The NHL held their press conference for the 2018 Winter Classic yesterday at Citi Field in New York, where the Sabres will take on the New York Rangers on new year’s day. Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Pominville were on hand to represent the Sabres at the event.
Upon the league’s announcement of the press conference, speculation ran rampant on social media. Many fans hoped that the NHL would reveal the uniforms and logos that will be used during the game. While various concept designs circulated around twitter, the only official teaser was released via the league’s official snapchat account (pictured below).
The stand-alone charging Buffalo design is a unique, retro take on the Sabres’ current logo. Typically Winter Classis uniforms tend to have an old-school look to them, a trend which began during the first Winter Classic in 2008 when the Sabres faced off with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Once the teaser logo hit the twitterverse, concept uniforms flooded Sabres related news feeds, our favorite of which coming from our friends at Buffalo Wallpapers (@BuffaWallpapers).
The uniforms weren’t the only cause for fan speculation. Sabres followers also ruminated about the team’s captaincy status as it pertained to their selected representatives at the event. Though it is an intriguing theory, there is a likely a more logical explanation. The presence of Jack Eichel shouldn’t surprise anyone. He is the face of the franchise and was a shoe-in to appear at the conference. The same argument can even be made for Ryan O’Reilly who is likely second only to Eichel in terms of iconic players on the Buffalo roster. While at first glance Pominville could be a curious addition, fans were quickly reminded that the former captain is the only member of the Sabres’ organization that participated in the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008.
“I was fortunate enough to play in the first one about ten years ago in Buffalo,” Pominville said. “Look at what it’s become today. It’s a privilege to be part of this.”
Who could forget that snowy afternoon in Orchard Park? Fans filled Ralph Wilson stadium on that frigid day, some even so bold as to go shirtless donning blue and gold war paint in support of their hometown squad. As many fans are aware, that contest was the first ever outdoor NHL game played on American soil.
As this tradition celebrates its tenth anniversary, Jack Eichel will take center stage on the nationally televised game. The 20-year-old center watched the first Winter Classic as an 11-year-old from his childhood home in Massachusetts.
“It’s so exciting. I’ve always dreamed of being able to do something like this,” Eichel said. “Being here, it gets more real and the event gets more and more exciting. I’m going to figure out a lot about what the overall experience is going to be like. I’ve watched a lot of them but I haven’t played in an outdoor game so it will be exciting.”
Though this contest will take place in New York City, there is still a nostalgic feel to the game for Sabres fans who recall the fanfare surrounding the inaugural game in Buffalo. In the months ahead, uniforms and merchandise will be released along with hype videos, which will bring fans back to that glorious winter afternoon when the Sabres helped kick-start an NHL tradition.