Boone outdoor ohio stadium photo

Growing up in Central Ohio, Sean Kuraly always loved sports, as evidenced by the fact he’s made it all the way to the NHL to play with the hometown Blue Jackets.

But if there was another athletic dream the Dublin native had, it was one shared by so many in Buckeye country – to wear the scarlet and gray of the Ohio State football team.

Things certainly have worked out for Kuraly, but he’ll get the chance to mix his passions one year from today. On March, 1, 2025, the Blue Jackets and Ohio Stadium will host the 2025 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series™ game against the Detroit Red Wings, allowing Kuraly the chance to play his pro sport in the famous Horseshoe.

"I thought if I was going to be out there – there wasn’t a big chance – but maybe it was with football, not hockey,” he said. “It’s a weird way to make a dream come true, but it’ll be cool.”

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On the other end of the spectrum is Adam Fantilli, who grew up in the Toronto area but now bleeds maize and blue after spending his one season of college hockey at the University of Michigan. He attended as many football games as he could in his season in Ann Arbor, so he knows what it’s like to be in a rollicking venue that holds more than 100,000 fans, and he has been inside the famed Horseshoe for a Morgan Wallen concert last summer.

READ MORE: Stadium Series coming to Columbus | Get to know Ohio Stadium

But for a Wolverine, being on the home team in Ohio Stadium will be a little bit of an odd feeling come next March.

“It’s an extremely unique opportunity,” Fantilli said. “I’m super excited. Hopefully I am embraced by the Ohio State fans. I’m hoping Columbus will trump the Michigan in that situation and I'll be one of the good guys.”

No matter how you slice it, there are a ton of fun angles to the game, which has been heavily anticipated for years among the Blue Jackets faithful. Not only is Ohio Stadium one of the most iconic venues in American sports – opened in 1922, it’s hosted some of the best teams in college football history, and the stadium’s classic architectural style brings up visions of ancient Rome – but the capacity of more than 100,000 should result in one of the most attended games in league history.

For Central Ohioans, visiting the stadium is an autumn rite of passage, and despite it being opened for more than a century, Ohio Stadium has been updated and renovated over the years to provide an excellent experience for all who pass through the gates.

Buckeye legend Kirk Herbstreit sits down with Jeff Rimer to discuss the Blue Jackets 2025 Stadium Series game at The 'Shoe next March.

“I was there the other day, and it’s just pretty special,” said Boone Jenner, who visited the stadium to start the promotional campaign for the game. “Standing on the turf and looking up and seeing how big that crowd is, and being at football games, you know how loud it is and how many people are there. To take it outdoors and play at The ‘Shoe, it’s awesome.”

While the event will be unique to Columbus, there are a handful of current Blue Jackets players who have experience with outdoor hockey. Johnny Gaudreau, Ivan Provorov, Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic and Kuraly all have suited up in NHL contests outside, with Kuraly scoring the game-winning goal in the 2019 Winter Classic held at Notre Dame Stadium as Boston beat Chicago. In addition, Zach Werenski, Andrew Peeke and Adam Fantilli all played in outdoor games as college players.

“There’s just something to playing outdoors that just feels (childlike) almost, in a way, which is fun,” Kuraly said. “It’s just pure. And then you couple that with all the people in the crowd, it’s just a different feel than in an arena, and a special one. You can really feel it. You almost feel kind of like what a gladiator or something like that would feel like.”

This February’s two Stadium Series games at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey drew a combined 150,018 fans in games that matched up New Jersey and Philadelphia as well as the New York Rangers and Islanders. The attendance of 79,690 in the stadium for the battle of New York was the largest attendance for an NHL outdoor game since more than 85,000 fans filled the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020, for the Winter Classic between Dallas and St. Louis.

Musical guests at Metlife included the Jonas Brothers, The Gaslight Anthem and AJR, while noted New Jersey native Max Weinberg also took part in the proceedings. Players from the New York Giants and Jets were featured along with NHL legends during the 40th and 41st outdoor games in league history.

The pageantry and theater of the outdoor games has evolved over the years, but at its heart, the experience of playing outside is about returning the game to its roots. For someone like Fantilli who grew up about an hour outside of Toronto, skating outdoors was a big part of his childhood, with his father Guiliano at first building a backdoor rink for Adam and his brother Luca before the two outgrew it and would skate outside at a community rink.

“Any chance I got, I was playing outside,” Fantilli said. “I found it so much fun. I would be out there as long as I possibly could just playing scrimmages with whoever would be out there and having the time of my life. It was something I tried to do as much as possible.”

Werenski is another player caught in the middle, a Detroit-area native and a Wolverine who has settled in Columbus. But the CBJ defenseman and alternate captain has embraced it over the years, and now, he sees the chance to play the Red Wings in Ohio Stadium as the perfect meeting between his Michigan upbringing and Columbus home.

“Just to be able to play a game in there against my hometown team is kind of a dream come true a little bit,” Werenski said. “It’s my first outdoor game. It all adds up perfectly, so I’m really excited for it. I’m sure I’ll have a ton of friends, family come down. People I don’t even really talk to are already texting me and sending me stuff on Instagram, Twitter about it. There’s going to be a lot of buzz in the city, which I’m excited for.”

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