No doubt with the lure of presumptive top draft pick Rasmus Dahlin and Jack Eichel in the lineup, the Buffalo Sabres have been chosen to meet the Columbus Blue Jackets in the annual Kraft Hockeyville exhibition game. The contest will be held Sept. 25 at Clinton Arena in Clinton, New York, which is located 16 miles from Utica.
The announcement was made Friday night on NBC Sports Network prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference final between Winnipeg and Las Vegas. NBCSN has annually televised the Hockeyville game.
The Kraft Hockeyville series launched in Canada in 2006 and in the United States in 2015. It is an online vote that determines the most passionate hockey town from rinks that could use upgrades. Winners receive $150,000 for that purpose and the right to host an NHL exhibition game.
Clinton Arena -- which was one of the locations for the 1977 hockey classic "Slap Shot" -- has served generations of players for nearly 70 years and was completed rebuilt after a 1953 fire. It was listed on the National Historic Register in 2010 and the prize money is expected to be used on features such as the arena's roof, seating and locker rooms. The arena seats about 2,000 fans.
"The Buffalo Sabres are excited to participate in this year's Kraft Hockeyville USA game," General Manager Jason Botterill said in a statement issued by the team. "Playing in front of Clinton's passionate hockey community in a rink like the ones many of our players grew up skating in will be a great experience for our players. We look forward to putting on a great show for the NHL fans of Central New York."
"Our game is built on the foundation of local communities and its continued growth is a testament to the individuals and families who love and support hockey in those communities," said Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. "Kraft Hockeyville USA is a wonderful celebration of hockey's grass roots and our club is thrilled to be going to Clinton, New York, to play the Buffalo Sabres this September."
This will be the Sabres' fourth Hockeyville exhibition. They have played twice in Canada (against Montreal in Roberval, Quebec, in 2008 and against Ottawa in Dundas, Ont., in 2010), and also met Carolina in Marquette, Mich., in 2016.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 14, 2018