As you might imagine, the NHL is putting on a happy face even though it has one of its bottom feeders in the Winter Classic come Monday in New York. But, in fact, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the Buffalo Sabres will remain in the conversation to be a part of future outdoor games.
The Sabres will be last in the Eastern Conference heading into the game against the New York Rangers in Citi Field, a fact the league has not had to deal with among participants in its previous nine Classics.
"You can't handicap that in any given year because you make those decisions early on," Daly said during an informal chat with reporters in the press box during the USA-Canada game at New Era Field. "I don't think there's a concern at all. I think the Sabres deserve to be there. They're part of the history of this game. I think it's a compelling matchup on that basis alone. In New York. Intrastate rivals is pretty cool."
Daly said the Sabres could not host this year's game because team and league officials did not want to stage two major events a few days from each other.
"Certainly when we made the decision to put the Sabres in the Winter Classic in New York there was consideration being given to when we come back to Buffalo," Daly said. "I'm sure it will happen at some point in time."
Daly said the league is stoked about its first foray into New York for its Jan. 1 special. The league played two Stadium Series games in Yankee Stadium in 2014.
"We're excited about it. It's something we've given a lot of thought to over the 10 years of doing these games, having a Winter Classic in New York," Daly said. "Some of the challenges that presents but also all the opportunities that presents as well. We're certainly looking forward to it."
Daly said the snowy conditions Friday had him thinking back to the iconic Sabres-Penguins game here in 2008.
"It's a little colder today but certainly the snow is reminiscent of what we saw in Buffalo 10 years ago ... it's a great backdrop for this game," Daly said. "We got very very fortunate that day, there's no doubt. If it had been 5 degrees warmer and a steady rain instead of snow, I'm not sure we'd be playing these games the way we do now. We got very very fortunate. It was great.
"A confluence of events. It was a great game, a superstar ending it in a shootout in the middle of the snow, so it did capture people's imagination."