Penn State men’s basketball, ice hockey prep for trip to Madison Square Garden
January 30, 2016 12:00 AM
Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times
The Penn State men's hockey team will face Michigan for the second time this season, this time in Madison Square Garden as part of the inaugural Big Ten Super Saturday.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Patrick Chambers insists it’s a business trip, but his Penn State men’s basketball team will have an early start for a shootaround today so they can soak in the history of the iconic arena before playing a game at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“We’re not going there sightseeing. We’re not taking them to the Statue of Liberty or anything like that,” Chambers said. “But I also want them to have that experience of playing in a big-time atmosphere.”
Penn State’s men’s basketball team kicks off the inaugural Big Ten Super Saturday against Michigan at noon before the Garden will be transformed for Guy Gadowsky and the men’s ice hockey team to close out the day against the Wolverines at 7 p.m. Chambers’ team gave up a Big Ten Conference home game to play at the arena, a move that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany approached the Lions about in 2014 when he announced the series as part of the conference’s desire to expand their footprint at the same place that will play host to the 2018 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.
Big Ten Super Saturday college basketball and hockey doubleheaders are lined up through 2019.
“There was some reservations because a few years ago Michigan was top five in the country and you know we weren’t the best at that point and we were growing and we beat them,” Chambers said. “But I think the positives in this situation outweigh the negative.”
Playing host to two events at the Garden on the same day, including basketball and hockey doubleheaders with the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, happens about 20-25 times per year, said Joel Fisher, executive vice president of sports for Madison Square Garden. Workers can make the switch from basketball to ice hockey in about 3-3½ hours, all while clearing and then cleaning the arena for the next wave of spectators.
There are some different wrinkles for the workers to deal with today as the court will be branded with the Big Ten logo, the building will be complete with Big Ten signage and the digital video boards also will help mark the occasion.
“With hockey and basketball in particular the basketball court is really sitting on top of the ice,” Fisher said. “There’s a protective layer over the court and over the seats and once the basketball game is done we basically break down the seating and take away the court and take away the protective covering and then you’ve got ice and you set it up that way. Our building guys are great to really pull this off often throughout the year.”
Fisher said he expects crowds of 15,000-plus people at each event, adding that seat sales were well into the upper bowl as of Thursday evening.
While the environment is one Chambers and Gadowsky want their athletes to cherish, don’t look for the No. 15 Lions’ ice hockey team, which lost to No. 6 Michigan, 7-4, Thursday night in University Park, to be sitting in traffic before the puck drops.
“A lot of the guys are interested in seeing us play basketball, but we learned last year in New York that even if it says you’re nine minutes away you’re not,” Gadowsky said, referring to the Lions’ 2014 game against Cornell that was played at Madison Square Garden as part of the Frozen Apple. “We’re not going to get our team on a bus together and head over without disrupting our regular pre-game routine.”
Audrey Snyder: email@example.com and Twitter @audsnyder4.
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