Commentary: The hockey world needs to listen to Notre Dame's Jeff Jackson on outdoor games

Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

Outdoor hockey is special, but if it becomes too prevalent the novelty and uniqueness will wear off and it will no longer be special.

Boston, Mass. -- Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson stated his opposition to the constantly increasing number of outdoor games following his team's 4-3 loss to Boston College at Fenway Park on Saturday night.

The veteran coach has been around a long time, having led Lake Superior State to NCAA Championships in 1992 and 1994. Jackson has cachet in the sport, and hopefully the sport takes his words seriously.

"Outdoor hockey is where the game started and where it was played, but there's way too much of it going on right now. They're ruining it. There's too much. It's nice to have this event for Hockey East. It's great, but there's way too many outdoor games right now. It's great for shinny, but there's just too much," said Jackson.

And, it wasn't sour grapes. It was speaking the truth and hopefully the hockey world will listen. Jackson didn't say there were too many outdoor games because his team lost. He said it because the novelty has worn off and the conditions are too unpredictable for two crucial league points to be decided with wind, rain and other weather factors being an issue.

That is not to take away from the special event that is Frozen Fenway. Players, coaches, fans and media all get excited for an outdoor hockey game. It brings added exposure to a sport that needs all the good publicity it can receive.

"This is a great event. Fenway did a tremendous job and the ice guys did a great job trying to do the best they could considering the circumstances."

Providence coach Nate Leaman enjoyed the opportunity to coach at Fenway Park, but is glad his team can now get back to focusing on solely hockey without the added distractions of a big event like Frozen Fenway.

"It's a pretty good experience. It's one of those things that it's circled on your calendar at the beginning of the year. It's a great experience, but I'm glad it's over so we can get back to Hockey East play," said Leaman.

Boston College coach Jerry York mentioned that the players love playing in outdoor games and get excited to take the ice on a baseball diamond or a football field.

"It's my third time coaching here. Even then it's a special night. You still feel excited and very thrilled to be part of this. The players are so excited. I'd like to be able to get the ice like it was almost indoor ice.

Merrimack senior forward Mike Collins, a local kid from Boston who scored a goal Saturday in the first game, certainly is a perfect example of what York was saying.

"You kind of get up a lot more for these games than a normal game. It's a once in a lifetime thing," Collins told reporters after the game. "Sitting there, looking around, you're like, ‘wow, this is actually happening, There's this many people here; they're here to watch us.' That was really cool," added Collins.

The question remains whether the continuing trend of having these outdoor games so often is deteriorating from the uniqueness and special feel.

However, college sports is a business and the decisions made by administrators in all sports have been driven by the almighty dollar. That's why there is a Big Ten Hockey Conference, it is why Notre Dame is in Hockey East, it's why Texas A&M is in the SEC and why Syracuse is in the ACC for all sports.

York pointed out that the event is financially beneficial to the schools and the league. With the extreme cold and the region still recovering from a brutal snowstorm, the crowd wasn't as large as expected, but 31,569 tickets were sold for the event.

"If it's a success financially they'll try to come back in two years and do it again. The players love it," said York.

That is the bottom line. Until people stop coming, and events like these lose money, outdoor games are here to stay whether people like it or not.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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