The United States Hockey League will take to the outdoors next season as the Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars will play outside on February 9th, 2013 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. The USHL regular season contest is part of the Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice that also includes a college hockey matchup between the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of North Dakota. The announcement was made today in conjunction with the Omaha Sports Commission, Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA), University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha Lancers, and Mutual of Omaha.
The event marks the first time a USHL game will be played outdoors. It will also be the next chapter in one of the League's most storied rivalries when the Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars hit the ice at TD Ameritrade Park. The two USHL Member Clubs are separated by less than 60 miles and have met over 100 times during USHL regular season history. Between the two teams, they have accounted for nine USHL Clark Cup titles (Omaha-7, Lincoln-2). Currently, they hold the top two spots in the USHL Western Conference Standings as the Lancers hold a four-point edge over the Stars.
"Lancers fans have seen a lot in the long and storied history of the Omaha Lancers, but they haven't seen anything like this," said Omaha Lancers President and Managing Partner Ben Robert. "This year begins with the opening of our new arena in Ralston, while the February 9th Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice will showcase two fixtures of the Omaha sports community against two of their biggest rivals in what will be a day the City of Omaha will never forget."
The USHL contest precedes a college hockey matchup between the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of North Dakota. The WCHA rivals currently have a total of 30 USHL alumni on their rosters, including a conference-leading 21 USHL alumni for the UNO Mavericks. In addition, both head coaches have spent time coaching in the USHL - UNO's Dean Blais was the head coach of the Fargo Force for the 2008-09 season and UND's Dave Hakstol spent four seasons (1996-2000) coaching the Sioux City Musketeers. UNO associate head coach Mike Hastings is the USHL's all-time coaching wins leader with 529 victories he accumulated over 14 seasons coaching the Omaha Lancers.
"With all the USHL coaches and players past and present on the ice at TD Ameritrade Park next February, this is going to be part hockey game, part family reunion," said USHL Commissioner and President Skip Prince. "We thank Mutual of Omaha for their support of this event, and look forward to seeing four extraordinary hockey programs come together before a sellout outdoor crowd to celebrate not just USHL and NCAA Division I hockey, but the city of Omaha as a true hockey hub."
Not only will it be the first-ever USHL game played outdoors, the event could set a USHL single-game attendance record at the 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park. The USHL record of 14,892 fans was set by the Indiana Ice on February 12th, 2005 during their annual "Pack the House" night played at the then-named Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.
"The Lancers-Stars rivalry is known for being one of the fiercest and most respected in sports, and this game will be a perfect opportunity to showcase the rivalry and the USHL on a large stage," said Lincoln Stars President Jim Pflug. "We appreciate the effort of everyone to make the Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice a reality and the Stars organization is privileged to be a part of it."
The TD Ameritrade Park first opened in April of 2011 and is the home to the College World Series, the national championship tournament for NCAA Division I baseball. It is also home to the Creighton University men's baseball team, the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament, and the Omaha Nighthawks professional football team.
Tickets for the event, which includes admission to both games, will go on sale beginning Monday, October 1st, 2012. UNO and Omaha Lancers season ticket holders will be able to order tickets for the event 72 hours in advance of the on-sale date. Tickets will be sold to the public through Ticketmaster.com and the CenturyLink Omaha box office. The Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice will begin at 12:30 PM (CST) on February 9th, 2013 with the Omaha Lancers vs. the Lincoln Stars matchup, followed by the college hockey game that drops the puck 45 minutes after the conclusion of the USHL contest.