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Fans, Players Gear Up For Hockey Classic


Wisconsin players prepare for Saturday's game.

Two decades into the future, Ohio State senior Nate Guenin will reminisce about this weekend.

"Twenty years from now we're going to look back and say, 'Wow, we got to play on Lambeau Field,'" Guenin said. "It is a great honor."

In the near future, Guenin will join his Ohio State teammates to take on Wisconsin as part of Saturday's Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic at Lambeau. The game will represent the third organized outdoor hockey game and the first in the Green Bay Packers' historic stadium.

Wisconsin's players expressed the same kind of excitement as Guenin and his teammates. Once the schedule came out, they circled the date of the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic on the calendar.

"It's been built up since the beginning of the season," said Wisconsin senior Tom Gilbert.

The players are not the only ones who have looked forward to this event for a long time. Steve Mauro of Rochester, N.Y. bought tickets in October.

"As soon as I read about this going on, 'I said I've got to see this,'" Mauro said.

His wife, son and daughter will stay in Green Bay for the weekend and attend the game with him. On Friday night they lined up along with many others to have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup and three Vince Lombardi Trophies in the Lambeau Field Atrium and receive autographs from the teams' players.

Even Mike Bolt, keeper of the Stanley Cup, who provides security for the trophy while traveling all over the world with it, left impressed with the activity in the Atrium.

"It's a very good crowd," Bolt said.

The celebration extended into the night. During a Friday dinner banquet for both teams at the Legend's Club in Lambeau Field, luminaries including Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and Dennis Hull, the brother of Bobby Hull spoke. President and CEO Bob Harlan, Head Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson also attended.

"I felt it was important to get here for this great event," Alvarez said. "It gives college fans a chance to see some excellent players."

Saturday's game should have an atmosphere worthy of those excellent players. More than 38,000 tickets have been sold, representing the fourth largest hockey crowd ever.

Playing outside adds to the uniqueness of the game. Ohio State's Dave Caruso has not played outdoor hockey since his days of peewee and bantam league play. He and his teammates borrowed thermal gear from some of their football-playing classmates to prepare for the frigid conditions.

For many of the players and coaches, it reminds them of days gone by when they would grab a bunch of their friends for a pickup game at the nearest pond.

"This is going back to the roots of the game," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said.

The temperature should hover around 20 degrees, but adrenaline from the players on both squads will mask any feelings of the cold.

"I couldn't even feel the temperature out there," Gilbert said after Friday's practice session. "It was just awesome."

The fans, of course, will be exposed to the elements as well. But that won't dampen their enthusiasm for Saturday's game.

"I can't wait," Mauro said.

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