By Alex O’Connor
On Saturday, the Syracuse Crunch played the Utica Comets in the Carrier Dome on the campus of Syracuse University. The game was known as the “Frozen Dome Classic” and was the first of its kind in the American Hockey League. The Carrier Dome is not a hockey facility and was an event that could expand the horizons for the AHL. With the recent successes of outdoor games in the NHL, the AHL tried something just slightly different. The Syracuse Crunch currently play at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena in downtown Syracuse, where the game was originally supposed to be held. This new event created positive media buzz for local and national reporters, and was generally raved as a solid and successful debut event.
As the event reached national attention, NHL.com has taken notice. Reporter Kinsey Janke noted that there have been several games outdoors in non-hockey facilities, but none that would be played indoors at a non-hockey facility. Crunch owner Howard Dolgon noted that “The chance to be the first hockey game in the Dome and strive to break not only the AHL record but the U.S. professional indoor record, that really drove us to move ahead with this.” The Carrier Dome has the capacity to exceed 49,000 occupants and would easily break the previous record of outdoor and non traditional games at a mark of 45,653 set by a game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. The final attendance mark for this game was 30,715. The implications of this number is that the Crunch-Comets game broke the indoor record for most fans at a professional hockey game. This mark broke the record set by the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 1996. However, this did not break the attendance mark for most fans at the Carrier Dome, which occurred last February when Duke played Syracuse in Men’s Basketball.
The main benefit from the event was to enhance the name of the Syracuse Crunch. Due to the increased media reflection with NHL.com and NBCSports.com, Dolgon has accomplished his mission of pioneering a new venue for an indoor hockey event. In addition, the local community benefited tremendously for having the opportunity to partake in an event that has never once been done before. There has always been a desire to implement new strategies to enhance an already desired commodity, and I believe that Howard Dolgon, the Crunch organization and the University of Syracuse made this possible and ran with that idea.