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Ninth Annual Sled Classic Sees Exponential Growth From Inaugural Four-Team Event in 2010

By USAHockey.com, 02/04/19, 1:45PM MST

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2018-19 USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the NHL, Begins Thursday in Chicago

The ninth annual USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the NHL and hosted by the Chicago Blackhawks, will take place Thursday through Sunday (Feb. 7-10). MB Ice Arena, the practice facility and community rink of the Blackhawks, will serve as the primary facility while nearby Johnny’s Icehouse West will also be utilized.

Tournament play will include 10 games on Thursday, 20 contests on both Friday and Saturday and five games — including the five championship games — on Sunday. Fans can attend all games free of charge. In addition, HockeyTV will stream all games live at USAHockey.HockeyTV.com.

For a look a back at the history of the event, scroll below.

Expansion Through The Years

This weekend will see 30 sled hockey teams compete across five division, a far cry from the initial four-teams that skated in the inaugural event in 2010.

To date, the event has seen four division expansions, as the tournament increased to two division in 2013 and three divisions a year later before again experiencing back-to-back division growth in 2015 (four divisions) and 2016 (five divisions). In 2014, the fifth rendition of the tournament rebranded its division names from "A, B, C" to "Tier I, II, III."

14 NHL Teams Hold Sled Classic Crowns

Entering this year's Sled Classic, a total of 14 NHL clubs have captured a division title. The Colorado Avalanche lead the way with four championships while the Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks each have three. A trio of teams have a pair of titles, including the Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, while the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and Philadelphia Flyers each have one.

Record NHL-Associated Teams

The ninth annual event will see a record 30 NHL-associated sled hockey teams represent a record-tying 20 NHL member clubs. Each team will represent their associated NHL club by wearing official NHL licensed jerseys with local club marks and logos. The NHL organizations taking part include the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights. Six NHL clubs – the Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning – have two associated teams in this year's USA Hockey Sled Classic while the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers will have three teams.

Tier I History

The Chicago Blackhawks, hosts and defending champions of the Tier I division, will look to become the first team to successfully defend its Tier I title and just the third tournament host to win the top division after the Florida Panthers did so in 2015 and the Colorado Avalanche did in 2010. To date, five organizations have captured the Tier I title, including the Colorado Avalanche (2010, 2016), Sabres (2011, 2013), Stars (2012), Florida Panthers (2015) and Blackhawks (2017). In 2012 and 2013, the division was referred to as 'A Division'.

Tier II History

Since making its debut in the 2012, Tier II has seen four NHL teams earn Tier II crown, including the Columbus Blue Jackets (2015), Philadelphia Flyers (2014), Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017) and Washington Capitals (2012, 2013). This year will see a new champion crowned as the division features the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators.

Tier III History

The Tier III division first made its debut in the 2013. Four teams have captured the five division crowns, including the Arizona Coyotes (2015), Edmonton Oilers (2017), Minnesota Wild (2014) and Nashville Predators (2013, 2016). This year's 8-team division makes the Tier III division the largest in the 2018-19 USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the NHL.

Tier IV History

In 2015, with the tournament taking place in the Southern U.S. for the first time, the event saw its first-ever Tier IV division. While the Buffalo Sabres won the inaugural title, the Colorado Avalanche went on to capture the 2016 and 2017 crowns. This year's six-team division will see a new champion awarded.

Tier V History

Two years ago, the event made its most recent expansion to date when the tournament reached five divisions. The Carolina Hurricanes would go on to win the title -- its first-ever in Sled Classic history -- before the Chicago Blackhawks skated to a Tier V championship last year. 

NOTES: Media interested in attending the event should contact Jon Gomez via email (JonG@usahockey.org) or phone (719.538.1176) ... Use the hashtag #SledClassic to join the tournament conversation on social media ... Hockey Is For Everyone™ is a joint NHL and NHLPA initiative celebrating diversity and inclusion, using the sport to foster a greater sense of teamwork, dedication, and perseverance – hockey’s core values. New this season, the Hockey Is For Everyone initiative has expanded from one month to year-round with NHLPA, NHL, Club and player participation supporting communities and grassroots hockey. For more information on the initiative, click here ... Previous NHL teams to host the event include the Colorado Avalanche (2010; Denver, Colo.); Philadelphia Flyers (2011; Voorhees, N.J.); Buffalo Sabres (2012; Williamsville, N.Y.); Pittsburgh Penguins (2013; Pittsburgh, Pa.); Washington Capitals (2014; Arlington, Va.); Florida Panthers (2015; Sunrise, Fla.) and the Minnesota Wild (2017; Plymouth, Minn.) ... For more information on the sport of sled hockey, click here.

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