Nearly 10 years after the first NHL Winter Classic was played outdoors on New Era Field, the International Ice Hockey Federation is making similar history with today’s World Juniors Hockey Championship match between Team USA and Team Canada.
Amid cold temperatures and a couple of inches of snowfall, fans will be watching the puck drop between the neighboring countries’ best young players. Reports on Thursday indicated that there was a possibility the 3 p.m. game would be moved indoors due to weather concerns, but USA Hockey Senior Director of Communications Dave Fischer said that was never the case.
“We’re looking forward to a great game today,” Fischer said, noting that he doesn’t anticipate there being any issues for players or fans being out in the cold.
The US-Canada match-up will mark the first time in World Juniors history that a championship game is being played in open air. The teams have both been training on the ice at New Era Field this week. Fischer said when he spoke with players and coaches during their practice, they were all smiles at the thrill of playing outdoors.
“Many of these kids played outdoors on a pond growing up, not all of them. And then with the Canada practice, it was an exact repeat of that. A lot of excitement in the air from the players. They’re really looking forward to it. I know the coaches are as well. And it’s a picture-perfect setting for the game here.”
Upwards of 40,000 had been sold as of Friday morning, making the game another milestone event for the IIHF. With room for as much as 47,000, attendance will already be more than double for any game in its World Juniors history.
Fischer said while local fans may be used to the action at Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills games, there’s nothing quite like the festivities of an international competition.
“You’re going to see a great game – a lot of energy. Some good theater, too, with some of the special things we have planned. And it’s going to be a spectacular day.”
The World Juniors Championship culminates on January 5 with the gold-medal game.