So What, Exactly, is Hockey Heaven?

We’re not elitists.

There is no sense of entitlement in this town. But since Terry Pegula arrived on February 22nd, 2011 (forever hereafter to be known as “Pegula Day” to Sabres Nation), there is a sense of confidence.

There is a belief.

For perhaps the first time in the storied history of the Buffalo Sabres franchise, the fan base is compelled to a certitude that the Stanley Cup will be won. It may take years, but it will be won.

HockeyHeavenTee So What, Exactly, is Hockey Heaven?

And inherit Lord Stanley.

(Photo from “Hockey Heaven’s” online “716” store.)

It’s not just about that Cup though, folks. “Hockey Heaven” is not a destination, it’s a way of life. It’s the kids that block traffic playing street hockey in front of your house. It’s the Labatt Pond Hockey tournament. It’s the midnight broomball games at Leisure Rinks. It’s the pride we feel when we lead the national ratings for a playoff game rounds after our own team has been eliminated. It’s the backyard rinks in winter. It’s teaching our kids to skate at the good ol’ Nike Base, like our parents taught us. It’s the open practices at the HSBC Arena.

Sometimes, it is as simple as the smell of the hockey rink when you first walk through the door to watch a varsity match between St. Francis and Orchard Park.

We breathe it deeply here.

Hockey Heaven has always been here, but what Terry Pegula has done cannot be overlooked. Heck, how do you overlook over 75 Sabres alumni signing autographs at Fan Appreciation Night? The anticipation felt by fans about Pegula on February 22nd has been replaced with a feeling of marvel, as Terry adds perk upon perk to the fan and player experience.  A challenge: try to name all the changes and improvements that Pegula and Ted Black have put into place since their arrival. Just try it.

It’s amazing what they’ve done in basically just three calendar months. Here’s a quick list (which I am sure is incomplete, feel free to add more in the comments section below):

  • He decided not to dismantle the team he bought, instead, he bought into his team. Trading only to bring Brad Boyes in, his men responded by going 16-4-4 to improbably make the playoffs.
  • He made the Sabres family whole again, when he invited all Sabres alumni back into the fold. Every one of those guys who spent time here have since gone back to their homes, and around the world, the message that they brought back was “Buffalo is the new destination.”
  • He brought free programs.
  • He fixed the plumbing at HSBC.
  • He made the decision to remove a ill-attended museum, to utilize the space in the arena as it should be – for hockey.
  • He allowed fans to choose game day tunes.
  • He reunited the French Connection for one final time.
  • He put Ted Black on a fan internet chat for a NHL record 3 hours and 18 minutes.
  • He followed his new team on the road, sitting in the cheap seats, so he could keep the magic run alive.
  • He invested, and is investing, every penny towards a Cup, and nothing else.
  • He challenged the Buffalo News for being unfairly and detrimentally negative.
  • He brought a second screen in for the Party in the Plaza.
  • He purchased a $20,000 carpet for the locker room.
  • He provided fans with an amazing service for their beloved #7.
  • He planted a flag at HSBC that read “Hockey Heaven.”
  • He met fans in the lobby before games.
  • He instilled a sense of hope in a franchise and a city that had been drowning under the heavy ice of Lake Erie for a decade.

And he did all of these things in 24 games.

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For those who witnessed it, none will ever forget Corey Martin eulogizing his father.

By the way, thanks Corey.

Since then, Pegula’s done more, and more – the latest gem being him and Lindy Ruff leaving the draft to fly to Calgary and visit Robyn Regehr at his home to meet and welcome him and his family to Buffalo.

For all of our problems here in the Queen City, we have a lot to cherish.

Pegula didn’t create “Hockey Heaven.” It was here all along. But, boy, he sure has made us feel it a heckuva lot more.

Thanks again, Terry.

Go Sabres.

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