The New Era Field will host an outdoor game of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship ten years after hosting an NHL Winter Classic game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Photo: Claus Andersen / Getty Images for NHLI
Buffalo 2018 event to feature outdoor game
Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel both have fond memories of playing in the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Reinhart and Eichel faced off against one another at the 2014 and 2015 World Juniors, with Reinhart playing for Canada and Eichel representing Team USA.
Neither, though, got to experience what World Junior players will see in 2018, when the event returns to Buffalo, which is now Reinhart’s and Eichel’s home as members of the NHL’s Sabres.
USA Hockey and the Buffalo Sabres have teamed up to host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and it will be the first to feature an outdoor game. Host USA will play at New Era Field, home to the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, on 29th December 2017 and the organizer entered the wish to have northern rival Canada as its opponent at the 71,608-seat venue.
“People travel from all over for this tournament,” says Eichel. “I think that’s the way it was last time in Buffalo (2011). It was a great turnout and I imagine it will be even better this upcoming time. Going to Bills games and just seeing the atmosphere there and how crazy the fans are, it’s a great venue for an event like this. People are pretty close to the field, which is great, and it’s going to be a great experience for all the kids taking part in it.”
Adds Reinhart: “We’ve experienced both sides of it, being in Sweden (2014) and it was a whole different atmosphere and then being in Canada (2015). I can only imagine what it would be like to be in Buffalo for an outdoor game, so close to the (US-Canada) border. It’s going to be a pretty special moment to be a part of.”
This year’s World Juniors is being held in Montreal and Toronto and many in Canada feel the tournament in Buffalo will almost feel like another home tournament, with thousands of Canadians expected to cross the border next year to attend the games.
Buffalo played host to the successful 2011 World Juniors and the city also has experience with outdoor games, having put on the first NHL Winter Classic in 2008, when the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Sabres 2-1 in a shootout. Many fans will remember Sidney Crosby scoring on Ryan Miller in the shootout with snow falling on the ice at what was then called Ralph Wilson Stadium (now New Era Field).
It is moments like that that make outdoor games attractive to fans. And USA Hockey believes the 2018 World Junior preliminary-round game will provide plenty of thrilling moments and drama.
“The US-Canada rivalry is as good as it gets in sport,” says Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “And to have an outdoor game between the two countries as part of the World Juniors in hockey-rich Western New York will be spectacular.”
Ogrean spoke of USA Hockey’s comfort and confidence in the Buffalo market. When the 2018 World Juniors conclude, Buffalo will have hosted four World Championships in eight years: the 2011 and 2018 World Juniors, 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women0s World Championship and 2015 IPC Sledge Hockey Championship.
“This is a frequent stop on our flight path and we’re excited to be back in Buffalo,” says Ogrean. “The fact that we’re here is a real state of confidence in the ownership of this team... and the city. This has become a terrific place, and a very comfortable place, to hold events like this.”
Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations, says the World Juniors has exploded in popularity in the States in recent years. A big reason, he says, is the uptick in 19 and 20-year-olds making the jump to the NHL.
“The World Junior Championship is all about celebrating the players and the calibre of play that the hockey fans get to see,” he says. “Especially now, more than ever, because of the connectivity to the NHL and the rapid rise of the young players in the league. So fans are coming out and seeing great international competition with, as we call it, the future stars of the game. But the reality is, that’s a really short future because they’re on NHL ice in a really quick time.”
The groups and schedule will be determined after the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto.
Ticket packages for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship can already be ordered. Three packages are available: the gold package features all 31 tournament games at the three venues (the KeyBank Center, Harbor Center and New Era Field) and will cost $1550, while the silver ($1265) and bronze ($690) packages include the 22 games at KeyBank along with the outdoor game. For more information visit the official event website 2018.worldjunior.hockey.