The NHL’s annual tradition of playing outdoor games in football or baseball stadiums appears set to be renewed in 2018 with the next Winter Classic. It has been rumored for some time now that Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, could be in the running to host an outdoor game between the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, and on Wednesday Newsday reported that a deal to make that a reality is close to being finalized.
The 2018 Winter Classic will reportedly remain on January 1 as the NHL continues to make this event a part of sports fans’ New Year’s routine, alongside college football bowl games.
January 1 falls on a Monday next year, meaning the Winter Classic will be going up against a handful of bowl games, likely including the Rose Bowl. The NHL has made it clear it has no issue going up against college bowl games on January 1, and in what will be the 10th year of the event it appears the league remains consistent in that plan.
Remarkably, this will be the first Winter Classic is played in New York City. The Sabres hosted the very first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium (home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills) in 2008 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but no team from the state of New York has hosted a Winter Classic since. The Rangers played in the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia against the Flyers. The Islanders have not played in a Winter Classic.
However, this is not the first time an outdoor game will be played in New York. The Rangers and Islanders faced off against each other in 2014 at Yankee Stadium as part of the NHL’s multi-city Stadium Series. Three days prior to that, the Rangers took on the New Jersey Devils on the same field (ice?).
For those keeping score at home, Citi Field would be the third National League East stadium to host a winter classic, leaving just the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins remaining. It feels like a safe bet to suggest there will be no Winter Classic in Atlanta anytime soon because, well, a lack of hockey franchise in the city. While Miami is home to the Florida Panthers, even the NHL might think playing a Winter Classic inside a giant dome with a fish tank might be a little too far-fetched to pull off.
Although, if the NHL can hold an outdoor game in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, perhaps nothing should be considered off the table.