2018 NHL Winter Classic
|Date||January 1, 2018|
|City||New York City, New York|
The 2018 NHL Winter Classic (officially the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic) was an outdoor regular season National Hockey League (NHL) game, part of the Winter Classic series, played on January 1, 2018. The game featured the Buffalo Sabres matched up against the New York Rangers at Citi Field in the New York City borough of Queens, home of Major League Baseball's New York Mets. The game marked the 10th anniversary of the NHL Winter Classic, following the success of the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton, Alberta.
The 2018 game marked the second Winter Classic for each team, following the Rangers' appearance in the 2012 event and the Sabres' in 2008. It was the Rangers' fourth outdoor game, having also appeared in the 2014 Stadium Series. J. T. Miller of the Rangers scored on a rebound in overtime to give the Rangers a 3–2 win over the Sabres.
On March 15, 2017, Arthur Staple of Newsday reported that the game had been awarded to the New York Rangers. The Rangers originally had planned to play at Blaik Field at Michie Stadium on the campus of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York but were unable to come up with an agreement to use that facility in time. Yankee Stadium, which hosted the Rangers' games in the 2014 NHL Stadium Series, was ruled out for the Winter Classic because it hosts college football's Pinstripe Bowl a week before the event. Instead, the Rangers reportedly reached an agreement with Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team, to host the event. The same article identified the Buffalo Sabres as the Rangers' opponent. The Sabres were also in negotiations to host the event, both because it marked ten years since the inaugural Winter Classic and because the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships had already scheduled an outdoor game at New Era Field for late December 2017, which would have allowed the outdoor ice surface to be used for both that and the Winter Classic. League vice president Bill Daly argued that having two major outdoor games in the same facility so close together would have stretched the resources of Pegula Sports and Entertainment too thin, hence why New York City was chosen as the host site. The Sabres were chosen as the opponents in a thank-you gesture from NBC and the NHL for taking the risk on the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008, and the team's poor performance and declining television ratings (at a time when the Winter Classic's ratings are also declining) did not concern NBC.
On May 10, 2017, commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced that the 2018 Winter Classic would be played at Citi Field, and feature the New York Rangers against the Buffalo Sabres. In order to maintain the tax-exempt status of the Rangers' home arena, Madison Square Garden, the Rangers are designated as the away team for this game as a legal fiction. The tax exemption stipulates that it only applies if the Rangers do not "cease playing" home games at MSG, generally interpreted as playing any "home" game outside of MSG. Hence, the Rangers' Stadium Series games in 2014 were also subject to this fiction, and all games that the Rangers play at neutral sites (such as the 2011 NHL Premiere) have likewise listed the Rangers as the away team.
Despite being the designated home team, the Sabres wore a white throwback uniform during the game (current NHL custom has the home team wear color and the away team white). The uniform is primarily based on the Sabres' 1970s jersey and colors, with some elements borrowed from the team's Buffalo Bisons-inspired 40th Anniversary third jerseys from 2010 to 2012. The Rangers wore navy blue jerseys with the diagonal "RANGERS" lettering on the front of the jersey in white, inspired by the lettering worn by the team in the late 1920s, with the sleeve and waist striping inspired by the uniforms of the early 1930s.
|January 1, 2018||New York Rangers||3-2 OT||Buffalo Sabres||Citi Field||Recap|
The Rangers went up 2-0 in the first period with goals by Paul Carey and Michael Grabner. Buffalo's Sam Reinhart had a power play goal in the second period, and then Rasmus Ristolainen tied the game early in the third. The game went into overtime, where J. T. Miller scored on a power play goal with 2:17 left in the extra period to win the game.
|1st||NYR||Paul Carey (5)||Jesper Fast (10), Cristoval Nieves (7)||04:09||NYR 1-0|
|NYR||Michael Grabner (18)||Kevin Hayes (8), J. T. Miller (19)||08:20||NYR 2-0|
|2nd||BUF||Sam Reinhart (6) - pp||Kyle Okposo (12), Rasmus Ristolainen (11)||00:56||NYR 2-1|
|3rd||BUF||Rasmus Ristolainen (2)||Ryan O'Reilly (16), Kyle Okposo (13)||00:27||2-2|
|OT||NYR||J. T. Miller (8) - pp||Kevin Shattenkirk (18), Mats Zuccarello (22)||02:43||NYR 3-2|
- Number in parenthesis represents the player's total in goals or assists to that point of the season
|NYR||Team (served by J. T. Miller)||Too Many Men on Ice||08:44||2:00|
|Three star selections|
|1st||NYR||J. T. Miller||1 goal, 1 assist|
|2nd||BUF||Robin Lehner||39 saves|
|3rd||NYR||Kevin Hayes||1 assist|
The game was broadcast, as it has been since the Winter Classic's inception, by NBC in the United States. In Canada, Sportsnet simulcast the NBC feed, while TVA Sports used NBC's video to dub their French-language commentary.
The broadcast of the game set a record low for viewership of the game, with 2.48 million viewers and a 1.4 Nielsen rating, both down slightly from the previous year's record low and continuing the game's continuous decline in ratings since the event's peak in 2014. NBC, however, stated that viewership was still two times higher than the average viewership of regular season games in the previous season. Audience burnout, the Sabres' poor play (which drove ratings for the Sabres' regional telecasts for that season down 20 percent compared to the previous year), competition from a strong slate of bowl games (including the UCF Knights football team's bid for a perfect season airing on the 2018 Peach Bowl opposite the Winter Classic), and fan hangover after the Buffalo Bills broke their 17-year playoff drought the previous day were cited as factors in the continued ratings decline.
- Brooks, Larry (October 9, 2016). "NHL exploring West Point for possible Rangers outdoor game". New York Post. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
- Staple, Arthur (March 15, 2017). "2018 NHL Winter Classic likely to be held at Citi Field with Rangers vs. Sabres, sources say". Newsday. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
- Hoppe, Bill (October 14, 2014). "Gary Bettman hints Sabres could host another outdoor game". Olean Times Herald. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
- Fink, James (January 2, 2018). "Sabres had no choice but to hit the road for outdoor game". Business First. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
- Pergament, Alan (December 28, 2017). "As Winter Classic nears, how much have Sabres' struggles affected TV ratings?". The Buffalo News. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- "Sabres to play Rangers in 2018 Winter Classic". Die by the Blade (SBNation). Vox Media. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
- "Rangers on Road in the Bronx? Money May Be Why". The New York Times. January 25, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- Benjamin, Cody (May 12, 2017). "Sabres 'hosting' 2018 Winter Classic vs. Rangers reportedly saves MSG $40M". CBSSports.com. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- Sabres PR (November 22, 2017). "Sabres unveil 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic uniform". Sabres.com. NHL. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
- "Rangers unveil 2018 Winter Classic uniform". NHL.com. November 24, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
- "Miller overtime goal lifts Rangers past Sabres in Winter Classic". NHL.com. January 1, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
- "2018 Winter Classic was lowest-rated ever, NBC promotes it". Awful Announcing. January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- Pergament, Alan (April 10, 2018). "Sabres TV ratings end season with 20 percent drop". The Buffalo News. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
- Pergament, Alan (January 3, 2018). "Sabres lose much of local audience from 2008 Winter Classic". The Buffalo News. Retrieved January 4, 2018.