Spartan Hockey Ties Wolverines In Front Of Record Crowd
Oct 6, 2001
Cold War Post Game Audio
By LARRY LAGE
EAST LANSING, Mich. - What was once considered a joke became a record-breaking success Saturday night.
Michigan State tied Michigan 3-3 in overtime at Spartan Stadium before 74,554 people, smashing a hockey attendance record that stood for 41 years.
When Michigan State's Jim Slater scored with 47 seconds left to force overtime, fans bundled up in winter coats, hats and gloves jumped out of their seats and fire shot out of black boxes around the portable rink.
Mike Cammalleri's second goal with 8:48 remaining had given Michigan a 3-2 lead.
The unique event had the feel of a heavyweight boxing bout.
Players from both teams walked through a smoke-filled tunnel onto carpet-covered paths to the portable ice rink, which was set up between the 20-yard lines.
Hall of Famer Gordie Howe dropped the puck in a ceremonial faceoff. Moments later, hundreds of cameras flashed to capture the moment of the official faceoff as the sun dipped out of sight.
"It's beautiful to be a part of this," Howe said. "Somebody had a great deal of imagination to come up with this idea."
Before the game, it looked like a typical football Saturday at Michigan State.
Tailgaters were out in full force - throwing footballs, eating hamburgers, drinking beer and singing fight songs.
Old rivals Michigan State and Michigan were set to play at Spartan Stadium, in a hockey game instead of a football game.
Hockey in a football stadium?
The record crowd braved chilly temperatures hovering just above freezing
with wind gusts reaching nearly 30 mph.
The world record that was broken was set on March 5, 1957, when 55,000 watched the Soviet Union play Sweden in a World Championship gold medal game at Lenin Stadium in Moscow.
The largest crowd in North America to watch a hockey game was 28,183 when the Philadelphia Flyers played the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 1996 NHL playoff game at Tropicana Field.
Many snickered when Michigan State said it was exploring the idea last spring. Some thought the university would be lucky if 30,000 people showed up.
"Ron laughed and said, 'When you're the head coach, you put it together, and I'll come watch,"' McAuliffe said Saturday, a couple of hours before the 7 p.m. EDT start.
"Then I brought up the idea again last winter and Ron laughed again, but (associate athletic director) Mark Hollis said, 'That's a heck of an idea.' Hollis looked into it and helped to make it happen.
"And here we are."
The game, which was the season opener for both teams, will count in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings. Both teams are ranked among the top five in the nation.
Michigan State's Adam Hall scored the game's first goal 3:25 after the faceoff.
"It was amazing," Hall said. "I couldn't feel my body because of all the adrenaline. The crowd was going crazy. It was one of the best feelings I've ever had."
Michigan's Jason Ryznar tied it 1-1 late in the first. Cammalleri's first goal gave the Wolverines a 2-1 lead early in the second.
Michigan State's Keith Duncan scored on a two-man advantage to tie it 2-2 at 5:43 of the third.
Neither team appeared to have any problems with the ice surface.
"The ice was extremely fast," Hall said. "The puck was gliding pretty smooth too. But the wind was a factor. When you were skating, you could really feel the gusts."
Michigan State spent about $600,000 to put on the event, which included a performance from country singer Shannon Brown during the first intermission and a laser-light show during the second. When Michigan State officials found out movie star Mike Myers bought tickets on his own, they showered him with Spartans garb.
Michigan State began to install the portable ice rink a week ago. Metal pipes filled with glycol, a freezing agent, kept the ice frozen above aluminum panels, which were placed above layers of plywood.
Officials from Wisconsin and the Detroit Red Wings attended the game because they would like to stage a similar event. Wisconsin would have a chance to break the attendance record at Camp Randall Stadium, which has a capacity of 76,129. The Red Wings may look into playing in downtown Detroit at Ford Field, which is expected to be completed next year.
Michigan State sold all of its non-student tickets in nine business days this summer for $10 and $18. Scalpers outside of the stadium were able to get as much as $50 for tickets.
Coleen Gregory of Sterling Heights, Mich., enjoyed the view from the top row of Spartan Stadium's upper deck.
"These seats are great, I think you can see better way up here," Gregory said. "I think the atmosphere is better than a football game because this is an event."
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