The Winter Classic: 1st Outdoor NHL Game in USA


Chief of Surgery
Aug 30, 2000
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Stadium Preview Picture
Time Lapse Rink Construction

Signed, sealed and nearly delivered
Dan Rosen | staff writer Dec 28, 2007, 4:51 PM EST

RCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The sun was shining. The wind was light. And the rain stayed away – at least long enough.

With Mother Nature doing her part Friday, the temporary ice surface at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the venue for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), began to look more and more like a hockey rink.

The ice, built to an inch thick by NHL Facilities Operation Manager Dan Craig and his crew, was painted white by Dave Loverock and the ice crew from the HSBC Arena Friday afternoon. Before dusk settled on the Buffalo area, the white paint was sealed and the smaller auxiliary rink adjacent to the main rink was painted light blue.

All in all, Friday was a good day for the staff here at the stadium.

“You can look out and see almost a full hockey rink happening,” Craig said during his daily media briefing. “We had an inch of ice by noon today, and this afternoon starting right at 1 o’clock we painted it white. So now you have a nice, white hockey rink out there.”

Craig said he hopes to have the ice surface completed by Sunday evening. The Sabres and Penguins are scheduled to practice on it Monday afternoon.

“The HSBC Arena crew has now taken over the construction part and they’re building this hockey sheet exactly like they would build a hockey sheet at any other NHL facility,” Craig said. “We’re sealing the white in now, and make sure we have a good seal over the top of it before we proceed with our lines and logos.”

Now that the rink construction phase is complete, the ancillary construction of penalty boxes, player benches, coaches walkways, a ramp for the Zamboni, television sets for CBC and NBC, a stage for entertainment, and video boards is in full swing.

Some of that already was completed by dusk Friday.

“The heated benches are now in place and the backwalls are going in behind the benches so we can put up the coaches walkway,” Craig said. “If you look at the other corner we have constructed an elevated Zamboni gate so we can get our machine up and over our pipes and onto the surface. We’re going to continue on the penalty box side this afternoon. The glass will not go in until the night of the 30th.”

Contact Dan Rosen at [email protected].

League considering 'semi-regular' Winter Classic

BUFFALO -- It's called the NHL Winter Classic. And it may become a staple on the NHL schedule.

Bill Daly won't go so far as to say a success with the first outdoor NHL game in the U.S., and only the second since the Heritage Classic in 2003 in Edmonton, would make it an annual event.

"It's something we're going to look at doing more of," said the NHL's deputy commissioner.

"I wouldn't say we'd do an outdoor game every year. But it could become a semi-regular event. It's a little early to make those predictions. But it's a pretty interesting event.

"Already it's been very successful in terms of ticket sales and the excitement you see in Buffalo and in the United States and Canada," he said of the game the league basically bought from the Sabres to produce themselves.

"We want to do more of building league platforms," he said of events like this and the pair of season-opening games between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in London, England.

"It adds a buzz around the league and the sport. Sponsors get excited."

Daly, who was speaking via conference call at an on-site press conference at Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday, said all signs point to a success.

"The people on-site have done an amazing job and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we're going to have pretty good weather."

The weather looks like it's going to be ideal for the event which will put 70,000 or so people in the stands.

There hasn't been a January game in the stadium since 1997 when the Bills last played host to an NFL playoff game.
Michigan and MSU did it first. And better. :o

Nice avvy, btw.
I look forward to seeing this, ought to be a great one :up:
I should be over my hang over by then, I hope.
Sabres Highlights
Penguins Highlights
Sidney Crosby Highlights
Thomas Vanek

Heritage Classic 2003 Oilers vs Canadiens
1st Outdoor NHL Game
I've been to Ralph Wilson Stadium a couple times to watch the Bills play. They have heated seats in the red chairs where I sat to watch the Bills/Chargers game last season. Not a bad facility.
That's a lot of snow. Not too cold.
Those people are die hard. :up:
I'm in love with that ref. :cmad:
I don't like that set up, why are the seats so far from the rink? :down
It's going to take forever to finish this game if they have to stop and clear the ice. With that said, man I love the atmosphere of this game. :up:
Crosby wins it in a shootout. Penguins 2 Sabres 1
Hope the NHL continues with the outdoor games, and hopefully the weather and ice are better. Edmonton was too cold, Buffalo was too snowy, third times the charm.
Yeah, I think they did a fine job dealing with the elements. :up:
I loved watching this...........seemed like that's how it should be....
I loved watching this...........seemed like that's how it should be....

Me too. It was a really exciting game to boot. The Pens did really well. What a win! :up:
Winter Classic exceeds U.S. TV expectations

Globe and Mail Update

January 2, 2008 at 12:32 PM EST

NBC exceeded audience expectations for its coverage of the Buffalo outdoor game on New Year's Day by earning a 2.4 overnight rating (percentage of the potential U.S. audience tuned in).

Sources said an American network has not produced an audience of that size for an NHL regular season game since the Fox Sports telecasts in the 1990s.

Last season, NBC's regular season NHL telecasts earned an average rating of 1.0.

Canadian audience figures for the CBC telecast were not available.

That's great news. Now if Versus can work out a deal with the NHL and drop exclusive rights then hockey games will be back on ESPN2.
This reminded me of playing pond hockey on the frozen lakes of New England as a kid.
Damn, not since 1990?
I helped. :yay: :up:

Darren Dreger Blog 1/2/2008

The NHL will go through a debrief process before considering future plans for the next "Winter Classic."

However, it's safe to say there will be another outdoor game and the interest generated from the success in Buffalo is sure to bring multiple offers.

Sources say Toronto will make an official pitch when the time is right with Montreal also considered to be a choice destination among the Canadian teams expected to show interest.

Rogers Centre in Toronto may seem like the obvious venue, but the fact Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment also operates BMO Field leads some to believe the Maple Leafs may push in that direction to avoid losing the full financial windfall that comes with every Toronto home game.

Sources say Leafs executives discussed revisiting the idea of hosting this event on Wednesday.

The venue is a concern to the National Hockey League both in size and cost of any necessary reconfiguration, so whether it's Toronto, or any other city, venue viability is high on the list of criteria.

Yankee Stadium in New York remains an attractive target as well with sources saying the Islanders and Rangers have had several conversations about the potential of playing at the famed ballpark before it closes.

The Islanders are believed to be pushing hard to bring this game to reality, leading the way in multiple discussions with both the Yankees and the NHL. However, the competition for both the game and a matchup with the Rangers is said to be fierce.

Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Denver are also believed to be interested in hosting an outdoor game, although that list is sure to grow along with the expectation this event will become an annual NHL celebration.
Posted: 9:17 PM by Darren Dreger - Comments?

It would be great if they could do a doubleheader.

Two American teams in the afternoon 12 EST start
2009 NY Rangers vs NY Islanders
2010 Detroit vs Colorado
2011 Philadelphia vs Chicago

Two (or at least one) Canadian teams in the late afternoon
2009 Toronto vs Ottawa
2010 Vancouver vs Calgary
2011 Boston vs Montreal

The first game would be on NBC or ESPN2 with the second one on Versus while both games would be on CBC.
It would be a gamble but could pay off really well. More teams would be involved and certain teams would know they would get to host much more often then having an All-Star Game or Entry Draft.
That's awesome. I'd to trek to see one.

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