Germany upsets U.S. before record crowd
Attendance record set at hockey worlds in Gelsenkirchen
As far as the game went, the opening match of the 2010 world hockey championship between Germany and the United States was rather dull.
But when judged as an event, it was something else.
A world record crowd of 77, 803 packed Veletins Arena in Gelsenkirchen Friday, the home stadium of the fabled FC Schalke 04 of Germany's Bundesliga, for the game. And they went home happy, thanks in most part to Germany's 2-1 overtime triumph.
Fans stood shoulder to shoulder in the mosh pit in the southern end of the arena, and in European soccer style, they sang and swayed arm in arm throughout the game.
Those who bought seats on the stadium floor had their views of the ice surface obstructed by the boards that circled the playing field. So, they abandoned their perches in favour of standing 20-deep behind the glass at both ends of the rink.
The massive lower and upper bowls were jam-packed as people turned out in droves to attempt to break the old record of 74,554 spectators set in a 2001 game between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
There was little doubt the organizers at the world tournament were out to better that mark.
Each of the tickets was scanned as the patrons entered the rink and organizers were able to track which tickets were used and which weren't. The fine print contained a clause that said if the ticket holder had not shown up by the end of the first period, the ticket could be reprinted and resold, and there was no shortage of takers milling outside the arena.
A representative of the Guinness World Book of Records was on hand to assess whether the attendance count was accurate, and a cheer rang through the arena when the announcement came that history was made.
The players enjoyed the atmosphere.
"It felt more like a World Cup soccer game than a hockey game," said German defenceman Sven Butenschon. "When you hear the roar of 80,000 people, it is a different noise."
"I was trying to yell to my linemates, but they could not hear me," added U.S. forward TJ Oshie.
It being May, there was no chance of staging an outdoor game to make a play at setting that world record. So, the organizers chose a covered stadium where soccer players compete on real grass and have devised an ingenious way of keeping the pitch from deteriorating from the lack of sun.
The solution was to have the playing field on rollers, and when the soccer folks determine the grass needs sun, they simply open the doors at one end of the arena and move the turf into the sunshine.
As for the ice, the players didn't complain, and there weren't any breaks to fill in the holes as NHL fans have seen at the Outdoor Classic games.
The Germans won on an overtime goal by Felix Schutz at the 21-second mark.
"It was an amazing way to end the game," said Nicolia Goc. "We could have not asked for more."
Finland and Denmark meet on Saturday, the same day Canada takes on Italy in Mannheim, and Switzerland faces Latvia in Group B.