Sabres in talks with NHL to continue hosting rookie combine

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Sabres are in talks with the NHL to have Buffalo continue hosting the league's annual pre-draft rookie combine.

NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr on Friday said negotiations are ongoing and supports the Sabres' bid because of the facilities Buffalo has to offer. The combine is being held this week at the Buffalo's downtown HarborCenter, a hotel, entertainment and hockey complex that adjoins the Sabres arena.

This is the second of Buffalo's two-year agreement to host the event, which had been previously held inside a hotel/convention center near Toronto's airport.

''We found the all-under-one-roof concept works,'' Marr said. ''We are going to sit down and talk to them and see what their interest level is. And then we'll go back and the National Hockey League will make its decision sooner than later as far as I hope.''

One issue in extending the current deal with the Sabres is other NHL teams - including the Pittsburgh Penguins - have expressed interest in hosting the combine. The Penguins have their own practice complex but, unlike the Sabres, it is outside of the city.

Privately financed by Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, HarborCenter's advantages are its many amenities in one location.

The $200-million facility includes a 3,000-seat rink, where league officials can view the player workouts. The complex features a 200-plus-room full-service hotel, which opened in September. And the adjoining arena offers plenty of meeting space for each team to interview prospects.

Being a border city and a two-hour drive from Toronto, Buffalo also offers a central location for most teams to travel.

One issue from the Sabres perspective in hosting the combine is cost. In luring the combine from Toronto, the Sabres offered to pay to host the event, which costs about $250,000. Previously, the NHL picked up the tab.

The combine is closed to the public, which makes it difficult for teams to generate revenue.

What won't be coming to Buffalo, however, is the NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2018, to coincide with an outdoor game set to be played during the 2018 World Junior Hockey championships the Sabres are hosting.

A person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press that the Sabres have dropped their interest in hosting the NHL's annual New Year's Day outdoor event because of logistics and scheduling issues. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

The Sabres hosted the NHL's first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008.

As part of their bid to USA Hockey to host the world juniors, the Sabres' plans include playing the tournament's first outdoor game. It would be a preliminary matchup between the United States and Canada and played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the final week of December 2017.

The Sabres also entertained the idea of hosting the Winter Classic because the outdoor rink would already be in place.

Several conflicts emerged, the person said, including the NHL requiring exclusive access to the stadium several weeks in advance. The ice would have to be resurfaced and repainted to add logos and sponsors to meet NHL specifications.

Hosting both events would affect the NFL Bills, who are also owned by the Pegulas. The team would be forced to close the regular season with three consecutive road games, which is considered a disadvantage.

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