SYRACUSE, N.Y. … A crowd of 21,508 fans – the largest gathering ever in the 74-year history of the American Hockey League – packed the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse on Saturday afternoon for the Mirabito Outdoor Classic, and watched the hometown Syracuse Crunch hold on for a 2-1 victory over the Binghamton Senators in the AHL’s first outdoor game.
It was a party atmosphere at the Fairgrounds from the time the gates opened at 8:30 a.m., and continued until the on-ice festivities officially got underway at 1:00 p.m. Mercury recording artist Jessie James sang the U.S. national anthem while a pair of jets from the 174th Fighter Wing performed a flyover. Skydiver Ray Maynard dropped in with the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff, landing in the center-ice faceoff circle from an altitude of 1,500 feet.
The weather saw temperatures in the mid-30’s Fahrenheit with some flurries and a steady breeze throughout the afternoon.
David Liffiton’s goal with 11.7 seconds remaining in the second period stood up as the game-winner for Syracuse. Alexandre Picard scored the first goal of the game, Michael Blunden recorded two assists and Kevin Lalande stopped 36 of 37 shots for the Crunch.
Josh Hennessy scored shorthanded for the Senators’ lone goal.
In addition to the record crowd in attendance, the game was televised live across the United States and Canada on NHL Network, as well as locally on Time Warner Cable Sports.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 84 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 6.5 million fans per season have attended AHL games across North America since 2001.