CLINTON – Clinton celebrates 100 years of hockey this year, and tonight the icing on the birthday cake is an NHL preseason game to be played on local ice.
In April, we were excited to announce that Clinton Arena had made it to the final four in Kraft’s annual contest, and thanks to your votes, Clinton is Hockeyville USA tonight.
Clinton beat out communities in South Dakota, Vermont and Louisiana in the final round of the contest. Hundreds packed the Clinton Arena to hear the announcement that Clinton had won, and after that a parade through town broke out to celebrate the big news.
In addition to hosting the preseason game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Clinton Arena also won money for renovations - $150,000 from the contest, and another $250,000 from the state. This helped bring the rink up to NHL standards. Renovations included new glass and nets, updated locker rooms and fixing the refrigeration system for the ice.
The pro hockey players arrived Tuesday morning to get a feel for the ice and they had some time to talk about the big day ahead with our sports team.
Both the Sabres and Blue Jackets held their pre-game morning skates in front of a packed house of fans ranging from young school kids who actually got out of school for the day’s events, all the way up through fans who have watched hockey in Clinton since the original Comets played there.
Both practices were up tempo and really showcased the speed that people can expect to see tonight between the two NHL teams, especially on a smaller ice surface than the regulation NHL rink.
Fans got to see both the superstars of the game and also players who are trying to make the NHL and make a name for themselves.
One established player from the Sabres actually has a connection to Clinton that he spoke about today.
“It's great, I'm from three hours north of here so I played a lot against Clinton growing up,” said Zach Bogosian, a defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres. “I never played in this rink but I played against their minor hockey team so it's pretty cool to be here. This is what it's all about, I think it's something that the kids are looking forward to, we enjoy doing it and it's a good event that the NHL puts on.”
At Clinton Central School, fans are gathered for a pre-game pep rally to celebrate before they head over to the Clinton Arena.
For more on this story, watch the video above, and tune into NEWSChannel 2 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
You can watch the game between the Sabres and the Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports.