One night in Smashville

I was lucky enough to make a trip to Nashville this past weekend to not only take in the city but also attend a Nashville Predators game. I came away from the trip with a great appreciation for Nashville and a new perspective on how things are done differently in arenas not named First Niagara Center.

As someone who has a general concern for the atmosphere at Sabres games I wasn’t expecting to come away with so many different opinions on the stark differences between what the Sabres and Preds do. But that’s exactly what happened after taking in Sunday’s game between the Preds and the Caps. Continue reading

Spitballing a Sabres intro video

Something that has been a popular point of contention these past few seasons is the mausoleum-esque atmosphere inside the F’N Center.

I don’t fancy myself to be a game presentation guru, I like to leave that expertise to Eric at 3rd Man In as he has a much better grasp on what it takes to put together a successful game presentation approach. However, I do enjoy spitballing ideas and seeing if they make any sense (this is how I come up with all of my brilliant patent pending ideas.

One thing that I’ve maintained for some time is that the atmosphere in that building does not rest solely on the shoulders of the game presentation staff. While some things they do could certainly be improved, I strongly believe that the fans carry a great deal of the responsibility. Most of the time it seems like the fans are just waiting for something bad to happen so they can jump down Tyler Myers’ throat or boo the players off the ice. Perhaps it is because of their overflowing #hockeyIQ that so many fans act like this. I’m not quite sure. But that’s not the point of this post.

One thing I picked up on this season at the few Sabres games I attended is that there is simply too much going on during pre-game. There’s just too much substance for the fans to pay attention to and, ultimately, to get riled up with. On an individual basis these are all quality ideas. The flag, the kids skating over to the bench doors, pump videos. Each one of these ideas works in their own right. Unfortunately there are too many of these things happening at once for them to have their desired effect. Perhaps, in this case, simpler is better.

What I’d like to see is the team to scale back on a few of these ideas – I’d probably begin by cutting the big flag and I’d probably replace the kid flag bearers too. Basically I’d want to bring the sole focus of the fans on one singular entity. And 350 words later I’ve finally gotten to my main point. Continue reading

Searching for Hockey Heaven

A clarion call should go out to the league and to hockey players everywhere, that Buffalo is hockey heaven. – Ted Black, February 22, 2011

Those words will be difficult to forget. It marked the start of what was expected to be a long, happy relationship between the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. However, just over two years later things aren’t as rosy as they were on Pegula Day.

Give Terry Pegula and his management team credit, they took strides towards improving things on and off the ice. They renovated the locker room, upgraded the concourses and introduced numerous new features throughout the arena in an effort to make First Niagara Center a hockey mecca. The under construction HARBORcenter project proves just that. Pegula even gave the go-ahead to empty the Brinks truck in free agency as the Sabres went out and snagged a pair of the most sought after free agents in the 2011 crop.

Yet, here we are. The Sabres are languishing for a second-straight season, the coach has been fired and the hot topic of conversation now centers around booing. It seems like Buffalo has become Hockey Purgatory, not Hockey Heaven.

All of the good will generated in the 2011 offseason seems to have been erased by two seasons of largely lethargic hockey and below average results. Losses on the ice have transformed to frustration in the stands as the ever enlightened fan base with the high #hockeyIQ has resorted to booing at the drop of a hat at some points this year. Now, as the Sabres draw closer to a lottery selection than a playoff spot, the question I ask is: How far gone is the mindset of Hockey Heaven?

This isn’t about the incessant boos the rain down on the team almost every night. Booing isn’t a subject I care to delve into as fans will always have the liberty to do whatever they please with their tickets; particularly when the product they’re paying to see is underperforming. Of course, that doesn’t mean that piling on a group of players who only have a partial responsibility in the current situation doesn’t seem like the best way to spend that energy.

Perhaps if they at least waited until the end of a particularly horrid period, no need to jump on a team after one or two shifts in a game they’re winning.

Regardless, what I’ve begun to wonder is what the growing volatility within First Niagara Center will do for the Sabres rep with players around the league. Even with the dazzling locker room and the bottomless pockets and sincerity of the owner; how attractive is Buffalo going to be for those outside the organization? Continue reading

Are Canadian ticket holders to blame for the quiet FNC?

Every Sabres-Leafs game is played in a hostile environment. That is a fact of life. Leafs fans can’t get tickets to their home games, there are seats readily available in Buffalo and they make the trip to enjoy a “road” game.

A portion of the Sabres season ticket base is from Ontario. So, a large portion of those seats are likely going to be claimed by Leaf fans three times a year. Add in the fans who are looking to get back into the black after buying Sabres season tickets, and there is an additional market for buyers. The secondary ticket market is also a viable option. Obviously there are avenues for Leaf fans to invade Buffalo.

What is interesting is the atmosphere that is created for these games. If last night’s contest wasn’t a 50/50 split, it was 60/40. As for which side had the edge, it is anyone’s guess. The back and forth chants between the fans created a playoff-like atmosphere that made an entertaining game even better.

The players responded to the fans and their play showed as much. Buffalo’s players reflected this in their postgame comments as well. Thomas Vanek’s quotes were practically calling out the fans for sitting on their hands every other night aside from yesterday and the Boston grudge match. He has a point. Continue reading