On one hand, the Capital BlueCross AHL Outdoor Classic could not have been scheduled any better. The Hershey Bears and division rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will face off on Sunday, Jan. 20 at Hersheypark Stadium — only one day after the NHL returns to the ice after a painfully long, but rarely reported, 113-day lockout.
Hockey fans will be buzzing with excitement for the start of the NHL season, and many will have their attention on Hershey — which will play host to the only outdoor hockey game this season as the lockout forced the cancellation of the annual NHL Winter Classic.
And on the other hand, the Capital BlueCross AHL Outdoor Classic could not have been scheduled any worse. Sure, an outdoor hockey game in Hershey is big news locally and should be an exciting (and freezing) event — but competing with NFL Championship Sunday for sports fans is far from an ideal situation for the Outdoor Classic. Why this event wasn’t scheduled the following weekend, when the NFL has a bye week before the Super Bowl, is completely baffling … but I digress, back to the Outdoor Classic.
Even if you aren’t a hockey fan (and let’s be serious — most of us are not), you will enjoy going to a hockey game. Whether you understand the game or not, it’s fast-paced, exciting and violent — enough to keep almost anyone entertained. And as long as you bundle up, the Outdoor Classic could be a great way to break yourself into hockey.
As for the game itself, only three points separates the Bears and the Penguins in the AHL East Division standings, but the Bears have dominated the Penguins in their season series. The Bears have won six of the seven meetings between the two rivals and hold a total goal advantage of 21-13 over the seven games. Even though the series has been slanted in the Bears advantage, I’m sure both teams will want to play their best for this special event.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, former Hershey Bears will face off against former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in an alumni game. While I was unable to find a Bears alumni roster, the Penguins alumni roster includes former Dennis Bonvie — the most penalized player in professional hockey history — who also played for the Hershey Bears. Growing up in the Scranton area, I used to go to a lot of Penguins games, and before that, Binghamton Rangers games with my grandfather — and whenever Bonvie was on the ice, we expected to see him drop the gloves. While I’m pretty sure Bonvie won’t be looking to rough someone up in an alumni game — which will feature a running clock for two 25-minute periods — it wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if he did, and that may be worth the price of admission alone.
The Outdoor Classic is much more than just the hockey game. Starting Saturday, Jan. 19 at 11 a.m., fans with tickets to the Outdoor Classic can visit Pepsi FanFest at Hershepark Stadium, which will have live music, autograph signings with Hershey Bears alumni and even a live ice sculpture caving. Pepsi FanFest will be open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon until 8 p.m. on Sunday.
All Outdoor Classic tickets also include admission to the alumni game, the Pepsi FanFest and one Hersheypark Day Pass Valid through July 4, 2013. If you’re on the fence about going to the Outdoor Classic, consider that a one-day Hersheypark ticket cost $56.95 in 2012, the lowest ticket price for the two-day Outdoor Classic is only $55.
Tickets for the Outdoor Classic are still available at the Giant Center box office, online or by calling 717.508.BEAR (2327).