For some it may be a long time coming, while for others it always has been, but Hockey Heaven is shining through in Buffalo. This was reaffirmed when the NHL released its local TV ratings. Even with the team following up back-to-back last place finishes with a sub .500 record, the Sabres averaged a league best 6.55 rating for their games on MSG in the 2015-16 season.
Becoming America’s Hockey Destination
With the Sabres improving and the fans coming back in droves, Buffalo has quickly become an American hub for hockey, hosting a number of national and international events. This is in no small part because of the state of the art HarborCenter that houses two hockey rinks, a hotel, parking garage and other amenities, which connects to the First Niagara Center, putting three sheets of ice in a single foundation.
The last two years, Buffalo has been home to the United States Hockey CCM All-American Prospects Game, which has showcased the likes of Jack Eichel, Matthew Tkachuk and Noah Hanifin.
In 2014, Conner McDavid, Dylan Strome and company also came to town when the Erie Otters faced off against the Niagara Ice Dogs at the First Niagara Center.
And if prospects and seeing the Game’s future stars are your thing, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This past summer, Buffalo hosted the NHL Scouting Combine and this coming summer will host the NHL Draft for the third time and first time since 1998.
Buffalo was also the host city of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in 2011 and will once again host the event in 2018, which include an outdoor game at nearby Ralph Wilson Stadium.
With all this momentum, it’ll only be a matter of time before the NHL All-Star Game returns to Buffalo as well as another NHL outdoor game. Let’s not forget Buffalo was also host of the inaugural Winter Classic game.
Building for the Future
Aside from theses major events, the HarborCenter has also become a development hub with its Academy of Hockey. As per its website, “the Academy of Hockey is dedicated to being the premier development destination for hockey players and coaches by providing the dedicated hockey player with a structured and specific program that encourages and motivates the individual to reach their highest playing potential.”
Former NHL player and current VP & Director of the Academy of Hockey Kevyn Adams explains more in the video below.
With the Academy of Hockey offering round the year programs and training from all levels of youth hockey, aspiring hockey players no longer have to leave the region to get proper development. With its grassroots efforts, hockey has a strong foundation and a bright future in Buffalo.
Also further putting Buffalo on the American hockey map is the presence of Eichel. As a native of Boston, he is possibly the brightest American prospect to come along since reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Patrick Kane, who just happens to hail from Buffalo. As Eichel develops with the potential of being one of the Game’s best, Buffalo will only increase its exposure within hockey circles. Now just imagine if fortune favors the Sabres and they win the long-shot chance of drafting fellow American-phenom Auston Matthews first overall in their own arena.
As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.