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Prior To Game Tailgaters Relish Unique Lambeau Atmosphere


For the first time ever, a hockey game was held at Lambeau Field on Saturday. But some things don't change.

Tailgating remained a fixture outside of the stadium hours before the puck dropped on the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, featuring Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Dan left Madison, Wis. at 7:30 a.m. with his wife and two friends. Before the 3 p.m. game, they lounged around a table with a spread, including Italian sausage, bratwurst and potato salad. He looked forward to watching a game in Lambeau.

"The tradition is unbelievable," Dan said. "How many times do you ever get to see an outdoor hockey game?"

Actually, the hockey classic marked the third large-scale outdoor game in North America. In 2001 Michigan State hosted Michigan at East Lansing, Mich., and the NHL's Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens in Edmonton, Canada in 2003.

The wintry conditions served as a blast from the past for Tony from Broadhead, Wis. who brought his 20-year-old son Alan. He used to watch Alan play hockey in subzero temperatures.

"There's nothing more exciting than an outdoor hockey game," said Tony, who also took pictures with the Stanley Cup and three Vince Lombardi trophies in the Lambeau Field Atrium. "It's just awesome."

Alan served as a fairly typical tailgater. The crowd was young and included many college students.

"The tailgating has been fantastic," said Joey, who came from Madison with three of his friends. "It's a lot more college-oriented. It feels like a Badgers football game."

Adding to the pro-Badgers crowd, Jennifer of Madison sold Bucky Badger cowbells for $5, a staple at all UW-Madison games. Although she works many Wisconsin events, this one was special.

"Oh my god," Jennifer said. "This atmosphere is so wonderful. ... It's so real."

The coolest sight Jennifer saw? A couple of tailgaters had cut dice from blocks of wood and played with them to pass the time before the game.

With the tailgating occurring in the parking lot of one of the most historic football stadiums, the hockey atmosphere had a unique feel.

"You're almost bringing two sports combined in one," said Donnie, one of Joey's buddies.

Barrett, a 10-year-old from De Pere, Wis. participated in one of those sports -- the morning youth hockey sessions -- at 7 a.m. When the snow hit the Lambeau Field lights in the early morning, it created a majestic scene from down in the bowl.

"It was cool," Barrett said. "It looked crazy from down there."

For hockey fans of all ages, the game represented a special opportunity. Most hockey games are played at night, making it less accommodating for tailgating.

"You're bringing an atmosphere hockey has never had," Donnie said.

That atmosphere still had a distinct Packers feel. A fan wearing the No. 93 jersey, previously worn by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle John Randle, passed through the parking lot.

"Vikings suck," yelled several tailgaters. "Go home!"

At Lambeau some things remain the same.

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