Plenty to be Desired with USA Hockey’s Outdoor Jerseys

USA Hockey unveiled the jerseys the US will be wearing at New Era Field for the World Junior Championships outdoor game. The reception wasn’t quite as warm as they may have expected.

The jerseys, just a long sleeved Bills jersey, are not easy on the eye. The sleeves and high numbers on the shoulders look terrific. As does the back of the jersey and the collar. It’s the front where everything falls apart. Numbers on the front of a hockey jersey don’t always look out of place, but it’s easy for things to get out of hand.

Donning a special jersey for the game is a great decision, one that would have seemed silly to avoid from both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada’s perspective. So the impetus for the Bills mashup jersey is obvious. What isn’t obvious is why the powers that be decided to go in such a drastic direction. Continue reading

More Thoughts on the World Juniors

Waiting two full years for the World Juniors to arrive at our door once again will certainly test the patience of Western New York’s hockey fans.

The build up to the tournament will certainly bring plenty of cries about #OneBuffalo, #Buffalove and the like. What I hope to see more of is chatter and planning over activities surrounding the tournament.

The NHL Fan Fair from All Star weekend. A simply copy/paste of this in the Convention Center could certainly be a nice addition to the 2018 festivities.

Downtown Buffalo is a much different place today than it was in 2011 and I hope to see it change even more before the start of the 2018 tournament. But outside of big development projects, I’m hoping the city adopts an Olympic-type vibe for the 2018 tourney. I’m thinking of various activities and attractions around town. Pulling inspiration from All Star weekend or the non-event attractions many Olympic cities utilize. Continue reading

World Juniors can Serve as a Catalyst for Downtown

The countdown to the 2018 World Junior Championships in on. We’re just about two years away, on the nose, from the start of the tournament which will culminate in early January 2018.

That’s two full years before the eyes of (most of) the hockey world are directed on Buffalo. Two years to plan and two years to prepare the city.

Based on Buffalo’s previous run as a host in 2011 and subsequent USA Hockey and IIHF events hosted in Buffalo, it’s clear that the Sabres organization has their ducks in a row when it comes to hosting international events. I have little doubt that the efforts made by the Sabres will eclipse the work that made the 2011 tournament a success.

While every ticket at the 2011 event wasn’t sold – in fact there were many Team USA games with open sections of seats – I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect a better turnout for 2018. That’s without taking the planned outdoor game into account. Western New York’s hockey culture continues to grow and if the participants are sold the right way I’d expect to see fans turn out well. One of the many goals that needs to be met by the 2018 WJC

The biggest area of opportunity, in my opinion, is how the players, media and fans who are converging on Buffalo will feel about the city. Two of the more infamous moments of the 2011 tournament were the criticisms leveled by European journalists and Emerson Etem of Team USA. Etem’s comments on the city brought boos from the home crowd whenever he touched the puck in following games. Having home fans boo one of Team USA’s own was terrific.

Obviously the city and region have grown quite a bit in the past five years. The improvements will certainly reflect well upon new and return visitors. However, there’s so much positive energy downtown that the World Junior tournament could serve as the catalyst to wrap up some of the most promising projects in the city. Continue reading

Sabres, Buffalo Add Outdoor Wrinkle to Win 2018 World Juniors Bid

Some interesting and exciting news spiced up a relatively quiet Thursday when word got out that USA Hockey was awarding the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships to Buffalo. The most notable piece of news, apart from who would be hosting, is that an outdoor game would be part of the 2018 tournament.

While the Sabres and the city did a fabulous job hosting the event in 2011 the 2018 edition will have the added wrinkle of an outdoor game. This is undoubtedly the biggest part of the whole announcement simply because Buffalo was always seen as leaders in the clubhouse to win the bid. When word filtered around social media of the outdoor game the first reaction was centered around who would play in it, and how could Team USA and Team Canada be guaranteed to be the ones facing off at the 50 yard line at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The tournament field has yet to be confirmed, let alone the schedule, but as Frank Seravalli of TSN reported the host city may petition to move a team from one group to another. This would make a USA-Canada match up at The Ralph a near certainty.

For what it’s worth, as long as Canada is playing it I think the outdoor game will be a quick sellout regardless who they line up against. The more than 70,000 people certain to pack the stadium would be the biggest crowd ever to watch a junior hockey game and all but guarantee the 2018 tournament be record breaking when it comes to attendance.

Once people got over the initial excitement of there being another outdoor game to look forward to in a few years speculation began to swirl that the Sabres were a slam dunk to host the Winter Classic in 2018, creating an outdoor doubleheader of sorts. John Wawrow has reported the Sabres have officially petitioned the NHL to host the league’s marquee event but it is not a mere formality that the Sabres will be heading outdoors. Continue reading