What seemed like a mildly pleasant winter afternoon on the drive to the State Fairgrounds for the inaugural Mirabito Outdoor Classic American Hockey League contest between the Syracuse Crunch and the Binghamton Senators, turned into a swirling shiver at the Grandstand. It felt like an arctic mass was funneling around the rink. The faithful didn’t seem to mind, however. They were bundled in Eskimo-style joy, kept their hands warm against their coffee cups and didn’t have to worry about their beer getting warm. By the time the skydiver plunged in (left) and landed precisely at center ice to drop the ceremonial puck, the Grandstand was as wild as these eyes have ever seen. The Sens hadn’t even yet been introduced and the crowd was already booing, for Gov. David Paterson (right, wearing Crunch cap). They also should have let Onondaga County and the Syracuse Chiefs have it for missing the boat and passing on the chance to host this event. The 21,508 people in attendance helped break the record for the most paid admittance for an AHL game. Oh, and there was a game too—the Crunch won 2-1. The powers-that-be should consider making this an annual event, as it generated great buzz and made the place feel alive on a frigid February day.
Hockey day in Syracuse: The Syracuse Crunch Ice Girls try to stay warm, while dignitaries (below), Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer visit with Crunch owner Howard Dolgon.
A fan warms up in a rink-side Jacuzzi.