Are you ready for some snowballs?
The Buffalo Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in an outdoor hockey game on January 1, 2008. Like the previous outdoor game held in Edmonton in November of 2003, this contest will take place in a football stadium that holds more than 73,000 people. Ralph Wilson Stadium is the site of what is officially called the AMP NHL Winter Classic, the league’s first outdoor game in the United States.
While there was some talk about January 1 forcing the NHL to compete with U.S. college football bowl games, the fact that 41,000 seats were sold in less than 30 minutes shows that was needless worry! The remaining tickets will be split among the Sabres, Pens and the NHL.
Now we are all on to the fact that scalpers buy up hordes of tickets for an event like this and re-sell them on Ebay, Stub Hub and anywhere else they can. That is the real tragedy. Fans will end up spending so much more money on these tickets than face value. Even though the seats are priced as reasonably as $29
U.S. on up to $203, the unscrupulous people who scarf up tickets will make a bundle.
“I don’t know if anybody anticipated that,” Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert said, referring to the speed of ticket sales. “It’s another indication of how special this market is towards hockey.”
Although I agree with Mr. Gilbert’s statement about the market, the ticket brokers did their part.
Be that at it may, the NHL will garner some good publicity from fans that have no qualms at all about sitting outside in what could be very cold, snowy weather. Nor will they worry about driving to the game from Canada, Pennsylvania or any place else, despite what could be a day of lake effect snow coming off Lake Erie.
The Sabres and Pens are two ideal teams to showcase. Both have rabid fans, tremendous speed and exciting players. On the Penguin squad is Georges Laraque who played for the Oilers in the 2003 Heritage Classic.
“It was totally different, it was so cold,” said Laraque. “Guys did not hit. They could not make moves. Eventually everybody was just dumping the puck. It was too cold, but mostly it was awesome to be part of.”
Speaking as someone who was in attendance, I will agree that it was too cold to do anything! Thank goodness for hot chocolate and Bailey’s!
goalie Ryan Miller is looking forward to the big day too.
“I always wondered why the football players got so pumped up after one play when they have to go right back and start another series,” Miller said. “You kind of understand with just that many people out there and the energy it creates and the buildup towards the game.”
We’ll see what kind of ratings this game pulls down in the United States. The Heritage game was not televised in the U.S. but the Winter Classic will be. This time I will watch from the warmth and comfort of my living room, but I will never forget what a special event the game in Edmonton was. I can’t wait to hear the fan stories during and after the game – how far they traveled, why they came, how much fun they are having.
Of course, it could turn out to be a warm, sunny day too – global warming and all!