ORCHARD PARK, NY (LGS) — While an official NHL announcement regarding the heavily talked about "Ice Bowl" is expected to take place prior to the start of NHL Training Camp in September, you can mark your calendars and make your travel plans today.
Various NHL sources are now confirming the worst kept secret in hockey. The Buffalo Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Tuesday, January 1st at 1pm.
The NHL's second-ever outdoor contest will be nationally televised on NBC. In November 2003, the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens in front of a NHL record-breaking 57,167 fans at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
Ralph Wilson Stadium has a football capacity of 73,967; however, additional seating could be made available on the field.
No information is currently available on ticketing or seating configuration, but the Sabres and the NHL will surely be looking to break the single-game hockey attendance World Record set by Michigan State in 2001.
Michigan State, backstopped by current Sabres' netminder Ryan Miller, hosted the University of Michigan in front of 74,554 fans at Spartan Stadium in October 2001. The attendance was at 103.4% capacity as Spartan Stadium had a football capacity of 72,027 at the time.
The "Heritage Classic" between the Oilers and Canadiens was played in -18 to -22°F temperatures. The Spartans-Wolverines "Cold War" contest was played with temperatures in the mid-30s and wind gusts of 20-30 mph.
The average Buffalo temperature in early January is 30°F.
In order for the 2001 "Cold War" game to take place in East Lansing, Michigan, the Spartans spent $500,000 in upfront costs to create an outdoor ice surface built on top of the stadium's artificial turf. The ice surface was then created by chilling a series of aluminum sheets using the power of a 281-ton refrigeration system.
According to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report, the official announcement about the made-for-television event is expected to take place on September 10th.
"If and when we have something to announce, we will make sure the announcement gets heard," NHL vice president of media relations Frank Brown told the Pittsburgh newspaper.