extra supplies in addition to the grills, burgers and brats.

“We had to make sure we had the hand warmers,” said fan Jeff Norton.

Where single-digit temperatures would keep some sports fans away, hockey fans couldn’t wait to see a game as it’s meant to be played.

“When you’re a hockey fan in Minnesota, you start out playing outdoors,” Lindeberg said. “So, it really brings you back to the days when you first started out.”

Intrasport, the company that organized the Hockey City Classic, says it hopes to host more outdoor games on the U of M campus in the future.

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