hockey heaven:

The Tease Is Over This Year For Sabres Fans – Now What?

A tease.

That’s what this year has been.

We were teased with a competitive team after the offseason. Then teased again when the Sabres put together a short winning streak in late January/early February. 308w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

No not that kind of a tease.

After the 7-2 absolute drubbing at the hands of the hated Flyers, we now know there is no hope for this team, this year. Well, of course many of us knew before this, but some of us held out the slightest glimmer of hope. I did.

We were teased last year with the 16-4-4 run to end the season and make the playoffs… only to be crushed at the hands of those very same hated Flyers. Now we know that the run to the playoffs was more flukey than being eliminated in the 1st round and the record the Sabres currently hold (24-27-6).

The combination of the bad record despite the high expectations, the mediocre play on the ice, the Lucic Incident and issues of softness, and the TV problems with Time Warner make this season a difficult pill to swallow for Sabres fans. 500w" sizes="(max-width: 274px) 100vw, 274px" />

Cleanup was indeed needed after the Sabres D soiled themselves in the 2nd period against the Flyers.

Lindy Ruff’s birthday is today but the celebration of his day has to be marred by where this franchise is at. This was supposed to be a mecca of hockey. A return to greatness. No, not even a return to greatness, but something better than we’d had in the past. Pegula labeled it “Hockey Heaven” – claimed a Stanley Cup was in our future. We got the Amerks back in the fold, got coaches entrenched that could coach Lindy’s “System”, the whole deal.

Pegula, Ted Black and the rest of the Sabres brass has consistently said we need to stay the course, to do nothing drastic.

At this point, even they have to see that something needs to be done. Questions come up about the coaching, about the general manager and about the heart of some of the players.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think we can just stay pat with the cards we’re holding. Perhaps it’s as simple as a trade or two now and build towards next year. Maybe it’s as drastic as firing Lindy Ruff.

After all, the team seems to embody his “nothing is wrong, we’ll get through this” mentality. Yes, it’s good for a coach to keep an even keel, but sometimes you need to light a fire under the guys.

Maybe Lindy does that, I don’t know as I’m not close enough to the team. All I know is that I see some guys on the ice who aren’t giving their all. I know that Lindy has had years of chances with different versions of this team and he hasn’t won a championship. There’s two sides to that coin: a) He’s done well over the years and gotten us deep in the playoffs b) It’s him holding us back from doing better than we could. 650w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

THE ANSWER! Ok, not gonna happen, but it's fun to think about. More likely he'll go NASHville. These captions are horrible, but they're free, so quit yer whining.

In the end, I will have faith that “Pegula knows best”, that Ted Black and the rest of the staff are smart hockey guys and will get this thing figured out. But now we have to turn our attention to trades and a better draft pick and I don’t like that.

Go Sabres. /sigh

[Update: I was remiss not to say this: #DoSomethingDarcy]

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Take Heart Sabres Fans: “Hockey Heaven” is Thriving


Sabres fans are being severely tested by the Hockey Gods.

As the days and weeks of the 2011-12 season pass, the team identity has gone amiss, injuries continue to mount, and games are being lost. Our once boastful, or hopeful predictions for what might be accomplished by this Sabres team are being truly tempered.

And boy, a lot of us are losing our temper.

Calls to fire Ruff (as we’ve touched on a couple times recently here on BSN) and/or Regier are prevalent throughout the media, blogosphere, and Twitter chatter. Calls to shake up the roster by trading away our best names are being trumpeted just as loudly. Indeed, these calls are a far cry from the “clarion call” that Ted Black asserted Pegula was making to the NHL when he took over ownership from Tom Golisano – that Buffalo was to be the destination for NHLers, and for Stanley Cups.

A current of collective doubt is growing around this team now. There have been grumblings over what has become a lifeless arena. There’s been complaints about folks leaving games early. Oddly enough, there are even fans who describe feeling terribly out of line when trying to start up a simple “Let’s Go, Buffalo!” chant.

But take heart, Sabres fans. All is not lost. Not the season. And certainly, not “Hockey Heaven.”

There has never been a sense of entitlement in this town. But when Terry Pegula arrived on February 22nd, 2011 (forever hereafter to be known as “Pegula Day” to Sabres Nation), there was a new sense of confidence.

There was a birth of belief. And it felt beautiful.

For perhaps the first time in the storied history of the Buffalo Sabres franchise, the fan base was compelled to a certitude that the Stanley Cup would be won. It might take years, but it would be won. This was what was promised to us, and this promise still stands. 320w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

And we still have RJ.

For a moment though, let’s put the Quest for the Cup aside. Sure, hockey’s ultimate prize is our ultimate goal as Sabres fans, but even as the team struggles, our “Hockey Heaven” endures and grows.

“Hockey Heaven” is not a destination, after all. 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 FN’ Center. It’s a 25 hour long hockey game, played for charity on the wondrous ice surface that once showcased the NHL’s first (and best, in my humble opinion) Winter Classic.

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 almost a dumbfounded thankfulness, 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 did in basically just three calendar months after taking over the team. 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 these new emissaries brought with them 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.
  • 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 his first 24 games.

Since then, Pegula’s done more, and more.

  • It’s impossible to forget Pegula 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.
  • He reunited the Sabres and Rochester Americans.
  • He added an ECHL affiliation with the Gwinnett Gladiators.
  • He donated $12 million to Houghton College, for a new multi-sport complex.
  • He has been in “serious discussions” with Canisius College to help build an on-campus events center.  As Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News reported, “It would serve as a home for Canisius and the Buffalo Junior Sabres, a practice rink for the Sabres and be available to youth teams. There’s talk it could also become a basketball venue and a place for graduation ceremonies that are now held at UB.”

For all of our problems here in the Queen City, we have a lot to cherish. And for much of the bullet points stated above, it’s not only about the Sabres winning a hockey game (or three).

Even with all of his largesses, Pegula did not create “Hockey Heaven.” It was here all along. He sure has made us feel it a heckuva lot more, but even now, despite all the injuries and the losses to his team, despite the frustration, “Hockey Heaven” continues to flourish:

Amazing are our hockey fans.

In Buffalo, that video sums up our feelings right now. Our experience with this team, this game, and this culture, is something to celebrate. Something to love. No slump can ever make that go away. Even in the worst of times, it’s too good to let go. Our arguments over what to do about – or what to do to the Sabres to get them back on track simply translate to a “clarion call” of our own: we are extraordinarily passionate about our Sabres, and about the game and culture of all things hockey.

As losses mount, we’ll still put up our Christmas lights, lace up our skates, and pray for freezing temperatures so that our backyard rinks are ready for a game.

I’ll still put up my Sabres GIFs and BINGO posts.

One of Pegula’s mantras is to never get too high after a win, and never get too low after a loss. Right now, we’re all feeling more than a little low over what is happening to the boys in Blue and Gold. There’s been a lot of vitriol, a lot of venom, a lot of hate.

But hate is just love disappointed.

Take heart, folks.

And of course, Go Sabres.

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Stoking The Flames Of the Sabres/Senators Rivalry

The Buffalo Sabres face off against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night – the third game of the season against them. I feel that “hate” is sort of a strong word for a sporting event, but I think we have a pretty heated rivalry going and think it might be fun to stoke those flames a little more.

Ottawa isn’t doing great this year, but they’re doing a heck of a lot better than last year when they finished last in the Northeast division with a 32-40-10 record and 74 points. This year they’re a respectable 13-13-4 and 30 points, on pace for 90 points for the year – but are a -14 overall.

The Sabres have won first two games against Ottawa, one in regulation and one via shootout, but surely the Senators smell blood in the water with all the recent injuries to our boys. It’s no playoff game but pretty important as the Sabres sit at 32, only two points ahead of Ottawa in the division. And the Sabres have to keep pace with reawakened Boston and out-of-nowhere Toronto.

If we needed a pump up video, this one couldn’t get any more better (and yeah, I’m aware of the inherent grammar badness in that sentence) – the 2007 brawl where Marty Biron bravely took on Ray Emery:

I know, I linked it Saturday, but I could watch this over and over.

Ok, enough fisticuffs. Howsabout a pretty goal? Pominville’s OT game winner in the the 2005-2006 playoffs against Ottawa sent the Sabres into the Eastern Conference Finals against Carolina. That didn’t quite go our way, but that goal was a sweet capper of a hard-fought series:

A shorthanded goal in game seven to win it? Those Ottawa fans cannot like us. It’s nice to be on the better side of at least some rivalries lately.

Now for the stories of several Sabres fans and how they felt in the moment that goal was scored. Hockey Heaven put together some great clips of fan reaction years later. Roll the highlight reel:

The origin of the classic call: “Oh, now do you believe? Now do you believe? These guys are good, scary good.”

You may want to watch any or all of the above again right before the game for full effect.

Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!

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Sabres Fans: Ready for Friday? (Video)

Four more days.

October, and the regular season for 2011-12, are upon us. While we iron our jerseys and lace up our skates, sponsor “Hockey Heaven” has put together another video.

Get your banners ready.

It’s a teaser, if you will, for what could be in store for us this time around.

I think this made our bleary Monday a heckuva lot better.

Siirry Sapelit.

Gehen Säbel.

Go Sabres.

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Buffalo Sabres Owner Speaks with NHL Lawyer (Video)

This is a good one.

While we’ve all been gearing up for our first full year of Pegula hockey, “Hockey Heaven” (sponsor) has been very busy – making t-shirts, giving away tickets, and putting together some really great Sabres videos.

In Hockey Heaven, a toque is our winter time halo.

The latest installment from their Youtube channel, “Buffalo Sabres Owner Speaks with NHL,” is a venture into the world of animation, and superheros.

And it’s outstanding.

There is so much that is awesome in this video that it’s hard to nail down one singular thing that makes it great. Maybe it’s the Superhero outfit. Maybe it’s the Justice League-like “Fortress of Solitude” at the F’N Center. Maybe it’s the… oh never mind, just click “play.”


Love that Pegula cartoon swagger.

13 days until our season opens in Helsinki. Until then, we have our preseason, and we have our home-grown businesses like “Hockey Heaven” that have sprung up in Pegulaville to make this ride even more important, and even more fun.

Go Sabres.

UPDATE: I asked demanded “Hockey Heaven” to produce more cartoons. Their response: 300w" sizes="(max-width: 540px) 100vw, 540px" />

Talk about getting things done! I am the Ted Black of Twitter.

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