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When Will Buffalo Host the NHL All-Star Game?

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Sabres last hosted the league-wide event in 1978

NHL: JAN 24 All-Star Skills Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This weekend, the NHL is holding its annual All-Star Game (and related skills competition) in St. Louis, with the St. Louis Blues. The league has already announced that its 2022 All-Star events will be held in Sunrise, Florida, hosted by the Florida Panthers. Something to think about: when will Buffalo, and the Sabres, get to host another All-Star Game?

The last time Buffalo hosted an NHL All-Star Game was 1978, at Memorial Auditorium. Some of the notable names who appeared in that game: Ken Dryden, Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, Mike Bossy and Phil Esposito. The Sabres were represented by Rick Martin and Gilbert Perreault. That year, the Wales Conference All-Stars, coached by Scotty Bowman, won in overtime on a goal by Perreault. 16,433 people were in attendance.

It’s Been A While

Fast forward to 2020. It’s now been 42 years since the Sabres hosted the NHL All-Star Game. Several of the games since then have been cancelled, either due to lockouts, other international events such as the Challenge Cup, or not scheduled in the first place due to the Olympics.

Teams that have hosted an All-Star Game since 1978: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Hartford Whalers, Los Angeles Kings (3x, 2 different locations), Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens (2x), Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils (in East Rutherford), New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks (2x), St. Louis Blues (2x), Tampa Bay Lightning (2x), Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals (in Landover, MD).

Yes, there are still some current NHL cities that have yet to host an All-Star Game, including Anaheim (Ducks), Glendale (Coyotes), Las Vegas (Golden Knights), Newark (Devils), Washington, D.C. (Capitals) and Winnipeg (Jets). It would be nice to see those cities get a chance to host the All-Star Game, but it would also be nice to see the Sabres, and the city of Buffalo, get the opportunity.

(For comparison’s sake, the Blues are hosting the All-Star Game this year for the first time since 1988. The Panthers, who are hosting in 2021, last hosted in 2003.)

A Natural Fit

The city of Buffalo has proven itself as a rich hockey market, time and time again. Even when the Sabres are bad on the ice, fans keep showing up. Even when the NHL hosts a Winter Classic, a playoff game or other big event that doesn’t involve the Sabres, Buffalo regularly shows up at or near the top of the listings for TV viewers and market share.

Buffalo has, of course, also hosted many other big hockey events in recent years. Among others, in the last ten years, the city has hosted:

  • IIHF World Junior Championships (2011, 2018)
  • IIHF Women’s U-18 World Championships (2015)
  • IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships (2015)
  • NHL Scouting Combine (annually, 2015 - 2022)
  • NHL Entry Draft (2016)

With the city proving that it can handle big events like the above, it only makes sense that the All-Star Game could come back in the next few years.

What Would Need to Happen?

The one big component that would need to happen in order for Buffalo to land the All-Star Game: much-needed upgrades and updates to KeyBank Center.

Regardless of any ASG or other big event coming in the future, the arena already needs updates. In recent years, fans have complained about the seats, broken cupholders, dirty bathrooms with little or no hot water, etc. The building is showing its age, and there would likely need to be some upgrades in order for the Sabres to host the All-Star Game.

Having the All-Star Game in Buffalo would, of course, also provide a boost to the city’s economy. Tie in a “Fan Fest” sort of event around Canalside. Bring fans to the restaurants & breweries in the area around the rink, to museums and shopping and other pieces of business in Western New York. Hotel rooms would get booked up, also providing that economic boost.

With all of this said, could we see Buffalo host the NHL All-Star Game in the next few years? What do you think? Would you like to see the league’s top stars all in one place, hitting the ice at KeyBank Center?