Pens' outdoor game may be played in February
A proposed outdoor hockey game involving the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres could be played Feb. 17, 2008, rather than New Year's Day.
The Penguins are scheduled to play twice in Buffalo this season, once Jan. 1 and again Feb. 17. Each game is scheduled to be played at HSBC Arena and start at 1 p.m., but the Feb. 17 contest will be played on a Sunday -- an ideal slot for NBC to televise an outdoor game, given that major sporting competition would be limited to the NBA and college basketball.
Buffalo is scheduled to play only four Sunday home games this season -- two in February. Only the game against the Penguins is scheduled for 1 p.m. (The Sabres will play host to Florida at 7 p.m. Feb. 10.)
If the NHL decided to move the Feb. 17 game outdoors, the contest likely would be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium. One possible drawback to this scenario is that Buffalo is scheduled to play in New York against the Rangers at 1 p.m. Feb. 16.
Logistics, notably climate concerns, could prevent an "Ice Bowl" from being played in early January. Also, NBC might be re-evaluating airing an outdoor hockey game opposite popular college bowl games.
Buffalo's early winter was unseasonably mild last year, with the temperature on New Year's Day recorded at above freezing, according to the National Weather Service.
However, the latter part of Buffalo's winter, especially February, was harsh -- with an average high temperature of 24.1 degrees and a low of 13. It was Buffalo's coldest February in 28 years and the snowiest in 12, with flakes falling on 26 of 28 days.
The high temperature in Buffalo on Feb. 17, 2007, was 24 degrees, and the city was recovering from a winter storm that dropped nearly eight inches of snow.
The NHL would not comment on a possible outdoor game, but it is believed to favor holding such an event in a northern U.S. city. Larger markets such as New York City and Boston have already reportedly been ruled out.
The Penguins, too, would not comment. However, they have told the NHL they are willing to participate in an outdoor game, but only as a visiting club. The league is believed to favor playing the game in Buffalo, against either the Penguins or Detroit Red Wings -- two prominent U.S.-based clubs that are within reasonable driving distance of Buffalo.
A final decision on a possible outdoor game is not expected before August.