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Sabres New Media Summit III: Part One

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Halfway through June, its very difficult to stay in hockey mode. I admit I clocked out of hockey when the Sabres did (and I REALLY clocked out when Nashville was eliminated) and figured there would be a few weeks about complaining of the heat before the weeks of complaining ‘ is it October yet?’

So, it was nothing short of perfect timing when Ted Black decided to bring forth another bloggers summit, not so much to reflect on last season, but what changes are under way before the new season gets going. Ted, like few if any other hockey executives, expresses his appreciation for what bloggers do, and how they keep doing such in the offseason. There was mention that passes for bloggers to attend games in the press box will continue (I promise this blog is going to be making attempts for that this year) as well as locker room access post games for those who attend often enough.

In fact, the players and the team themselves were a small topic if it was even discussed. Instead, Mr. Black wanted everyone to bring forth questions about how to change Sabres games experience, the physical experience and the like.

I actually joined the 21st century this time around, and brought my laptop to the event, not just a notepad and a pen. I was able to take quicker, and thus more, notes, and I never know where to start when actually putting the blog post together. The most exciting part of the evening, I thought, was the summit actually taking place in the locker room. The first question I got after announcing that on Twitter, was if any tables, chairs, bloggers etc were on top of the logo embedded in the carpet.

Give the Sabres staff the credit, people. We were placed around it, the barrier of tables keeping anyone from having the chance to go anywhere near it. At the last summit, we all had the tour of the locker room, when at the time recently used gear was being aired out at the time.

Fortunately, this time the air had been well cleared. But even with all the gear and equipment having been cleared out, it still felt like hockey season in there, and I was half expecting Jordan Leopold to come out of the shower, wondering what we were all doing there.

Maybe more than half.

AvI7MQOCAAAROJ5 300x225 Sabres New Media Summit III: Part One

Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres Twitter, because I left my phone in the car

Similar to the last summit, it began with announcements of new things that were coming to the organization, things being listed so quickly our tweets could hardly keep up. The one that got my attention, and may have caused me to smile to myself, was that Rick Jeanneret signing a multi-year contract. Of course, the term ‘ multi-year’ is a commonly used term on the Sabres, sometimes the never number is actually revealed, but anything that is at least one more year with Mr. Jeanneret is plenty enough.

In his 42nd year calling Sabres games, he will be doing more games than last year, and Rob Ray will be taking over in color commentary full time. I really thought this game at the most perfect time, especially since Rick is on his way into two hall of fames. To quote Mr. Black when asked if we will honor Rick in any other additional ways, he said the best way it can be done is to give him the chance to say that the Sabres have won the Stanley Cup.

Not to be late to the party, but starting on Monday WGR, who has been working with the Sabres for 26 years overall, will begin airing a live broadcast entitled Sabres Hockey Hotline. The show will air Monday through Friday, 10 am to noon, with adjusted hours during the football season, and hosted by Kevin Sylvester It’ll be especially nice for a summer program to chase away the offseason blues.

One last thing to focus on with the broadcasting aspect for the Sabres, we will no longer get the downstate MSG feed during home Rangers and Islanders games. Maybe I’m the only one who is this excited about it, since it really is only four games a year, but the only thing worse than watching the away feed is when your team loses.

The first topic of discussion, which were pre-determined ahead of time by email responses to avoid all of us running off on tangents, was changes coming to the First Niagara Center as well as the surrounding area. Last year, with the arena name change, there was some rush to get the First Niagara Sign up that an exterior paint job is due for the building. I was never under the impression that there was a concern with the color of the arena, if anything it makes it easier to find in a snow storm, but changes are coming.

There are plans to spruce up the surrounding area of the arena. Terry Pegula recently paid the $100,000 bill for a garden neighboring the area of the arena, adding something to the waterfront plans the rest of us are waiting for. There are other ideas for the area, including the parking lot directly across from the front of the arena. Ideas that are still in the making, of course, or unable to be announced at this time. Ted did however say that there are no plans to bring forth any kind of business to the area, as to not hurt the local ones that market with Sabres game nights.

It was mentioned that enhancing the area around the arena is most important important with the thousands of people who go inside the building 42 nights a year.

Another important aspect in entertaining those thousands of people, is the presentation of the game, which was a popular topic of the night. Jenifer Dunford, the Sabres Director of Game Presentation, sat in on the summit and was open to any ideas that were brought forth, and said that she always is, especially with the amount given to her weekly by Mr. Black. There are teams that have in game host, and various other quirks that go on during games, like the necessity of keeping a toddler entertained. But Ms. Dunford says, that in an effort to make the game experience balanced, they want to keep the focus on hockey, not so much the surrounding environment.

After all, we all know the music selection is much better after a win.

For more on Buffalo Sabres Nation’s take on the third blogger summit, including how no one benefits from ticket sales, if the Winter Classic is coming to Buffalo again, and which member of the Sabres organization is not allowed below the 13th row in the 100 level, stay reading for the next post!

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Ted Black Says Lindy Ruff Stays And Some Other Cool Things

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Well, apparently the head coaching gig in Buffalo is the topic du’jour. Giving up a 3 goal lead and having a shaky home record can do that to a fanbase.

dumbdumber1 Ted Black Says Lindy Ruff Stays And Some Other Cool Things

Lloyd: What's the soup du'jour? Waitress: It's the soup of the day. Lloyd: Ooo... that sounds good, I'll have that!

Scott brought up the fact that we should at least be having the conversation about Lindy Ruff. Why is it verboten to speak of firing him? Yes, he’s been great and most of us love him – he’s sort of the patriarch of the Sabres organization and the rock of the family.

However … all good things come to an end. Even Scotty Bowman was fired. Of course that’s probably not a great example, as he went on to win Stanley Cups elsewhere.

See, this is the eternal debate. The team isn’t doing great so perhaps firing the head coach and bringing in a new guy will take us to the promised land. But what if Lindy Ruff is the guy for Buffalo and he isn’t really the problem? What if we fire him and he wins Stanley Cups with, I don’t know, let’s say Columbus after they fire Scott Arniel. Crazy, right? But it’s possible.

We can have this debate all year long, and it’s something that we should at least talk about. No one should be untouchable. However, it’s all moot at this point because as Tamara has pointed out, Terry Pegula adores Lindy and said that he’s not going anywhere.

Well now, if that’s not enough for you, Ted Black reinforced that point this morning in his weekly chat with WGR 550. You can listen to the full audio here.  There are lots of great bits in the audio and we’ll transcribe and otherwise pick apart some of it.

[Howard Simon of WGR] How much of that (the Sabres’ philosophy of winning the Stanley Cup) includes the status of the head coach, the status of the GM and making a change in one or both of those spots if it’s necessary and is it necessary by they way?

[Ted Black] No it’s not, so it really renders the rest of the question moot.

[WGR] It’s not a moot question, don’t you think that’s an issue right now? You tell me, in your mind, in Terry Pegula’s mind there is no issue with coaching or GM at this point?

[TB] None.

[WGR] How come?

[TB] Why well, there just isn’t. I don’t think Darcy or Lindy have injured as many players as have been injured. It’s not like we’re hopelessly out of the playoffs or hopelessly out of 1st place in our division or the conference.

Come on Ted, quit flip flopping and leaving wiggle room here. </snark> So the official word is hands down, Lindy isn’t going anywhere, he’s our guy, stop asking questions, there is no room for leeway on this matter, end of chat.

However, later in the interview he said, “We don’t live in always and never.” Ah, so you’re telling me there’s a chance!

(Yes! The second Dumb & Dumber reference in the same post! Give me some sort of imaginary blogger points! *fistpump*)

Some other snippets from the interview that should sit well with any Sabres fan:

  • This team is dramatically better than it was last year and we’re not done yet. We’re going to use every opportunity to improve ourselves.
  • On trades: You have to have a partner, and at certain points of the year there’s not a whole lot going on.
  • When this team is healthy, this team is very, very good.
  • We are going to win a Stanley Cup. It may not happen this year. It may very well happen this year. But we’re going to do it or die trying.”
  • On the rash of injuries having a silver lining: [We've learned] that these young guys that had no track record going into this year can play in the league and play at a pretty decent level.

So it’s reiterated from on high that Lindy is here to stay – at least for the forseeable future. Whether that’s a good or bad thing we may never know.

I do know this: I love Ruff as a coach. He’s “our guy”. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had only 3 coaches in their history and there’s something I like about that. Sometimes you need that steady rudder to guide you when the storm is raging all around. Could we do better? Maybe. But it’s a chance I’m not willing to take at the moment, and neither are the Sabres.

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