No matter how old you are, if you follow the Sabres or Bills, you’ve had your share of heartache. Sure, there was Wide Right, No Goal and the Music City Miracle, but I’m speaking more about organizational issues.
Mismanagement is the worst thing to see as a fan, and sometimes it seems so obvious what the franchise needs to do when playing armchair quarterback. I equate it to your place of work – if the people in charge are doing a shoddy job of management or are just in it for the almighty dollar, it’s very hard to do your best work or even care very much.
Yes, as Buffalo sports fans, we’ve put up with a lot. That’s why it’s so insanely great to see the turnaround by the Sabres in such a short time. Recently on BSN, Scott detailed the many changes Terry Pegula was able to affect in a very short time.
On top of those changes, over the past several days we’ve had even more reasons to believe in Hockey Heaven and and an eventual Stanley Cup. The Sabres landed their first big-name free agent in Robyn Regehr – a guy who any hard-nosed hockey fan would love to have in their lineup. Regher is just the first piece of the puzzle and there’s much more to come, but this signing goes a long way towards proving to any non-believing fans out there. That is, if there were any doubters left. This Regehr deal is huge because he’s the first domino towards getting other free agents to come to Buffalo. (more…)
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.
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.
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.
That is the twitter account of the Sabres
2nd 3rd round selection, (honestly, it’s amazing this guy wasn’t taken in the 2nd), an account which surfaced in the Sabres’ Twit-o-verse pretty quickly after his name was called at the draft. And just as quickly, I sent him my first fan tweet:
@DanCatenacci How fast can you get here? #PunIntended
His speed is no joke – Catenacci won the Fastest Skater Competition at the 2011 Top Prospects game with an individual best lap time of 14.017 seconds. To put that into perspective, the NY Islander’s speed-demon, Michael Grabner, won the NHL’s Skills Contest this season by posting a time of 14.2.
Still photography simply doesn't do him justice. Click on the photo to see what I mean - it's much better when slightly agitated.
Regehr has made up his mind.
The Calgary Sun reports that Robyn has waived the no movement clause in his contract that had stalled the trade. It was a clause that he worked hard to earn for himself and his family, being a part of the Flames since 1999.
The huge 6-3, 225 rear-guard immediately becomes a big factor in Pegula’s three-year Cup plan. He’s on contract for two more years, and with 180 hits and 142 blocked shots last season, is now one of the best, if not the best, Sabres defenseman. (He would have lead the Sabres in both categories.)
A Regehr-Myers tandem will be a frightening thing for opposing forwards to behold.
The thinking is over. Welcome to the B-lo, Robyn.
Purportedly, the whole deal is Regehr and Kotalik (welcome back, Ales) for Chris Butler, Paul Byron, and a 2nd rounder, but these other pieces are yet to be confirmed by either side.
It is a good deal for both sides. Butler will be a good second pairing in Calgary, and Byron is NHL ready. In Buffalo, Regehr becomes a huge part of a Cup run.
Again, while it may have been frustrating for fans, it’s important to note that Regehr did the right thing by utilizing that NMC that he worked so hard and long for. This was the biggest decision of his hockey career, and folks, he’s got a family to think about.
So, to the Regehr clan, let me be one of the first to say:
“Welcome to Hockey Heaven.”
Readers of Buffalo Sabres Nation were well prepared.
The Sabres had a no-brainer decision yesterday, as Joel Armia slid all the way to them at pick 16. Back on May 3oth, we profiled Armia as one of four prospects that the Sabres would have on their draft board. Bang on the link for a return to that story, which will direct you to more information (and video).
After a strong showing with the Finnish big-league (SM-liiga), Armia is more polished for the NHL than other prospects. The Sabres need help now more than later, if they are to stick to Pegula’s three-year Cup plans. Armia fits in nicely with those plans. He’ll have an easy start with the Amerks, so people of Rochester, prepare an “Armia’s Army” banner for the arena wall.
Of course, as a RW, Armia doesn’t fit into the system so well. The Sabres have a glut of players and prospects at that position already, but it can’t hurt to have another blue-chip prospect at this position – especially with Regier looking to swing trades to bolster the team’s defense (see: Regehr). Still, his position is what will nag at most Sabres fans as they read up on him today. While Armia was on my “draft board,” he was at the bottom – but it was because only of his position.
Most expected the Sabres to draft a center, and a few notables at that position are still available. The Sabres are without a 2nd rounder right now, as they lost theirs in the Brad Boyes trade.
There is plenty of work to be done, as round 2 commences today.
UPDATE: Bonus video, from the Land of a Thousand Lakes. This video is subtitled (hit the “cc” in the toolbar beneath the viewer frame), and and is a superb profile of the young stud from Pori.