The Hershey Bears are taking hockey back to the pond in their Outdoor Classic against cross-state rival Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Er... or at least to Hersheypark Stadium.
During the outdoor event over the weekend, the Bears will take hockey back to its roots: outside.
The two-day event starts with the Alumni Game at 7 p.m. Friday with former players from the Bears (and Washington Capitals) taking on former players from the Philadelphia Flyers. The main event, where the Bears will battle it out with the Phantoms, takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday.
A fan fest will start off the festivities on Friday before the Alumni Game. The excitement around the event is big, especially for the Bears’ front office.
“I know it’s an outdoor game, but it’s two big points for both teams and it’s going to be a high-paced game, especially if the ice is hard. There’s nothing better than playing outside,” Bears VP of Operations Bryan Helmer said. “Right now we’re projecting around 12,000 people, but I’m hoping we get more than that. I’m thinking it’s going to be loud, the energy’s going to be high, and I think it’s going to be a great night for both [games].”
This is the third time the Bears will take to the ice in an Outdoor Classic, the most recent one being in 2013 at Hersheypark Stadium against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the first being at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia against the then Adirondack Phantoms.
“For the Bears, I think it’s just another unique event that we’re putting on, and with our fanbase, I think we’re going to have a good turnout,” Helmer said. “I think it’s just a great way to celebrate our 80th anniversary and I think people are just going to enjoy the weekend and I think people are starting to get ramped up. That’s why everyone’s working so hard to make this a successful event.”
According to Helmer, a lot of thought and work went into preparing this time around. There are things that weren’t done right and things that could have been done better in the past, and all of the organizing is being done to make it a “great weekend for everyone involved.”
“They’re ready to roll now, and there’s been a few people that have been skating on [the rink],” Helmer said. “It’s just hundreds of people working around the clock basically to get that rink ready and to get it ready for the game on Friday and then the game on Saturday. There’s multiple people within the marketing department and operations department ... just getting the buzz around so that people know what’s going on and how exciting the weekend is going to be.”
The rink was brought in from the World Juniors in Buffalo. Along with the AHL players, the CPIHL will also get to experience the outdoor atmosphere during a regular season game Monday and during the All-Star Game on Wednesday from its normal end-of-season placement.
It continues a long-standing relationship between the Bears and the CPIHL.
Hershey has brought in coaches to help teach a clinic for the CPIHL coaches and has invited every championship team to be recognized at a Bears game throughout the years. The CPIHL and the Bears have maintained a strong relationship and Helmer is glad to be able to team up with CPIHL president Steve Aaron again, especially since Helmer’s son, Cade, plays for Lower Dauphin.
This will be the second All-Star Game the CPIHL has held. The first one was in 2013 when Hershey played outdoors.
“Once we decided to announce our game, the CPIHL reached out to try and get some ice time and see if they could do something within their league. It was pretty much right away,” Helmer said. “For the CPIHL, I know it’s going to be big and I know they’re trying to put it on TV, and if they get that done, that’s hopefully going to bring more fans to games and more focus to them.
“My son and his teammates can’t stop talking about that game that they’re going to play in on a Monday and it’s going to be exciting for those kids to get out there.”
For fans looking to buy last minute tickets to the events, full information and where to purchase tickets can be found at hersheybears.com.