They play hockey in the Carrier Dome, and 30,715 show up

In the Carrier Dome, ice hockey for a big day.

In the Carrier Dome, ice hockey for a big day.

I’ve got season tickets to Syracuse University football in the Carrier Dome, and it was not a good season. One win, in double-overtime in the season opener against Football Championship Series Subdivision foe Villanova, and then five straight bone-numbing losses to rob fans of any sense of spirit. Maryland (OK, the win for my alma mater at least made ME feel better on that side of the ledger), Clemson, Louisville, North Carolna State, Duke. Ouch.

And then an event called the Frozen Dome Classic came skating in on Saturday, Nov. 22, to save the fall.

The Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League — that’s the top North American league under the NHL, for those of you wondering what stature of professional ice hockey I’m talking of here — had a rink set up in the big indoor stadium under the teflon air-supported roof and invited the squad from 40 miles west, the Utica Comets. Crunch owner Howard Dolgon likes to think big, even though since he brought hockey back to this city in 1994 his teams haven’t even consistently filled the 6,000 or so seats at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

Were you in the movies?

Were you in the movies?

Syracuse, you see, had the reputation as a “hockey graveyard.” Even though much of that memorable Paul Newman 1970s hockey comedy classic “Slapshot” was filmed in the War Memorial — and somebody in the crowd two rows down from me Saturday wore an “Ogilthorpe” jersey and black ‘Fro’ wig in tribute, and three cousins (two guys and a girls) dress up as the Hanson Brothers at every Crunch game, several minor-league franchises closed down. That would be teams called the Stars and Warriors and Eagles and Firebirds and Braves and Blazers. The Stars even won the AHL’s Calder Cup back in 1936-37.

But Dolgon has persevered, jumping around with NHL affiliations over 20 years with the Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks and, since 2012, the Tampa Bay Lighning. That first season with Tampa Bay, the Crunch made it to the AHL Calder Cup finals, but lost.

In 2010, Dolgon had them play outside, at the New York State Fair Grandstand, and 21,508 showed up to see them win over Binghamton. At the time, that was the largest outdoor crowd ever for an AHL game.

Karen, George and Elisabeth, my three favorites in the record crowd of 30,715.

Karen, George and Elisabeth, my three favorites in the record crowd of 30,715.

And, oh, what a night it was Saturday in the Carrier Dome, when 30,715 people watched Syracuse beat the Utica Comets 2-1. That was the largest crowd to see an indoor professional hockey game.

It made for a tight squeeze on the concourse in between periods, that’s for sure. The quarters were cramped standing in line to wait to use the rest room or trying to buy food or a beverage. I’d say it was like Mardis Gras, or Times Square on New Year’s Eve … but I’ve never been to Mardis Gras or Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Record indoor hockey crowd, record high indoor hat.

Record indoor hockey crowd, record high indoor hat.

I did, however, see a woman wearing a balloon hat sitting in front of my daughter Elisabeth. That caused a bit of a stir for her boyfriend George as well as my dear wife Karen and I. But the woman took the ridiculously high hat off her head just before the game started.

And good times were had by all.

I wrote my weekly community blog for Syracuse Public Media site about the event.

If you’d like to read my column on the site, click the link below.

Are you usually up for a hockey game, and if so, which is your favorite team, and why? What would you pick to see in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse football, Syracuse basketball, Crunch hockey, or Monster Trucks, and why? What’s the biggest crowd you’ve been part of for an event, and would you go again?

Fish of Gold

9 thoughts on “They play hockey in the Carrier Dome, and 30,715 show up

  1. I’ve actually done this, Mark–gone to a hockey game! They’re spendy (Minnesota Wild), but we’ve enjoyed a few games as a family. Sadly, the part where players beat up on each other and the ice is cleared so they clean up the blood is usually a pretty big deal with the girls. I grew up in a hockey town, so do love the game–fast paced, yet graceful if played well.

    We did go to a Monster Truck show once (no idea why we thought it would be a good idea), but had to leave soon into it as our youngest–maybe 4 or so at the time–couldn’t take the noise. Do you like Truck shows?

    You are a crazy-busy guy! Concerts, games, meals out, launch parties. Again I’ll say you’re a cool cool cat. Enjoyed the picture of your three faves. Handsome group.


  2. I’m a Washington Capitals fan. When I lived closer to Washington, my husband and I used to go to the games frequently. If I had to pick a second team, it would probably be the Philadelphia Flyers – but my heart belongs to the Caps.


  3. this is great! i love hockey most anywhere it can be found. i’m a wings fan, but also love the college game. yes, i would go in a second. biggest crowd? probably the winter classic in michigan stadium. i’ll never forget it )


  4. Ha! George has the best seat in the house, Chum! Thankful the balloon lady lost her hat for the game. I think that’s fair of her…she was in the spirit of things. Hockey is fun in person. We saw the Blues play years ago in STL and I enjoyed the loud crowd a lot. I think I’ll plan a hockey game when I visit NY. Something tells me they’re my sort of people. 🙂 Sorry about your football season…we didn’t fair much better.


  5. I love hockey and I miss going to games. Richmond was home to the Renegades (ECHL) and then the Riverdogs (UHL, maybe?) for a while…but like most things in this town when it comes to sports, it folded and moved on. Nobody in the suburbs wants to go “downtown” and they don’t want to bring the “city folk” out into the ‘burbs to see the games. It’s part of a huge, ongoing issue with “us vs. them” on so many different levels. I know this exists in plenty of other places, but here it is pretty much an everyday mentality and one of the many reasons why I need to leave this area now that I no longer have to worry about the things keeping me here before.

    Sorry for the rant. Really, I do miss hockey, a lot. Obviously it gets me fired up, and I don’t even care about the fights, or lack of 🙂


    • Hockey is such a beautiful sport to watch live, Jeanette. I don’t need the fights. I really love college hockey. When I lived out in Morrisville I had season tickets to Colgate University and dug that. No fighting at all. My daughter is a huge Colgate fan and has season tickets with her mother. Karen and I go to a couple Crunch games a year, and in the AHL, yeah, they do fight. I wish they woulldn’t. It’s rather unneeded.

      As for you ranting about Richmond, it’s welcome. A lot of our mid-size urban centers need to figure out how not to pit us vs. them all the time. You nailed the problem pretty good there. It’s a region where everybody needs to taste the fruits of the city and the county and the outskirts. That’s everyplace, U.S.A. My philosophy. Who does that hurt, exactly?


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