Sunday, November 18, 2012

Outdoor Hockey In Pennsylvania

Despite the lack of NHL hockey this Fall, there is hockey still being played at the minor league level in a number of locations throughout the Mid Atlantic.  A team in the Federal Hockey League is taking its schedule to an usual level -- playing all of its home games outdoors.

In Pennsylvania.  In less-than-typical hockey weather.

The Williamsport Outlaws play at Bowman Field, which is the home of the Crosscutters (a minor league baseball team that affiliates with the Phillies), playing their entire 2012-2013 season home schedule in an outdoor pond and not in the cozy confines of a heated arena.

The Outlaws started their season at the end of October and play a majority of their games at home through late January before spending the last fifteen games of the year on the road.  Such is the beauty of low, low level minor league sports when schedules have some pretty awful consistency to them.  The Federal League isn't exactly the NHL, AHL, or even the ECHL, but to see an entire season of hockey in the great outdoors is rather unique.

How do they combat the uniqueness of Pennsylvania temperatures?  The Outlaws run a refrigeration system underneath the ice to keep the subsurface cool while placing a cover on top of the ice in between games so the sun does not beat it up too much during the day.  Despite their opening night game being played in very warm temperatures in the days prior to Sandy, the ice fared well.  Their schedule consists almost exclusively of night games, with the exception of their home finale on Martin Luther King Day.  They've also been rather lucky in that the weather has greatly cooperated for them so far this year.  Scheduling around rainy impacts may be another issue down the line as the weather pattern won't stay as dry as it has been since the 1st of November.