The NHL’s Winter Classic appears to be headed to the New York City area for the first time.
According to David Lennon and Arthur Staple of Newsday, the 2018 New Year’s Day outdoor game will likely be held at CitiField, home of the New York Mets, and feature the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers.
Earlier this season there was talk that the league was trying to work out something for a Winter Classic at West Point featuring the Rangers and possibly the Florida Panthers, but those plans have changed.
It would have been ideal for the Sabres to play host on the 10th anniversary of the inaugural Winter Classic, which took place in Buffalo, but the upcoming World Junior Championship will feature the U.S. versus Canada at New Era Field on Dec. 29. So scratch that.
Once finalized, this will be the fourth outdoor game for the Rangers after playing in the 2012 Winter Classic against the Philadelphia Flyers and acting as visitors for two Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium in 2014 against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
The Rangers had to play as visitors in both Yankee Stadium games due to a special property tax exemption, as the New York Times reported in 2014. It would be funny to see the Sabres listed as the home team in a game being played nearly 400 miles from Buffalo.
So why would the NHL and NBC want the Sabres? Well, aside from the 10-year anniversary angle, Buffalo brings the ratings. This season’s game featuring the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium delivered the smallest audience for a Winter Classic on NBC. And if you look at the major League events, it’s a city that shows up among the top local markets.
So get ready for a Road to the Winter Classic all-access show with lots of Jack Eichel and Henrik Lundqvist love; Kyle Okposo talking about his days as an Islander playing against the Rangers; and whatever is on Robin Lehner’s mind.
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