Berkley and Bloomfield Hills Unified all set to play outdoors at Clark Park

By: Mike Moore | C&G Newspapers | Published January 19, 2011

 The Bloomfield Hills Unified hockey team, pictured during a recent practice, gets the opportunity to play Berkley High outdoors at noon Jan. 23 at Clark Park in downtown Detroit.

The Bloomfield Hills Unified hockey team, pictured during a recent practice, gets the opportunity to play Berkley High outdoors at noon Jan. 23 at Clark Park in downtown Detroit.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Rick Reed remembers his early hockey days as if they were last week.

Growing up in Flint, winters were always spent on skates and holding a stick. And most of the time, hockey was an outdoor game.

“Playing indoors was a luxury, the coolest thing in the universe,” the Bloomfield Hills Unified coach joked recently. “It’s crazy how things have changed. Now almost everything is played indoors.”

Almost.

At noon Jan. 23, Reed and his squad will take a short journey to yesteryear when they face Berkley High at Clark Park in downtown Detroit. Admission to the game is free; no ticket is necessary.

“We’re anxious to get out there and experience it,” Reed said. “It’s going to be a whole new challenge, something most kids on both teams have never done.”

“Growing up, you played on lakes or ponds, or flooded fields at the local park. It was just something you always did,” Berkley coach Jeff Fleming said. “Kids don’t get to experience that anymore today, at least not as much as we did. It’s going to be cool. It kind of takes you back to the roots of the game.”

This is the second consecutive year local teams have participated in a regular-season game outside.

On Jan. 20, 2010, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood and Novi Detroit Catholic Central played at Clark Park in front of hundreds of spectators, which ended in an eventual 5-2 Shamrocks win.

Reed, who organized much of this year’s game, said reading about the 2010 event, coupled with the outdoor games the NHL and colleges have done recently, inspired him to look into doing the same thing at the high school level.

“One of the guys on our prep team has a contact (at Clark Park), and we donated a lot of equipment there last year for community service, so we had some ins,” Reed explained.
“It really wasn’t a difficult process. I talked to Jeff, and we plugged in some dates here and there and made it happen.”
“We have to play them twice this season anyway, so why not do something cool like this?” Fleming added.

Much of the excitement from last year’s game centered on the tradition of the teams that suited up. Cranbrook and Catholic Central were defending state champs in their respective divisions.

Berkley and the Unified may not be able to match the pregame hype, but as Reed said, the on-ice action should be a selling point, as will the venue itself.

“I see a lot of similarities between these teams that lends itself to a great game,” he said.
Berkley was 6-4-1 overall at press time and 2-3 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division. The Chargers were 6-3 overall, 4-1 in the White.

The teams have not played one another so far this season.

“As a coach, you never want to look too far ahead or look past any games on the schedule, but this is one the kids are anxious to be a part of,” Fleming said. “It should be good hockey in front of a good crowd. I know Rick’s excited. The communities, schools and students are all excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

He then paused, allowing a brief warning to run through his mind.

“Now,” he began with a laugh, “we just need to keep our fingers crossed and hope for a cold day with no rain.”