NEW YORK -- Plans for the Buffalo Sabres' second appearance in the NHL Winter Classic were kicked off Friday in Citi Field, as the NHL gave the media and some of its players a look at how the home of the New York Mets will look when the Sabres and New York Rangers meet on Jan. 1.
"It's exciting. I've always dreamed of being able to do something like this," said Sabres center Jack Eichel. "Being here, it gets more real and the event gets more and more exciting."
A mockup of the rink was set up on the infield behind the pitcher's mound, stretching from approximately third base to first base. The teams' jerseys will be revealed at a later day but the giant video board in center field gave some clue as special logos for the teams were unveiled, with the Sabres' logo featuring an "NY" notation under the iconic crossed swords.
"It's incredible to see this come together," added center Ryan O'Reilly. " You see the outline of a rink in the stadium and to see how many people are going to be here is awesome. We're fortunate to play in beautiful arenas but to play in front of maybe three times that number of people will be amazing."
The Sabres are in the game in honor of the 10th anniversary of their 2-1 shootout loss to Pittsburgh played in the snow at then-Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008.
"We knew that the Winter Classic would take our game back to its outdoor roots, provide an opportunity for fans to come together in unprecedented numbers and continue their New Year's Even parties by attending an NHL game outside in a non-traditional venue," said Commissioner Gary Bettman. "But no one could have imagined that this great event would actually become a classic."
Eichel reminded Bettman he was 11 when watching the Sabres-Penguins game in 2011. O'Reilly was a junior player with the Erie Otters.
"The last eight years I've always hoped we could get one of these games and I finally did," O'Reilly said. "I'm hoping to soak it all in. The last one was an unfortunate finish for Buffalo. To see the snow flying, barely able to see the puck, it was really cool. And it's great how things can grow. I can't wait to be a part of it."
The Sabres will be the home team in the game because the Rangers' tax agreements with Madison Square Garden do not allow them to play in a different venue. Buffalo is thus expected to use the Mets' clubhouse as its dressing quarters here.
Bettman said there are likely to be more announcements surrounding the game in the coming weeks. Past years have included an alumni game between the teams on New Year's Eve and a reality show following both clubs for either the Showtime or Epix networks.