After helping make the Winter Classic one of the marquee events on the NHL calendar, the Sabres are going back outside. They’ll play the New York Rangers at 1 p.m. Jan. 1 in Citi Field, the home of baseball’s New York Mets.
Here are questions and answers following Tuesday night’s announcement by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Question: How do I get tickets?
Answer: Ticket information will be released at a later date. Typically, the first chance goes to season-ticket holders of the teams involved. Sabres, Rangers and Mets backers will likely receive preferential treatment.
For the Winter Classic in St. Louis four months ago, very few tickets reached the general public. The tickets ranged from $105 to $450, which included a ticket to an outdoor alumni game between the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. There is no word on an alumni game for the Sabres and Rangers.
Updates will be available at NHL.com/fans/winter-classic.
Q: Why is it a home game for the Sabres despite being played in New York?
A: The Rangers are contractually obligated to play all their home games in Madison Square Garden. By designating the Winter Classic as a home game for Buffalo, the NHL can draw from the Big Apple market while also offering a relatively convenient trip for Western New Yorkers.
Buffalo is usually at or near the top of the television ratings for the Winter Classic, so fans who don’t go to the stadium in Queens will undoubtedly tune into NBC.
Q: So the Sabres will play one less game in KeyBank Center?
A: Yes, the Sabres will have 40 games downtown rather than 41. It’s not uncommon. When Buffalo started the 2011-12 season in Finland and Germany, one of those games was designated as a home game.
During the past two seasons, the Sabres went 36-34-12 at home and 32-39-11 on the road.
Because the Sabres couldn’t reveal a 40-game home package before the NHL’s announcement, they have not yet released season-ticket prices for the 2017-18 season. Those renewal notices should be coming soon.
Q: Buffalo will have an outdoor rink available Jan. 1 in New Era Field. Why not use that?
A: The world junior championship will be in Buffalo from Dec. 26 to Jan. 8, and the United States and Canada will face off in the Bills’ stadium Dec. 29.
Russ Brandon, president and managing partner of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, said during October’s world junior announcement that the local spotlight would be kept on the amateur tournament rather than a hockey doubleheader.
“Everything is going to focus on world juniors,” Brandon said. “Whether we ever do another outdoor game at New Era Field, we’re certainly up to it. But the focus is on USA, all on world juniors.
“We want to make it a world juniors that’s remembered forever.”
Outdoor rinks are difficult to build and maintain at an elite level, especially with unpredictable weather. Sabres and Bills officials have said it would not be possible to transform the rink and stadium for two games in four days with crowds of 70,000 or more.
Q: How many fans can fit in Citi Field?
A: The Mets’ stadium, which opened in 2009, has a capacity of 41,922 for baseball. Concerts are often held in the ballpark, including Paul McCartney and Beyoncé.
“We are thrilled and excited to host the 2018 NHL Winter Classic between the Rangers and Sabres, and thank Commissioner Bettman for his support in choosing Citi Field,” said Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon. “We look forward to providing the hockey fans in our city and state a unique setting to experience this marquee matchup and adding it to the list of unique events we have been able to bring to the ballpark.”
Q: If I plan on going, should I look into hotels now?
A: Probably. New Year’s Eve in Times Square is one of the country’s marquee events, so hotel rooms in the area will be costly and could book quickly.
Q: How many Winter Classics have there been?
A: This will be the 10th anniversary of the inaugural event. The first was in Buffalo on Jan. 1, 2008. Sidney Crosby’s shootout goal gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 victory over the Sabres in front of a then-record 71,217 fans.
The other nine Winter Classics were held in Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Washington, Foxborough, Mass.; and St. Louis. There was no event in 2013 because of the lockout-shortened season.
The Rangers beat Philadelphia, 3-2, in the Phillies’ stadium in 2012. They also played Stadium Series games against the Islanders and New Jersey Devils in Yankee Stadium in 2014.
“The New York Rangers are honored to once again be a part of one of the NHL’s signature events,” Rangers President Glen Sather said. “The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic represents everything that is great about our game. Playing in the Winter Classic and Stadium Series in recent years was a tremendous experience for our organization, and we look forward to yet another opportunity to celebrate the game of hockey, together with all our fans, in New York City.”