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

When the NHL last brought its All-Star game to the city of Buffalo, stars like Mike Bossy, Phil Esposito, Guy Lafleur and Yvan Cournoyer made their way to Queen City. The star-studded event in 1978 — 45 years ago — was the last time the Buffalo Sabers hosted the NHL’s All-Star Game, and perhaps it’s about time the league considered moving the event back to the 716 bring to.

To be fair, there are six current NHL cities that are yet to host an All-Star game: Anaheim, Newark, Seattle, Tempe, Winnipeg, and Washington (DC). While these cities (and their respective teams) should probably give it a try – maybe if the Coyotes get a new rink – it’s also fair to consider a return to Buffalo.

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

Here’s who has hosted the All-Star Game or equivalent since 1978:

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

In 2011, Budd Bailey wrote for The Buffalo News: “Unfortunately, all-star games have evolved into virtual trade shows for the industry, and Buffalo is currently not considered large enough (in terms of hotels and convention space) to host such a game.”

Much has changed in Buffalo since 2011. The city is a hockey stronghold; The sport thrives here on so many levels as we have seen in recent years. 27 other current NHL teams have hosted the All-Star Game since Buffalo. Now would also be a good time to build on the Sabers’ recent successes and the resurgence of energy among the Buffalo fans. As long as the ticket price was right, I have no doubt that Sabers fans would flock to the KeyBank Center for the chance to see so many of the league’s top stars play together.

It also seems to make sense to use Harborcenter for the all-star celebrations. Maybe it’s a meet-and-greet with select Southern Tier players. Maybe the All Stars will host some kind of open practice at one of the other rinks, or a community event with local groups like Carly’s Club or SABAH.

Referring to Bailey’s 2011 comments, there are certainly more hotels in the area now. The Marriott at Harborcenter is literal exactly there, along with the Courtyard by Marriott across the street. (Slightly less upscale, but still efficient for some attendees!) The Embassy Suites are a short drive away, as is the Hotel Lafayette, the Curtiss Hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Hyatt Regency, and the Westin. If you’re looking for “convention style” spaces, the actual convention center probably isn’t the most modern, but there are rooms and spaces at the HarborCenter that have been used for meetings, weddings, etc., as well as rooms at the other hotels that are available for rent.

Why wouldn’t it make sense to go back to Buffalo? Well, there are some teams/cities that haven’t hosted the ASG in recent years and they should probably try. Then again, if the NHL doesn’t care about repeat hosts – which they clearly don’t – why not throw Buffalo in the ring?

The only trap is that in January Buffalo… well, Buffalo in January. The weather could be fine…or it could be a big snowstorm, negative wind showers, or ice on the roads. By and large, the NHL has shifted to warmer-weather cities in recent years, which obviously provides a nice respite for players who don’t always play in Florida’s climate. But if the host of ASG 2024 is indeed the Maple Leafs, as has been widely speculated, there is precedent for ignoring any potential weather and not feeling attached to a warm-weather city.

The other trap is that the KeyBank Center is admittedly quite dated and could use some refurbishment/upgrades, but I suspect many of us could write a whole story about just that. Maybe the NHL will plan a few years ahead and give the Sabers a little time to make some tweaks and then bring the All-Star Game to Buffalo in 2025 or 2026.

Want to see the NHL All-Star Game in Buffalo?

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