Sabres Look to Win First Outdoor Game in 2022 Heritage Classic

The NHL announced last week that the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs will play in the 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Hamilton, Ontario. The game will be played outdoors at Tim Hortons Field, home of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger Cats, on Mar. 13, 2022. The last NHL Heritage Classic was played in 2019, when the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Calgary Flames in overtime at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, in front of 33,518 people in attendance.

Sabres and Leafs To Face Off In Heritage Classic

The NHL has staged 32 regular-season outdoor games in its history, and the Heritage Classic between the Sabres and Maple Leafs will be one of three played in the 2021-22 season. The other two outdoor games will be the Winter Classic, played between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN, on New Year’s Day, and the Stadium Series, played between the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN, on Feb. 26.

The Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins played in the NHL’s first Winter Classic in 2008, at then-Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (Credit: Krm500, Via Wikipedia Commons.)

When it comes to the Heritage Classic, there are plenty of reasons to be excited, even though expectations for the Sabres to be competing for a playoff spot come next March are low. “We are excited to announce that we will be presenting another Tim Hortons Heritage Classic this season,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a recent interview. “When the Toronto Maple Leafs meet the Buffalo Sabres at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, we again will honor Canada’s preeminent role in the history of our game while renewing a great and longstanding NHL rivalry.” (From ‘Buffalo, Toronto to play in NHL Heritage Classic game in 2022’ WGRZ, 9/16/2021)

Related: Buffalo Sabres 2021-22 Season Preview Section

The Sabres will be the first non-Canadian team to play in a Heritage Classic game, making history whether they end up winning the game or not. “In addition, by inviting the first U.S.-based team to a Heritage Classic,” Bettman said, “We will celebrate the greater Golden Horseshoe region as the home of so many fans of both the Leafs and Sabres.” If COVID-19 border restrictions ease by the time this game comes, fans of both teams will be sure to pounce on tickets and make the atmosphere at the game one to remember.

Sabres Hosted First-Ever Winter Classic

The Sabres hosted the first-ever Winter Classic, when they faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year’s Day way back in 2008. In front of 71,217 fans in attendance at then-Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, the Penguins skated to a 2-1 shootout victory against the Sabres thanks to the game-winner by Sidney Crosby, wrapping up what was an ultra-competitive game between two teams in the playoff conversation. While the Sabres missed the playoffs that season, the Penguins went on to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, eventually losing out to the Detroit Red Wings.

Sabres Have Losing Record In Outdoor Games

Exactly ten years from the date of the first Winter Classic, the Sabres played in another Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2018, against the New York Rangers at Citi Field in New York, NY. They lost that game 3-2 in overtime, as J.T. Miller scored the game-winning goal for the Rangers in front of 41,821 fans.

The Sabres have played a total of two outdoor games to date, with a record of 0-0-2, not exactly anything to write home about. They bring this losing record into the 2022 Heritage Classic, and hope that they can record their first win in these kinds of games.

Heritage Classic Will Be Spectacle No Matter What

Despite whichever outcome occurs, one thing is for sure: this Heritage Classic between the Sabres and Leafs will be a spectacle; after all, every outdoor game the NHL hosts is. Even during the year of COVID when fans couldn’t be in attendance, the NHL pulled off the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe event, which saw a pair of outdoor games played in Stateline, NV at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort, between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, and the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. The Avalanche and Bruins skated to 3-2 and 7-3 wins, respectively. With fans back in the stands and a sense of normalcy finally returned to the NHL, the 2022 Heritage Classic is sure to be amazing.

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