Frozen Dome Classic welcomes 30,715 fans, breaks record

The Syracuse Crunch beat the Utica Comets 2-1 in a game that set the pro indoor hockey attendance record history Saturday night in the Carrier Dome.

Temperatures dropped inside the Carrier Dome as blades scraped ice for the venue's first professional hockey game Saturday night.

A record-breaking crowd of 30,715 fans attended the Toyota Frozen Dome Classic, the most ever for an indoor professional hockey game. On the ice, the Syracuse Crunch beat the Utica Comets with a tight score of 2-1.

Photo: Lenny Christopher
The Comets and Crunch hockey players battle for the puck around the Utica net.

“Central New York became big tonight,” Crunch owner Howard Dolgon said in a post-game interview. “There was a uniqueness to the event and we leveraged that. It’s a tribute to Syracuse.”

After the first week of ticket sales, Dolgon said he knew the team had a chance at the record. People saw the goal, and the selling snowballed. 

“Give people something they don’t expect but want, and they’ll succeed,” he said. 

In 1996, fans at the Philadelphia-Tampa Bay playoff game set the previous record at 28,183 in what is now known as Tropicana Field.

The final number did fall short of the Dome’s all-time basketball attendance record (35,446), which fans set during the Orange's contest against Duke University this past February.

Back on the ice, Utica center Alex Friesen started the scoring about three minutes into the first period. Crunch right winger Joel Vermin followed to tie it up.

Yanni Gourde scored the eventual game-winner in the second period to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Frozen Dome Classic

The Crunch keep the Comets from making a second goal. Photo: Lenny Christopher

The fans sparked the players as soon as they stepped onto the ice and saw people crowded in seats all the way into the upper levels, Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said.

“To have this many people at this venue was unusual,” Zettler said. “I thought the guys handled it well.”

The Crunch has played in Syracuse for 20 years. Zettler said he hopes events like the game in the Dome and the outdoor game Dolgon previously arranged in 2010 will put a few more fans in the stands.

At the start of the game, "National Anthem Girl" Janine Stange sang as part of her goal to sing the anthem in all 50 states. Dolgon then brought in Syracuse sports icons, including: NHL stars Pat Verbeek and Glenn Anderson, SU football's Joe Morris, SU basketball's Derrick Coleman, and former Crunch players Jon Mirasty and Zenon Kenopka.

Comedic stuntman Steve-O performed stunts on the ice between periods, but his attempt to slingshot himself into garbage cans failed three times.

As for the setup in the Dome, coordinators placed the ice in the football end zone nearest Gate B where Jim Boeheim Court usually sits. Some fans had trouble seeing the game due to angled sightlines. They also couldn’t sit close to the arena glass like at the Crunch’s usual home, the Oncenter War Memorial Arena.

Sue Schenosky, a five-year Crunch fan, used her season ticket to sit as close as possible to the arena glass.

“At the War Memorial, I can bang on the glass. I can’t here,” she said. “But it’s great that so many people can come out to watch the team.”

Schenosky said despite the added seating distance, the Dome’s larger setting helps fans support the Crunch.

Ed Gremli, a Carrier Dome usher, helped direct thousands of fans during Saturday’s game. He said hockey brought a new breed of fans to the Dome.

“They love their hockey,” he said. “It’s tremendous for the Crunch and for the fans.”

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