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Off the Record: Disappointing change to blog summit hurts the event

December 16, 2014

It’s been nearly five years since I decided to start this little boondoggle called Two in the Box. I had spent a month blogging about my time at the Vancouver Olympics and I decided it was a good time and that I’d continue the fun when I got home.

My time as a venomous, small time, basement brigadier has given me the chance to keep writing on a semi-regular basis about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It’s been fun and it’s even given me the chance to take on some cool opportunities. One of those opportunities is the ability to receive a press pass at Sabres home games. Another is access into the back room of Willy Wonka’s Factory – aka, the Sabres front office.

The Sabres have been running blog summits with slightly more regularity than my writing schedule over the past few years. I’ve personally made it to four or five of the meet ups and they’ve all featured their own level of intrigue for me.

My first Sabres Blog Summit occurred in the media room in press conference fashion with the Sabres PR and marketing teams on hand. Ted Black was the guest of honor and he sat at the front of the room, took our questions and answered them earnestly. Whether it was a question about the chances of starting a regional sports network, the return of the Frozen Four or the makeup of the roster, he addressed everything we asked with quality information. We all reported on the process and it was massively successful.

What I took away from the summits featuring Black was the positive discourse and his willingness to answer each question to the best of his ability. Hell, he all but confirmed that the Sabres were going to retire Dominik Hasek’s number once he was retired at a previous summit. Those encounters with Black as the MC not only gave us a chance to voice our opinions but to get answers and report back on them. It was a terrific practice that was unique in many ways.

Somewhere along the lines all of that changed. Read more…

Backups help contribute to Sabres inspiring run

December 16, 2014

Things are going well at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza these days. The Sabres have won 10 of their last 13 games and has done so with a mix of tremendous goaltending and scoring from their top line.

Tyler Ennis was just named the NHL’s first star of the week after picking up five points in three games while his linemates, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson have helped to combine for 14 goals and 18 assists during this stretch. Their scoring accounts for nearly 50% of the goals that have been scored over this 13-game streak. Further, Jhonas Enroth has been a brick wall, picking up nine of the ten wins and posting a .920 save percentage or better in eight of the contests (once in a losing effort).

So, Buffalo’s surge can be credited to a number of factors. A scalding hot top line and equally impressive goaltending are the two biggest contributing factors, while additional continuity throughout the roster has likely helped to galvanize the lines and defensive pairings compared to the first month of the season. The sparing use of Brian Flynn and one-month absence of Nikita Zadorov clearly had a negative impact on the club compared to the team’s state with them as nightly fixtures.

One other factor that has likely helped to contribute to Buffalo’s recent run of impressive play is that their opponents have almost exclusively played their backup goaltenders in each Buffalo victory. In fact, since November 15, when the streak began, the Sabres have faced six starters compared to seven backups. The Sabres are 3-3 in games against those starters and undefeated against backups. Read more…

Going custom for Sabres banners

December 11, 2014

The Sabres have an established history of providing replica banners when a number or championship banner goes up at First Niagara Center and they’ll be continuing that trend this year for Dominik Hasek’s jersey retirement.B4XfXHyCAAAphlP

Each fan will receive a miniature version of Hasek’s banner to proudly display in their home or office. While I’m unsure if the banners will be available for purchase through the Sabres Store, you’ll surely get one if you have a ticket. I’m certainly looking forward to being in the arena for that night and I hope to be one of the lucky fans to go home with my own personal banner.

However, that would be the only Sabres banner I own. I was in school for Danny Gare and Pat LaFontaine’s retirement ceremony and I wasn’t present to receive a 1999 Eastern Conference Champions banner or anything else along those lines. I’m a fan of continuity and rather than having one banner, I want my basement to have all of the Sabres banners, within reason. Read more…

Ranking the Sabres alternate jerseys

December 2, 2014

Things went off the rails last year when the Buffalo Sabres unveiled their newest alternate uniform that has since become known as the Turd Jersey (or #TurdJersey). It was the fourth alternate sweater designed by the Sabres and is by far the worst alternate jersey ever to grace an NHL ice surface.

In honor of tonight’s Second Annual Black and Red Night, I thought I’d honor the other third jerseys worn by the Sabres in an unofficial, but definitive, ranking.

Third jerseys can be tricky. Sometimes teams opt for a futuristic look which often results in mixed opinions. The most recent trend in hockey has been to lean towards traditional or “throwback” designs when it comes to these uniforms. The Sabres have run the gamut in terms of their designs and my rankings are based on a number of factors.

An effective third jersey should serve as a true alternate to a team’s current uniforms. Above all else that is always my first point of evaluation on an alternate uniform. That is obviously a broad definition as the Sabres themselves have done a good job differentiating their home and away uniforms from their alternates, but they haven’t always had well executed jerseys. The key, for me, is something that offers a truly different look to the team’s normal set of uniforms while staying in line with the overarching brand standard. Ultimately determining how a certain jersey fits a team’s identity requires a handful of different evaluations, but the final determination still falls under one umbrella.

One feature I’ve grown to appreciate with any third jersey is the use of an alternate logo. Plastering the current crest on a drastically different uniform can often bring terrible results and introducing an alternate logo that aligns with the team’s #brand is not only a way to branch out from the traditional home and away uniforms, but many alternate logos and jerseys have been quickly adopted as home and away uniforms by teams around the league. Look no further than Los Angeles and Minnesota as great examples of this.

The final way I like to look at a jersey is simple looks. Does it pass the mirror test? That doesn’t mean a jersey can only have horizontal lines, neck ties and traditional design points; simply put, if the jersey has an attractive, flowing design, I’m probably going to like it quite a bit.

With all that taken into consideration, here is how I rank the third jerseys worn by the Sabres: Read more…

It’s time to consider ugrading the Metro Rail’s look

November 10, 2014

A great deal of time, money and interest is being invested into Main Street in an effort to reverse some of the planning errors of the last 30 years. The decision to return vehicle traffic to the street has already brought new business to many long-vacant storefronts and more is expected to come as the project progresses towards Canalside.

train

Side by side of the rail cars used in Buffalo and the Twin Cities

While securing the funding for the final portions of the project remains the biggest hurdle for the city, I keep wondering if the NFTA missed a major opportunity in recent years when they spent millions on new Metro Rail cars as part of a system-wide update. The new cars came with new technology and an upgraded interior, but the exterior look remained the same as the other dated trains that are used daily.

With so much change coming to downtown, particularly along Main Street where new stations will begin to replace the eyesores from the Metro Rail’s original installation, the NFTA will be front and center. As will their rail cars. Read more…

Fury: The Untold Story of the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres

November 10, 2014

Ok. Not really.

The start of the season has gone about how you might expect it to and there is still a long way to go before the suffering is over. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath and just relax. So I took some time to bring a little levity to the current state of the Sabres. Enjoy:Sabres Tank

Brainstorming an addition to the Alumni Plaza

November 6, 2014

I took the opportunity to write out a number of thoughts I had regarding the exterior of First Niagara Center and the steps the Sabres could take to alter the exterior of their home.

It was a lengthy post that touched on a handful of topics that centered on the bland exterior of the building, the atrium and the visual and architectural relationship between FNC and HarborCenter. In the wake of that post, another idea came to fruition – via another talk over beers with a friend – and an alternative to the water feature in the Alumni Plaza was born.

Imagine this (only better) adorning the wall of the FNC parking garage. Ed note: I'm aware that's not the save I mention in the post.

Imagine this (only better) adorning the wall of the FNC parking garage. Ed note: I’m aware that’s not the save I mention in the post.

The water feature is nothing more than a green space buffer that softens the transition between the Alumni Plaza and the First Niagara Center parking ramp that opens onto Illinois Street. You can see some of that green space in this photo.

I’m of the opinion that the water garden is painfully dated and is bordering on becoming an eye sore simply because that portion of the plaza is so underused and the garden simply exists. What came of my conversation was an idea to better integrate the portion of the Alumni Plaza that sits behind the statue of the French Connection and the bridge between the ramp and arena.

With the assumption that at least one or two more Sabres statues will grace the Alumni Plaza in the near future (see: Hasek, Dominik), why not use that wall of the garage as part of the plaza itself? I’d like to see the wall of the parking ramp that is currently obscured by that garden turned into an interactive mural celebrating Sabres history. Read more…

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