On January 1st, 2018 the Buffalo Sabres will host the New York Rangers in the 10th Winter Classic in NHL history. The game will be played at Citi Field in Queens, New York which is... a six and a half hour drive from Buffalo.
And the Sabres are the home team.
Anyhoo, neither the Sabres nor the Rangers are outdoor game rookies; the Sabres have only appeared in one Winter Classic (the very first one 10 years ago) while the Rangers have a history of playing outdoors and not just in the NHL’s #brand Outdoor games. Let’s take a look at the Rangers history with playing without a roof over their heads.
September 27th, 1991
Twenty-six years before the Vegas Golden Knights and their insufferable twitter account took the ice for the first time, the Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings took to the ice outside of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for a preseason game. Some of the highlights from this game include a Centurion riding the Zamboni because... Caesar, obviously, the wonderfully bad late 80s-early 90s fashion sense everyone is rocking, and, of course, the fact that the game had to be halted numerous times because the ice around the lines (which were fabric and not painted) kept melting and had to be re-frozen with a fire extinguisher. Here was the temperature at puck drop:
All in all, it was a lovely late September evening in the Nevada desert, but probably not the best conditions for a hockey game.
As for the game itself, both teams featured some great names from the late 80s and early 90s. Los Angeles was led by Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, along with Luc Robitaille and Marty McSorley bolstering the lineup, and Kelly Hrudy in net. The Rangers countered with a young combo of Tony Amonte and current Islanders’ coach Doug Weight, Mark Messier up front, a just entering his prime Brian Leetch and Sergei Zubov on the back end, with John Vanbiesbrouck in net.
The Rangers ended up scoring the first two goals in the game, but ended up surrendering 5 unanswered to the Kings to lose 5-2 – not the best start for the Rangers and their outdoor adventures. Things will get better though, it just takes the Rangers almost 20 years to get back outside.
January 2nd, 2012:
Two decades after their adventure in the desert, the Rangers would not have to go very far to play in their next outdoor game; they traveled up to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers in Citizens Bank Park. I think the most notable thing about the build for the 2012 Winter Classic was the introduction of HBO’s first rendition of Road to the Winter Classic where the fans were given a behind the scenes look at what life was like for NHL players as they went through the four week build up to the game on New Year’s Day.
We were treated to the fact that Ilya Bryzgalov is a modern day Socrates
As well as pure, undistilled, unadulterated Torts (NSFW)
The game itself was an entertaining affair, featuring goals from all the usual suspects as Brayden Schenn scored his first career goal, Claude Giroux picked up his 18th on the season, and for the Rangers it was noted goal scorer...uh...*checks score sheet*...Mike Rupp (?) scoring two (??) for New York with Brad Richards tallying the eventual game winner in the third period. The game is also notable for featuring the first penalty shot in Winter Classic history as Danny Briere was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist in the dying moments of the third period to seal the win for the Rangers.
January 26th, 2014
Two years after the Rangers took to the ice outside in Philadelphia, the NHL kind of lost the plot when it came to the appeal of the outdoor games and thought more was better, and that everyone and their mothers wanted to watch the Chicago Blackhawks all the time. With that in mind the Stadium Series was introduced with the Rangers tapped to play two games outside at Yankee Stadium, in The Bronx (keep this in mind), against the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders. In both of these games the Rangers would be the away team; a team from outside of New York was set to play a home game against a team from New York in New York City, because of various tax and greed reasons.
First up was the New Jersey Devils hosting the New York Rangers. The Devils got off to a real good start in the game, opening up a 3-1 lead by the end of the first twenty minutes. Good thing the Devils had St. Louis Blues’ Legend Martin Brodeur in net, which gave the Rangers the opportunity to score six unanswered goals over the next 40 minutes (with the last goal being a Derek Stepan penalty shot goal against Corey Schneider).
January 29th, 2014
The second of the two Stadium Series games saw the New York Islanders hosting the Rangers, once again, at Yankee Stadium. Unlike the first game in this series, it was a much more low scoring affair as the two teams combined for only three goals. Once again it wasn’t the names you expect to get on to the score sheet; Brock Nelson opened the scoring for the gents from Long Island and Benoit Pouliot responded to tie the game, with both goals being scored in the middle frame. This time, with both teams searching for a goal in the 3rd period, the Rangers turned to noted sniper Dan Carcillo to put the Rangers up one in the final frame. For the first time in the modern outdoor era, a Rangers’ outdoor game did not feature a penalty shot in the third period.
In just a few days the Rangers will add another chapter to their interesting and rather random outdoor history. Who will be the hero of the game in Citi Field? It’s always been the unheralded players to light the lamp during these games and it seems that the Rangers do rather well when they take the roof off of the arenas. Either way, it should be a fun and interesting experience on New Year’s Day.