BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The NHL Winter Classic could return to the scene where it started when the Bills’ new football stadium in Orchard Park is ready to host the outdoor hockey game.
“You have to promise me another snow-globe day,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday while in Buffalo to watch the Sabres raise Ryan Miller’s banner to the rafters of KeyBank Center.
“This is a great sports town,” Bettman added. “It’s a great hockey market. Yes, when there’s a new stadium, we’ll be more than happy to bring back an outdoor game.”
Bettman called the inaugural NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium “a spectacular day that is emblazoned in my memory and I’m sure all of yours.”
“It was a perfect day, and it defined what has become an incredible event,” Bettman said. “I think we just did our 36th outdoor game and they’ve all been incredible. This year’s at Fenway was great. We’re going to have a game in Carolina. We’re getting a little more daring, but the appetite for these games, from our teams, our markets and our fans, continues unabated.”
Plans to build a new football stadium in Orchard Park adjacent to the current one bolster Bettman’s confidence that Terry and Kim Pegula, who own both the Bills and Sabres’ franchises, will eventually upgrade Buffalo’s downtown arena that was built in 1996.
“When you look at all that the Pegulas have invested in Buffalo, I have no doubt that at the appropriate time they’ll be doing the right things,” Bettman said. “Whether it was the area surrounding the canal and here, whether it’s the new football stadium, and ultimately, what’s been built around this arena. And what this arena will need, I have no doubt that it will be taken care of here.”
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