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.
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!
Are we lucky as fans or what? After one of the worst slides in Sabres history, they go on a 4-0-1 tear – against good teams even. I feel sorry for anyone who left the First Niagara Center early last night, as they missed a great show.
When it went to a shootout, I felt confident in Miller. He let in a few, but he was solid overall. When Gerbe’s shootout chance came, I knew he would sink it. Hell, the whole game I wasn’t worried about their play. The team is playing tough, confident hockey, with smarts to boot. They’re making crisp, quick passes and working hard in the corners. If they lost, they lost, but they were playing hard most of the way.
I don’t do much “real” analysis about the Sabres, as that’s not really my mindset (or forte). I’m more of a fan who just loves the game and makes bad jokes – but even I can see how much better this team is than just a few short weeks ago.
Perhaps part of it is the German bump, although the Sabres were playing well before the contingent of Mannheim Eagles fans came to Western New York. For more on that go here, it’s a feel good read. And we could take some notes from their cheering playbook. They were rambunctious, perhaps annoyingly so to some, and even tried to get the wave going.
European hockey fan enthusiasm is a little different than our brand, but we could certainly up the energy a little bit.
Or maybe it was Lindy Ruff. Perhaps his ego overshadowed the players and now that he’s injured they can finally play their best hockey. Now, I don’t believe this, but I’m sure there are detractors out there saying that. But the Sabres started this run well before Lindy fell and busted up some ribs.
Whatever the case, the Sabres are playing tough and are now eight points back in the East. I don’t think I need to say “buckle up”, we’re all pretty aware that this will go down to the wire, much like last year. But you couldn’t write a better script: a billionaire owner takes over the team, spends gazillions picking up all-star talent. The team flounders and all hope seems lost. Then, in Act 3 they get it together and miraculously make a huge comeback.
The only question is how does the story end – do they win it all, or is it just a feel-good drama where the team takes 2nd place but that was further than they ever should have expected to get to?
Whatever the case may be, it’ll be damn exciting to be a part of. The Sabres are eight points back now with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming into our barn. We’ve got a lot of good hockey to watch ahead of us the rest of the year.
My apologies for the delay. Macs are great computers,but expensive when they need even the smallest thing. My plan was just to take over from where the last blog post ended, right before Corey Griswold’s question(s) that almost led to a Twitter crash ever since Beyonce announced she was pregnant.
Please enjoy! Hopefully The Buffalo News doesn’t come back on me with this post.
The gorilla in the room finally gets some attention
I know the Sabres are going through a rough patch, you know the Sabres are going through a rough patch, and don’t worry, so does Ted Black. It was a question that we were all thinking about, but finally Corey Griswold asked it. A string of questions that all came down to why are we still watching, and why should we care?
It was like the student who stood up to the teacher in a bad (or good) 80’s movie, where everyone suddenly looked from Corey to Teddy, who started off by saying the Sabres were at ” a level of frustration….duh.”
Well, at least we’re all on the same page.
While we’re all frustrated, and bombarding various social networks about our frustrations with this team, Teddy rather we take a good look at the not so bad things in the organization. For example, a year ago no one would have thought Buffalo would have gone after two of the biggest free agents on the market….not to mention a player who waived a no trade clause to come here (you’re right, that hasn’t happened before).
Having only owned/ruling the team for ten months, Mr. Black assured us that they’re about two years ahead of where they planned to be (the hot water in the girls bathroom was accomplished much sooner than planned). He said now, on July 1st, teams are calling within the first five minutes of noon time, rather than counting the tumbleweeds that blow by. Players are wanting to come here, and not only after the big teams say no.
Short of joining the line up, which Teddy did say would lead to a hat trick, Terry can’t exactly improve the success of the team itself, but we were told ” if you think Terry’s sitting there and saying ‘ I’m not doing anything else’,you haven’t been watching closely.”
He also added in that the Penguins got Crosby, Buffalo got Pegula. I’d say we win, since Terry is clear for contact.
Mike Weber and Ville Leino are giving up hockey for DJ careers
A lot of the question suggestions I had prior to attending the summit included asking about the poor music in the arena. Other than no longer caring whether or not healthy does, or does not, change everything, I’ve never noticed a problem with the music. It’s usually hard to hear over the cheering…or the booing.
Apparently, two Sabres have recently agreed with First Niagara’s lack of music quality. One of the bloggers brought up a mention about the music on Twitter, who was then put on the spot by Teddy, saying he wanted two songs from the user, and his name would be announced prior to playing them at the next home game.
However, prior to last night, we were at the brink where even the color of Lindy’s ties were ticking us off.
You don’t notice bad music in the arena when we’re winning. I know you don’t, very rarely do people actually WANT to sing Sweet Caroline
The beer tends to taste better,too.
Locker Room Tour
When Teddy first arrived, he had mentioned that if we ended in enough time, they would have taken us around the new Sabres locker room. I almost just lined up in the back of the room for that moment. All those fancy renovations, who cares if we were in a losing streak?
As far as pictures go, I did the best I could with a cell phone, limited standing around and ogling time, and others wandering about.
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Teddy’s Final Thoughts
Teddy was happy to share in his appreciation for the blogging world, and mentioned how other teams should embrace those who spend hours with websites dedicated to one thing, and who ” share the passion.” Just the same, we are grateful that someone acknowledges the work we do.
Journalists are totally jealous.
All bloggers that attended were also treated to pizza and beer, and invited to stay,even though the man of the hour had to leave. However, before leaving, he did leave us all with words of encouragement, and the perfect way to end the blog post:
” We’re going to win the Stanley Cup, or die trying.”
I would like to start off by saying that I am beyond impressed by the consideration and involvement of Ted Black. Same with Terry Pegula, while the hockey aspect may be rocky, the organization itself has had such changes in the past ten months than the 40 years prior to it.
Very few fans can even name their teams president, let alone sit down with twenty bloggers and let them ask him anything that has to come to mind regarding the team. When Teddy arrived, he shook every single persons hand and referred to them by their name. Throughout the summit, he took notes regarding suggestions that anyone had mentioned, and assured us that any and all concerns were going to be resolved, or at least reviewed further.
Now with my praising out of the way, on to the other highlights from the Bloggers Sumitt
Ted Black is aware that Time Warner Cable does not carry MSG
Naturally, this was the first question that came up, after the brief awkward moment of silence in which no one wanted to be the first person to ask a question, and Ted had apologized for canceling the first summit date for a family issue.
The question was in regards to why Buffalo can’t have their own sports network. In addition to the Sabres having a contact with MSG, Mr. Black also explained the other factors for why this isn’t an immediate possibility. Since hockey is the only professional sport in Buffalo that can be aired locally (the NFL cannot), there would not be enough support for a local sports channel strictly for the Sabres
MSG and the Sabres signed a ten year contract in 2006, so we’re a bit of ways away from any change there. However, there was talk about expanding viewing parties, and hopes that the TWC and MSG will resolve the matter shortly.
Teddy is also now aware that there are pirated internet feeds of hockey games, and that is why we’ve made it to day 11 since the black out
Big Changes (Likely) Coming to the Queen City
There were a couple of questions in regards to the Terry and Teddy duo taking on renovations around the city, including the water front since its merely across the street. I was kind of expecting a response along the lines of a puzzled look, but Teddy seemed very interest in contributing to the water front changes, whenever that’s actually going to happen.
There was even mention of a sports restaurant coming about (think Hockey Town in Detroit), and mentions of a ‘ plan’ of expanding the Harbour Club, and doing something with the Aerospace Museum that’s attached to the arena (it’s okay if you forget about that, we all do).
Teddy outright said he had a plan, that should be enough hope right there.
There are also plans to bring the NHL draft and the All Star game to Buffalo. Also, the Frozen Four, and other hockey related events.
Oh, and Buffalo being back in the line up to play in the Winter Classic again.
A fellow blogger had asked about why there isn’t more media coverage about events relating to the Sabres alumni, which sparked a conversation about how very involved former Sabres are with the organization. According to Mike Gilbert, the Vice President of Public and Community relations for the Sabres, we have the strongest alumni relations than any other team in the NHL.
There had apparently been a meeting yesterday morning with Sabres alumni about more ways to interact with the team, other than the many of them who attend games regularly. It’s no secret that since Terry bought the team last year, that more alumni, such as the members of the French Connection, wanted to become more involved with the team.
It was also said, after brief hesitation, that Dave Andreychuk would be making a visit next month, and Brad May in March (someone please tell me I wasn’t the only one thinking ‘ I hope we make the playoffs so he can come in May, too).
Teddy commented that Buffalo is ” on it’s way up” and he no longer wanted to see companies and plans being abandoned in the city any longer.
A string of questions came about regarding the Rochester Amerks now returning as the Sabres affiliate, and it was immediately said how it’s ‘ less awkward’ to try and do Sabres and Amerks related things now that both teams are under the same organization.
One of the ideas was to have the Sabres play a game in Rochester, as they did back in 2003 (along with the Amerks playing in Buffalo). The latter is likely to be a possibility, but Teddy said a regular season game in Rochester is impossible, since the Sabres season ticket holders alone would not fit into Blue Cross Arena. However, a pre-season game is possible in the upcoming years.
Also, the only question I had gotten in was in regards to Blue Cross Arena getting a face lift. It’s an old, and very nice arena, but the place can use some sprucing up. I thought maybe since Terry was now caring about the teams he’d own, it wouldn’t hurt to mention. Apparently, Terry owns a lot of things, but not BCA.
They got a renovated scoreboard, but that’ll have to do for now.
Lindy ain’t going nowhere…but there is no extension
I was new to the rumor about Lindy signing an extension, it was a suggestion for my list of questions, but someone else beat me to it. Teddy danced around the question for a few minutes, saying how he was a business man and business men don’t comment on those kind of manners.
But, then he said if he said no comment, we would all assume it was true (which is true).
Then he said it wasn’t true. No extension for Lindy, unless that was the trick all along.
Coming soon (likely later tonight) the conclusion from all the Blogger Summit excitement, including the locker room tour, and Corey Griswold being ‘ that guy.’
Well that certainly didn’t turn out like we Sabres fans had hoped. I refer to both the Maple Leafs game as well as the entirety of the season so far. Now heading into the Christmas break, we are downtrodden and looking in on the teams with better playoff position like street urchin children staring in through a window on merry revelers eating a huge feast.
Yeah it sucks right about now. All the offseason hype is fading, the Pegulamania has died down and fans are growing negative. Perhaps rightfully so: the on-ice product isn’t what we want or what we were promised by the Sabres front office.
Steve Jobs is one of my all-time heroes and something he said seems appropriate:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. -Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech
We can’t know how the story will play out for the Sabres. However we can take solace in the fact that we’re all in it together and that we now have an owner willing to do whatever’s in his power to make a championship happen. I’m willing to take some lumps with the team and see how this shakes out. It’ll be a hard, long road but well worth it.
This is, after all, Hockey Heaven. Hockey Heaven doesn’t mean that you automatically win every game or that they just hand you the Cup at the end of the year because Pegula hath declared it to be so.
Hockey Heaven isn’t about winning the Stanley Cup RIGHT NOW. It’s about much more than that. Yes, the Sabres are 3-5-2 in their last ten games and injuries shouldn’t be an excuse for that. But we can ride the wave, secure in the knowledge that the Sabres are willing to go for broke. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have a decade of winning with maybe a couple of Stanley Cups over one quick season where we won it all and then degraded quickly into mediocrity?
If the ship doesn’t get righted quickly, we may see a trade or two. I don’t expect Lindy or Darcy Regier to go anywhere soon, as the Sabres management has emphatically stated (and we’ve reiterated) they’re not going anywhere.
Yeah, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. However, when we finally do reach the promised land, it’s going to be soooo much sweeter.
A merry Sabres Christmas to you and LET’S GO BUFF-A-LO!