Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:03AM - 438 Views
By - psokoloski@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6392

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HERSHEY -- Being a Scranton native, Amy Reed wasn't about to miss her Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins battle the Hershey Bears.

Especially since it gave her a chance to watch history.

It's outside, it's exciting, it's just like the NHL, said Reed, who now lives in Harrisburg. It's really important to us.

To the 17,000-plus fans who attended Sunday's AHL Outdoor Classic, the importance of the moment seemed to be the event itself, rather than in any real rooting affiliation for either team.

I watch the (annual) NHL outside game, said Nick Reed, Amy's husband, it's more of a festival feel than in hard-core hockey games.

Indeed, the first period of Sunday's showdown whizzed by with nary a penalty, and the crowd at HersheyPark Stadium appeared mesmerized by the huge fireworks display following the national anthem.

The fifth outdoor game in AHL history -- and first for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins -- elicited a few roars of approval when a fight broke out in the second period. But for the most part, fans seemed to grow quietly captivated by the action on the outdoor ice, held under the lights for the 5 p.m. start.

Maybe the crowd was just frozen.

Temperatures plummeted into the 20s during the game, as even fans who had bundled up for the blustery conditions were taken aback by steady, fairly strong wind gusts that chilled hands.

I tried to prepare, said Sami Hernandez, a Penguins fan from Lancaster who wore an ears-covering ski hat to the game. But it's an outdoor game and you can see hockey outside, so it makes it exciting.

It's definitely cold, said Hazleton native Nadine Racho, all bundled up in a knit cap and scarf.

But even frigid weather conditions didn't do much to cool off enthusiasm for the event.

Chandler Carranza, Racho's fiance, said the lack of cheering during a scoreless first period didn't mean the crowd had quickly cooled to the idea of having a hockey game outdoors.

Oh, the fans are loving it out here, Carranza, a Pittsburgh native and Penguins fan, said between periods.

Even if some of the sights and sounds of a regular hockey game were missing.

It's different, Racho said. You can't hear anything.

You don't hear the players jawing back and forth, Carranza explained. You can't hear the sticks hitting the ice. All you can hear is them hitting the boards.

Because it's so quiet, you're getting a lot more fan interaction, Carranza continued. I've been talking to the people around us all game.

That was hardly the only difference for fans who shared in a special hockey night in Hershey.

With the wind, it's going to be cold, said Jason McNeal, a Penguins fan from nearby Williamstown who travels to three or four Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games each season. But it's the first one (for the WBS Penguins), first outdoor game.

And this is the first one we're at.

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