Brainstorming an addition to the Alumni Plaza

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. Continue reading

Buffalo Sabres 2013 2ITB Awards

The 2ITB Awards made their debut last season after the Sabres’ playoff push fell short. After a disappointing season, here are my picks for some serious and not-so-serious team awards:

Most Valuable Player – Thomas Vanek

Atlas Vanek put the team on his back for most of the season. He and Ryan Miller performed at a high level for most of the year – although Miller’s numbers reflect that of a more average goaltender. Vanek’s contributions are more visible and he is certainly deserving of recognition on a team that would be dreadful offensively without his skillset. Here’s hoping he isn’t traded.

Least Valuable Player – Drew Stafford

Just a dismal year for #21. Stafford could never get the train on the tracks and has been largely invisible on many nights. He wears a letter to boot. To think that he makes $4 million a year is a cap crushing nightmare. I would assume he gets traded in the offseason, but that is no guarantee.

Top Prospect – Mark Pysyk

Looking at the body of work each Sabres prospect put together this season, Pysyk is probably the one to stand out the most. Just as 2011-12 winner Marcus Foligno put together a strong stretch run, Pysyk has set himself up very well for his first full NHL season for 2013-14. Continue reading

Inclusion of Afinogenov in Alumni Plaza mural has caused a stir

Afinogenov is just visible behind Rene Robert.

A fairly innocuous observation between Eric and myself on the last Instigator Podcast has suddenly become a big story in hockey circles. Maybe if there was hockey being played this wouldn’t even matter. But since this ridiculous lockout continues, Max Afinogenov’s inclusion on the Alumni Plaza mural is a story.To offer a recap, Afinogenov was included on a photo mural of former Sabres that adorns the walkway in the newly anointed Alumni Plaza. The decision to cover the walkway with former Sabres was not only a decision likely forced by the lockout (and inability to use current players for promotions) and the convenient fact that the creation of the Plaza would make the black and white headshot mural quite out of place. For what it’s worth, the team picture mural concept was getting old fast and I commend the Sabres for having a new option that they can renew each season, if they so choose.

Afinogenov is one of the last players pictured and is sandwiched between Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. Both Drury and Afinogenov are featured in “slug” jerseys and tie together the current era of team history on the mural. The question surrounding Afinogenov’s inclusion asks not only how deserving he is of the honor and how many other Sabre greats were passed over for him. Continue reading

A trip to the Sabres Alumni Plaza

This is old news, I know. But I did manage to meander my way down to the Sabres Alumni Plaza the day after the French Connection Statue was unveiled.

The official unveiling was on the 12th and I managed to spend some time down near the arena (and Canalside) on Saturday the 13th. While this post is a bit tardy, it doesn’t make the plaza any less striking.

While the photo of the French Connection used in numerous locations (including beer paraphernalia) seemed to be a better picture of the group to use, the interpretation of the photo and the way the statue plays the scene is terrific. The action of Perreault and Robert reaching for the puck gives the ability to view the statue from a number of different angles.

The Alumni Plaza as a whole is somewhat underwhelming at this point just because the player and fan bricks are very much an ancillary addition. There isn’t much to the bricks unless you’re looking for a specific player or your individual brick. Ultimately the bricks will be a very nice addition to the entire atmosphere of that plaza, but as of now they are sort of just there.

One thing that a few people have brought up is the fact that they’re eventually going to run out of room on those pillars. Now, that won’t be a factor for a number of years. But there are no more pillars to utilize beyond the one pegged for the 2010’s. Perhaps the 70s era players should remain on the first pillar with the remaining ones used to mix in the rest of the players from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. At least that would allow for more flexibility as more and more players make their debuts.

That point is quite minute and truly won’t be an issue for at least another 10 years based on the number of players who will be making their debut. Worst case scenario is that the 2010’s column needs to be given a different distinction and becomes far more populated than the rest.

For me, the exciting part is what will come next. There is a ton of space in the plaza and there will be plenty of room to create a monument park with a number of different statues mixed in. Between previous posts and passing comments between Eric and myself in the Instigator Podcast, the full roster of future statues has probably been laid out.

Hasek is the most obvious next choice with Tim Horton being a close second or in a dead heat with the goaltender. Danny Gare and Pat LaFontaine would be fine additions too (as each retired number should get equal treatment). I love the idea of honoring the Knox Family along with the obvious need for statues honoring Ted Darling and RJ as well.

It is fairly obvious that Terry Pegula and Ted Black don’t just want to create avenues for additional fan involvement but that they strive to create unique and outstanding additions to FNC. To say I have the utmost faith that they will succeed with turning the Alumni Plaza into an unforgettable addition is an understatement.

Now the only thing left is to wait and see when another statue will be placed on the site.

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Hasek statue should follow the French Connection

Friday was supposed to be a truly impressive evening. Combined with the home opener for the Buffalo Sabres, the team would also unveil the centerpiece of the new alumni plaza with the French Connection Statue.

With the end of the lockout nowhere in sight, the home opener has been cancelled. But the statue unveiling will go through as planned and it should still serve as a wonderful way to honor three of the franchise’s greatest players.

The likely pose for the future statue of Hasek.

From the very brief and obstructed view I got of the statue, it looks impressive. All three players are prominently featured and the layout should provide a unique view from just about any angle. Depending how the structure will be lit, I expect that the statue will be very impressive at night.

The next step will be identifying who else will join the French Connection in the plaza. Thanks to this week’s news, the next addition should be Dominik Hasek.  Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast Episode 20 – Locked Out

The lockout is indeed on. While the CBA arguments went beyond the September 15 deadline, regular season games have now been cancelled and this has become a very real thing. Eric and I sat down to discuss the lockout, solutions for it and a host of other topics. We tackle the Alumni Plaza and, of course, play a little plus/minus.

Sabres to unveil Alumni Plaza

In just over three months, Terry Pegula has tossed the Sabres hat in the ring on the Webster Block, donated money to finish landscaping work at Canalside and will now contribute to an alumni plaza outside of First Niagara Center.

This tweet from WGRZ kicked things off prior to the official announcement that a press conference will be held tomorrow to unveil the plans for a full alumni plaza.

This is something I had given thought to back in the winter after the second blog summit. In addition to paying tribute to the team’s most famous trio, I would suspect there will be a statue for each of the franchise’s retired numbers. There will certainly be space to honor the Knox family and those who helped bring the Sabres to buffalo.

The Sabres are in a unique position because of the design of the arena. The inclusion of the massive public plaza has not only provided space to throw big gameday parties, it will also provide more than enough space for a number of different statues.

Off the top of my head I can count the French Connection, Knox brother, Pat LaFontaine, Danny Gare, Tim Horton and Dominik Hasek as those who will have statues within the next few years. I would venture a guess that RJ and Ted Darling will each get their own down the line as well.

UPDATE: The Sabres press conference detailed a number of intricate details for the project. This includes the picture the statue will be based upon and the inclusion of every player ever to don a Sabres sweater. The additional players will be included on plagues on the brick pillars already in place.

It would seem to me that the plan only includes space for the French Connection statue at this point. Assuming the statue will be the focal point in front of the raised walkway, there will be plenty of room in the rest of the plaza for additional statutes, should the organization choose to build them.

The potential of this idea goes so far beyond anything else done by any other team simply because of the space afforded to the franchise in the plaza. Certainly tomorrow’s announcement will provide the rest of the details and perhaps some super cool, Tielman-proof renderings.

Terry Pegula is certainly proving that he could become a driving force in developing the area around FNC in the coming years. It is something the city of Buffalo has been without for a long time.

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