When Will the NHL Bring the All-Star Game Back to Buffalo?

The Sabres haven’t hosted the marquee event since 1978.

The last time the NHL brought its All-Star Game to the city of Buffalo saw stars like Mike Bossy, Phil Esposito, Guy Lafleur and Yvan Cournoyer make their way to the Queen City. The star-studded event in 1978 - 45 years ago - marks the last time the Buffalo Sabres hosted the NHL’s All-Star Game, and perhaps it’s time the league considers bringing the event back to the 716.

To be completely fair, there are six current NHL cities that have yet to host an All-Star Game: Anaheim, Newark, Seattle, Tempe, Winnipeg and Washington (DC). While these cities (and their respective teams) should probably get a crack at it - perhaps once the Coyotes get a new rink, that is - it’s also fair to consider a return to Buffalo.

Several teams have actually hosted multiple All-Star games since the Sabres last did. The Rangers, Kings, Blues, Canadiens, Sharks, Lightning and Panthers (including this year’s) have hosted the event twice in recent-ish years.

Since 1978, here’s who has hosted the All-Star Game or its equivalent:

  • 1979: New York Rangers (Challenge Cup)
  • 1980: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1981: Los Angeles Kings
  • 1982: Washington Capitals (in Landover, MD)
  • 1983: New York Islanders
  • 1984: New Jersey Devils (in East Rutherford, NJ)
  • 1985: Calgary Flames
  • 1986: Hartford Whalers
  • 1987: Quebec Nordiques (Rendez-vous)
  • 1988: St. Louis Blues
  • 1989: Edmonton Oilers
  • 1990: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 1991: Chicago Blackhawks
  • 1992: Philadelphia Flyers
  • 1993: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1994: New York Rangers
  • 1995: Lockout
  • 1996: Boston Bruins
  • 1997: San Jose Sharks
  • 1998: Vancouver Canucks
  • 1999: Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 2000: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 2001: Colorado Avalanche
  • 2002: Los Angeles Kings
  • 2003: Florida Panthers
  • 2004: Minnesota Wild
  • 2005: Lockout
  • 2006: Olympics
  • 2007: Dallas Stars
  • 2008: Atlanta Thrashers
  • 2009: Montreal Canadiens
  • 2010: Olympics
  • 2011: Carolina Hurricanes
  • 2012: Ottawa Senators
  • 2013: Lockout
  • 2014: Olympics
  • 2015: Columbus Blue Jackets
  • 2016: Nashville Predators
  • 2017: Los Angeles Kings
  • 2018: Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 2019: San Jose Sharks
  • 2020: St. Louis Blues
  • 2021: Pandemic
  • 2022: Vegas Golden Knights
  • 2023: Florida Panthers/

Why does it make sense for the All-Star Game to return to Buffalo?

In 2011, Budd Bailey wrote for The Buffalo News: “Sadly, all-star games have turned into virtual trade shows for the industry, and Buffalo isn’t considered big enough (in terms of hotels and convention space) at the moment to host such a game.”

A lot has changed in Buffalo since 2011. The city is a hockey hotbed; the sport thrives here, at so many levels, as we’ve seen in recent years. Twenty-seven other current NHL teams have hosted the All-Star Game since Buffalo last did. Now would also be a great time to piggyback off the Sabres’ recent successes and the resurgence of energy amid the fans in Buffalo. As long as the ticket price was right, I have no doubt that Sabres fans would flock to KeyBank Center for the chance to see so many of the league’s top stars play together.

It also seems to make sense to find a way to use Harborcenter for the All-Star festivities. Maybe it’s a meet-and-greet with select players at Southern Tier. Maybe the All Stars hold an open practice of sorts at one of the other rinks, or a community event with local groups like Carly’s Club or SABAH.

Referencing Bailey’s comments from 2011, there are now certainly more hotels in the area. The Marriott at Harborcenter is literally right there, along with the Courtyard by Marriott across the street. (Slightly less upscale, but would still be efficient for some attendees!) The Embassy Suites are a short drive, along with the Hotel Lafayette, the Curtiss Hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Hyatt Regency and the Westin. If you’re looking for ‘convention-style’ space, the actual convention center probably isn’t the most modern, but there are rooms and spaces at HarborCenter that have been used for meetings, weddings, etc., as well as spaces at the other hotels that can be rented out.

Why wouldn’t it make sense to return to Buffalo? Well, there are those few teams/cities who haven’t hosted the ASG in recent years, and they should probably get a crack at it. Then again, if the NHL doesn’t care about repeat hosts - which they clearly don’t - why not throw Buffalo into the ring?

The one pitfall is that Buffalo in January can be... well, Buffalo in January. The weather could be fine... or it could be a major blizzard, or negative wind chills, or a sheet of ice on the streets. By and large in recent years, the NHL has chosen warmer-weather cities, which obviously provides a nice reprieve for players who may not always play in the climate of Florida. But, if the host for the 2024 ASG is indeed the Maple Leafs as widely speculated, there’s precedent there for disregarding any potential weather & not feeling tied down to a warm-weather city.

The other pitfall is that KeyBank Center is admittedly quite dated & could use some renovations/upgrades, but I suspect that many of us could write a whole piece on just that. Perhaps the NHL plans a few years out & gives the Sabres a bit of time to do some tweaks, then brings the All-Star Game to Buffalo in 2025 or 2026.

Would you like to see the NHL All-Star Game in Buffalo?