Rangers and Sabres Take Center Stage in 2018 Winter Classic

It’s a long way from Edmonton, Alberta circa 2003 to Citi Field, Queens circa 2018.

Those geographic and time measurements tell you how far — and how successful — NHL outdoor games have been — all 22 of them so far.

Right in our own backyard, this latest open-air ice extravaganza — Rangers vs. Sabres — will unfold on New Year’s Day, at the Mets’ home ballpark. It will be the NHL’s 10th “Winter Classic”, featuring fresh-air big-league hockey at its best.

The countdown is officially on for the 2018 NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field, as the Rangers and Sabres meet in Queens in the 10th anniversary of the NHL's annual outdoor extravaganza.

The official announcement was made at Citi Field on Friday afternoon with Blueshirts captain Ryan McDonagh and Buffalo’s Jason Pominville, among those representing the players.

“These outdoors games have made for a great experience,” enthused McDonagh. “It’s truly amazing to be able to play in front of 40,000-plus fans. It’s incredible when you consider that it’ll be more than double the size of our usual crowds.”

This intra-New York State battle will mark the 18th such game played at an American outdoor venue. Five have been held so far in Canada with two more to be held in the upcoming campaign.

The Rangers’ last appearance was at Yankee Stadium in 2014 when they defeated the Devils and Islanders in succession. Meanwhile, Mets moguls awaited their turn at the ice box.

“I pleaded with [Commissioner] Gary Bettman for years to have this event at our ball park,” Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon argued. “Times Square is the center of the New Year’s Eve celebration.

“Just 10 miles from that site we’ll get to have the center of the NHL at Citi Field on New Year’s Day. Ryan [McDonagh] was here a few years ago to watch a baseball game with me. Who would’ve thought he’d be back here to play hockey?”

Bettman, who sees no end in sight for the Classics, pointed out that this will mark Pominville’s third such event, two of them as a Sabre.

Originally drafted by the Sabres in 2001, Jason Pominville returned to Buffalo in the offseason. The forward speaks to the media about being a part of his second Winter Classic and his expectations for the upcoming campaign.

Jack Eichel [Pominville’s teammate] told me he was 11 years old watching a Classic on television and now he’s going to be a major part of it,” added the Commissioner.

Bettman’s sometime adversary, NHL Players’ Association boss Donald Fehr, shared the dais. The union leader noted that he held a similar role for 26 years with the baseball players’ group.

“It will be great to have the Sabres and Rangers play in front of the passionate New York crowd at such a nice, new stadium,” he said. “It will lend a measure of authenticity to the game.”

“We’ve had an overwhelming response to our outdoor games,” Bettman asserted. “We were lucky that the very first game exceeded our expectations and we’ve been able to grow the Classic into our New Year’s tradition.”

Wilpon gazed up at the sky, concluding: “I’m hoping for some light snow!”

The following is a list of outdoor games starting with the original played 14 years ago:

1. Nov. 22, 2003: Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton Alberta (Heritage Classic)

Montreal Canadiens: 4
Edmonton Oilers: 3
Attendance: 57,167

2. Jan. 1, 2008: Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo New York (Winter Classic)

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2
Buffalo Sabres: 1
In a shootout
Attendance 71,217

3. Jan. 1, 2009: Wrigley Field in Chicago (Winter Classic)

Detroit Red Wings: 6
Chicago Blackhawks:4
Attendance: 40,818

4. Jan. 1, 2010: Fenway Park in Boston (Winter Classic)

Boston Bruins: 2
Philadelphia Flyers: 1
In Overtime
Attendance 38,112

5. Jan. 1, 2011: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania (Winter Classic)

Washington Capitals: 3
Pittsburgh Penguins: 1
Attendance 68,111

6. Feb. 20, 2011: McMahon Stadium in Calgary (Canadian Heritage Classic)

Calgary Flames: 4
Montreal Canadiens: 0
Attendance 41,022

7. Jan. 2, 2012: Citizens Park in Philadelphia Pennsylvania (Winter Classic)

New York Rangers: 3
Philadelphia Flyers: 2
Attendance 41,022

8. Jan. 1, 2014: Michigan Stadium “The Big House” on the campus of University of Michigan (Winter Classic)

Toronto Maple Leafs: 3
Detroit Red Wings: 2
In a shootout
Attendance 105,491

9. Jan. 25, 2014: Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles California (Stadium Series)

Anaheim Ducks: 3
Los Angeles Kings:0
Attendance 54,099

10. Jan. 26, 2014: Yankee Stadium in Bronx New York (Stadium Series)

New York Rangers: 7
New Jersey Devils: 3
Attendance 50,105

11. Jan. 29, 2014: Yankee Stadium in Bronx New York (Stadium Series)

New York Rangers: 2
New York Islanders: 1
Attendance 50,027

12. March 1, 2014: Soldier Field in Chicago (Stadium Series)

Chicago Blackhawks: 5
Pittsburgh Penguins: 1
Attendance 62,921

13. March 2, 2014: BC Place Stadium in Vancouver (Heritage Classic)

Ottawa Senators: 4
Vancouver Canucks: 2
Attendance 54,194

14. Jan. 1, 2015: Nationals Park in Washington D.C. (Winter Classic)

Washington Capitals: 3
Chicago Blackhawks: 2
Attendance 42,832

15. Feb. 21, 2015: Levi’s Stadium Santa Clara California (Stadium Series)

Los Angeles Kings: 2
San Jose Sharks: 1
Attendance 70,205

16. Jan. 1, 2016: Gillette Stadium Foxborough Massachusetts (Winter Classic)

Montreal Canadiens: 5
Boston Bruins: 1
Attendance 67,246

17. Feb. 21, 2016: TCF Bank Stadium Minneapolis Minnesota (Stadium Series)

Minnesota Wild: 6
Chicago Blackhawks: 1
Attendance 50,426

18. Feb. 27, 2016: Coors Field Denver Colorado (Stadium Series)

Detroit Red Wings: 5
Colorado Avalanche: 3
Attendance 50,095

19. Oct. 23, 2016: Investors Group Field Winnipeg Manitoba (Heritage Classic)

Edmonton Oilers: 3
Winnipeg Jets: 0
Attendance 33,240

20. Jan. 1, 2017: BMO Field Toronto Ontario Canada (Centennial Classic)

Toronto Maple Leafs: 5
Detroit Red Wings: 4
In Overtime
Attendance 40,818

21. Jan. 2, 2017: Busch Stadium in St. Louis Missouri (Winter Classic)

Chicago Blackhawks: 1
St. Louis Blues: 4
Attendance 46,556

22. Feb. 25, 2017: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (Stadium Series)

Philadelphia Flyers: 2
Pittsburgh Penguins: 4
Attendance 67,318

Upcoming Outdoor Games 2017-2018

1. Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators: Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa on Dec. 16.

2. New York Rangers vs Buffalo Sabres: NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field in Queens New York on Jan. 1.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Washington Capitals: Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marne Corps Stadium in Annapolis Maryland on March 3.