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Hockeyville USA

Blue Jackets, Sabres enjoy Hockeyville USA experience

Thank Clinton community for great atmosphere, memorable moments

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

CLINTON, N.Y. -- It may have been a preseason game, but you wouldn't have known that by the atmosphere at Clinton Arena on Tuesday.

The majority of the crowd were cheering for the Buffalo Sabres, with Buffalo three hours west of Clinton.

"When you come out here and you do get out here and you see what it means to the people and the community ... we are very fortunate to be a part of that," Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said following a 4-2 win. "I'm glad we are here."


[RELATED: Blue Jackets defeat Sabres at Kraft Hockeyville USA | Complete Kraft Hockeyville USA coverage]


There were more than 1,700 fans at Clinton Arena for the fourth annual Kraft Hockeyville USA game. Clinton beat out hundreds of entries to be named a top four finalist before winning an online vote. Clinton received $150,000 in renovations for the arena. 

The community had numerous festivities leading up to the game, including a visit from the Stanley Cup.

"There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the children's faces when the players show up in their hometown," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "It's a testament to our game to see the support that we had this morning at Clinton Arena.

"Most people may not have known about these little communities and their passion for hockey, but we did."

Video: Blue Jackets, Sabres meet fans before game in Clinton

For players like Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian, who grew up three hours away in Massena, New York, the game was especially meaningful.

"If this was around when I was a kid growing up I think it would be something that I would obviously want to be at," Bogosian said. "It's great that the NHL puts this on. I played a lot against Clinton growing up. I never played in this rink, but I played against their minor hockey team growing up so it's pretty cool being here."

Blue Jackets forward Anthony Duclair had a goal and an assist and was energized by the crowd.

"Coming off the bus [before the morning skate], to see the kids and how excited they are, I'm sure they were happy to miss school today, but it was a great atmosphere and I thank the city of Clinton for having us," Duclair said.

Video: CBJ@BUF: Duclair nets PPG on sweet move

Sabres coach Phil Housley was very appreciative of being a part of the event.

"It brought back lots of flashbacks from our youth," Housley said. "I just want to thank the Clinton community. Great atmosphere and turnout. Great support."

The crowd had a lot to cheer about during a four-goal second period.

"It was fun for sure," said Blue Jackets defenseman Adam Clendening, who scored a goal. "The crowd was going at all times. It helps when you have kids around. You see how much they love the game in this area. It was definitely fun for us as older guys who have been through that."

Video: CBJ@BUF: Clendening finishes one-timer in front

After the game players saluted the fans at center ice before giving them signed Hockeyville jerseys. 

"For us as the Western New York team, I think it's cool to be able to come here and play in front of them," said Sabres center Jack Eichel, who played at the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville in Marquette, Michigan. "We know they were excited to have us here. Obviously they filled the stands. It's unfortunate that we lost. I thought the overall experience, there was a lot to take from it. This is our second one doing it."

Commissioner Bettman said, "This is a truly unique experience in professional sports, taking our game to a small community rink where people will have the most unthinkable experience they could ever have."

Video: All the sights and sounds of Kraft Hockeyville USA

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