International Ice Hockey Federation

Great expectations

Great expectations

What to look for outside between USA & CAN

Published 15.08.2018 01:05 GMT-4 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Great expectations
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 27: USA's Adam Fox #8 looks on during practice at New Era Field prior to Team USA's outdoor game against Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Any time Canada and the United States play, it’s great. But outdoors on a frosty Friday afternoon? World Juniors bragging rights on the line? Awesome!

Outdoor games have their own personality, and it seems as though each one creates a new kind of memory for the fans who are enthusiastic enough attend. 

Here are some thoughts as to what might—or might not—happen when the World Junior Championship heads outside this afternoon in Buffalo.


Of this there is no doubt. The current mark for a U20 game is 20,380 set on 5th January 2009, in a game between Canada and Sweden in Ottawa. There have been more than 40,000 tickets sold for New Era Field, and that number is expected to rise by game time.


Another irrefutable element. Only once in the modern era of indoor arenas has an IIHF game been played outside, and even that was really inside. On 7th May 2010, the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, hosted a United States-Germany game to open the 2010 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. That game attracted a record crowd of 77,803, but in truth it was an indoor venue with a roof (albeit a very, very large roof!). In Buffalo, when you’re on the ice and look up, you see sky.


Buffalo is a great hockey city, but make no mistake. It’s late December. It’s cold. You can’t start the game too early in the day because of glare from the sun, but you want to get it going before sunset, when it will get colder. But at ice level there is a wind chill that the players must prepare for, no doubt.


New Era Field hosted the first “Winter Classic” game on New Year’s day, 2008, when Sidney Crosby scored the shootout winning goal to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-1 win over the Sabres. The attendance was 71,217, and the stadium was known as Ralph Wilson Stadium at the time. Then, as now, it is the home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.


These are among the best junior players in the world, but with the distraction of the moment, the weather, fans, and newly-created ice, there will be mistakes.


Because of the cold and ice, outdoor games tend to be low scoring. As well, many recent games between these two countries have seen fewer rather than more goals than average (excepting last year’s thrilling 5-4 American win in the gold medal game).


Factoring in all of the above—ice, cold, low scoring, rivalry—you can expect this to be a thrilling and close game. Seven of the last nine games between Canada and the United States have been decided by one or two goals.


Every outdoor game needs a hero, someone to step up and score that big goal at the perfect time. Today will likely be no different, but who will that be?


The hero, however, isn’t likely to be a goaltender. Shutouts in outdoor games are rare.


No top-level outdoor game has seen a player score a hat trick, so the hero likely won’t be a player to do a lot of scoring, just timely scoring.


Canada is a perfect 3-0 when playing the U.S. on 29th  December in World Junior competition. Of course, this is trivial trivia at its best. Perhaps more telling, the Americans have won the last three meetings, notably two last year and one at the 2016 tournament.


This game also marks a rare game between an American and Canadian team outdoors. NCAA games are all-American affairs, of course, and the NHL keeps a pretty tight separation on its “Winter Classic” (American) and “Heritage Classic” (Canadian) designations. The exceptions were Winter Classic games in 2014 (Toronto at Detroit), 2016 (Montreal at Boston), 2017 (Detroit at Toronto), and the upcoming “Stadium Series” game on 3rd March 2018, when the Maple Leafs play in Washington.


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