Winter Classic 2008


On New Year’s Day, the Buffalo Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the much anticipated and widely publicized NHL Winter Classic 2008.   The Winter Classic, which will be played outdoors at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, is the NHL’s 2nd outdoor regular season game.  The first was the Heritage Classic which was played in November 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta.  The NHL is hoping to cash in by highlighting the league’s marketing centerpiece, Sidney Crosby, and broadcasting live on NBC and CBC on a holiday opposite bowl games.  Buffalo is uniquely positioned near the US/Canadian border and will add to the “international” appeal.


Preparations are on-going around the clock to convert the Buffalo Bill’s football stadium into a 70,000-seat hockey rink.  To add to the challenge, the NHL couldn’t start the physical conversion until December 23rd based upon football schedules.  Needless to say, the planning has been in work for more than 6-months.  One of the challenges is compensating for a 9-inch crown that exists on the football field.  The NHL is having to use styrofoam and plywood to create a level foundation for the rink.  They also have to establish the infrastructure that you would normally find inside a hockey rink, including the cooling equipment for making ice, locker rooms, etc.  Add to that, the challenges of making it broadcast and fan friendly in terms of camera angles and sight lines, and it is no small feat.



Probably the biggest variable in playing an outdoor game will be the weather.  The forecast over the next several days in Buffalo consists of mixed rain and snow with temperatures ranging from the low to mid-30’s.  This will undoubtedly be challenging for the preparations.  On New Year’s day, the forecast currently calls for snow showers with a low of 24 and a high of 32.  Depending on how much it snows, it could make for an even more interesting game.   

With 70,000 fans in attendance and millions more watching on TV, this will be a banner event for the NHL and a great game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres.  The fun begins at 1PM on New Year’s Day on NBC and CBC.

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