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 New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres close to being finalized, two sources confirmed to Newsday on Wednesday.
The 2018 Winter Classic will reportedly remain on January 1 as the NHL continues to make this event a part of sports fans’ New Year’s routine, alongside college football bowl games.
January 1 falls on a Monday next year, meaning the Winter Classic will be going up against a handful of bowl games, likely including the Rose Bowl. The NHL has made it clear it has no issue going up against college bowl games on January 1, and in what will be the 10th year of the event it appears the league remains consistent in that plan.
Remarkably, this will be the first Winter Classic is played in New York City. The Sabres hosted the very first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium (home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills) in 2008 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but no team from the state of New York has hosted a Winter Classic since. The Rangers played in the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia against the Flyers. The Islanders have not played in a Winter Classic.
However, this is not the first time an outdoor game will be played in New York. The Rangers and Islanders faced off against each other in 2014 at Yankee Stadium as part of the NHL’s multi-city Stadium Series. Three days prior to that, the Rangers took on the New Jersey Devils on the same field (ice?).
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.