The Winter Classic will likely make its New York debut on New Year’s Day 2018, with an outdoor game at Citi Field between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres close to being finalized, two sources confirmed to Newsday on Wednesday.
The signature outdoor event for the National Hockey League has been held all around the Eastern half of the U.S. but never in New York. There were, however, two “Stadium Series” games featuring the Rangers playing the Devils and Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26 and 29, 2014. The most recent Winter Classic was in Busch Stadium in St. Louis between the Blues and Blackhawks on Jan. 2.
The Rangers have played in one prior Winter Classic, against the Flyers in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2012. The planned Sabres’ selection for the next installment is a nod to Buffalo hosting the first Winter Classic in 2008 and this next one will be the 10th such game.
There were rumored talks of the Rangers playing the Winter Classic at West Point — possibly against the Panthers, whose owner Vinnie Viola was recently nominated to be Secretary of the Army before he withdrew — but those plans apparently did not materialize for the upcoming season.
The Islanders might have been a more natural fit for the Citi Field game, given the local flavor they would bring and the preliminary talks involving the Wilpons, the Mets owners, as possible investors in a new arena at Belmont Park that the Isles would call home.
But the more national draw of the Sabres, who played the Penguins in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008 in the first Winter Classic, appears to have won out. The Sabres will likely be the “home” team in the game given the Rangers are contractually obligated to play all their home games at Madison Square Garden.
With David Lennon