A line of 175 people draws attention in even the most usual places on the most usual of days.

Now dress them in maroon and white jerseys in midday heat reaching well into the seventies. At this point both my empathy and intrigue go through the roof.

I’ll lay this out at the beginning; no, there was not an ice-cream truck fronting the group.

Hockey tickets went on sale Monday in Hershey, PA, for an event which is designed to take place in far cooler outdoor temperatures. The fourth year of the AHL’s Outdoor Classic is coming, and although it may be the furthest thing from June’s heat, more than 2,000 tickets were sold in the opening 120 minutes.

This brings two conflicting yet equally as powerful thoughts to mind: first, a numbing from my wrist to my finger tips as I recall man-handling a camera during the Steeltown Showdown; and secondly the warmth of excitement knowing the Marlies will do it all again in Detroit’s Comerica Park. If it wasn’t for the bead of sweat plotting a southern course down my back I’d almost forget what time of year it is (remind me to fix my air-conditioning).

Toronto and Hershey, in their respective games, will be the first teams to take part in North American outdoor contests in back-to-back years. They join Pittsburgh, Detroit and Philadelphia in clubs honoured to twice be a part of outdoor festivities.

Bringing the game back to its roots by taking it into the open air has gained steam outside the National and American Hockey Leagues. The KHL staged their All-Star game within Russia’s famous Red Square; providing for some outstanding photography. Croatia too is injecting a historic element into their puck play as a first century Roman Coliseum will be used as the game’s stage. Though only a little more than 7,000 will be able to catch the spectacle live.

More than 20,000 watched on as Toronto walloped rival Hamilton their first time around. By the end of the game played on frozen Ivor Wynne grounds it had been dubbed the Steeltown Touchdown as the Marlies found the back of the net seven times for the regular season victory. Two points on the board for the boys in blue.

If the weather didn’t do the trick, the feeling of hockey in an outdoor environment sent chills through your bones. A goal 27 seconds in, a fight following shortly after; those first few minutes are unforgettable. That and the smell of mass hotdog roasting.

With tickets in hand to the 2013 AHL Outdoor Classic at Hersheypark, cubs will have to wait until January 20th (one-year less a day from the Steeldown Showdown) to enjoy the sights and smells the AHL Outdoor Classic brings. The Marlies, however, will strap on their balaclavas a little earlier.

The duel between the Toronto Marlies and Grand Rapids Griffins as part of the NHL festivities leading up to the Winter Classic will be played at the home of the Detroit Tigers on December 30th, 2012. The Marlies will be the first ever North American professional hockey club to play outdoors twice in the same calendar year. Pretty rad.

One hundred and ninety-four days remain until the two teams hit the outside rink, leaving me 193 days to find an appropriate parka. It also gives you and I plenty of time to address the fact this match-up is presently without a moniker.

My vote goes to an original – but somewhat uncreative – Motown Showdown. Perhaps it will have a logo that includes the Jackson 5 in hockey jerseys, Diana Ross in goalie pads and James Brown as the referee.

If you’ve got a better idea, I’m open to suggestions.

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