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

The Instigator Podcast Episode 24 – Receptive Audiences

Eric and I got together for another Instigator Podcast. We discussed the growing dissention with fans at FNC and their generally poor attitude towards the team they’re cheering for. We also play plus minus and discuss many of the issues surrounding the team at this time.

The Instigator Podcast Episode 7 – Fuel and Engage

In the seventh edition of The Instigator Podcast, Eric and I take a look at where things could head with regards to amping up the fans and creating a raucous atmosphere similar to that of the MTS Centre.

As always, comments and criticism are welcome on Twitter.

The Instigator Podcast Episode 4 – IQ Test

Here is episode number four of The Instigator Podcast. This week we discuss the ever popular Twitter topic of hockey IQ, take Twitter questions regarding direction for the roster and take on plus/minus yet again.

As always, comments and criticism are encouraged. Catch us here: @2ITB_Buffalo or @3rdmanin

The Buffalo sports fan

The Buffalo sports fan:

Is totally die hard

Would prefer to trade their lazy, overpaid superstar now while his value is still high.

Knows exactly what trade or free agent move will lead to a championship.

Thinks your perennial All-Star and playoff stud SUCKS

Expects every shot to be stopped

Thinks a new left tackle and an elite pass rusher are the solution to the Bills’ woes

His seats really let you see the play develop – from the last row of the stadium

His old seats let you see the speed of the game – despite being obstructed by the benches

Wants to trade two underperformer’s for that superstar in the other conference

Wants a proven coach and GM, but can’t think of a proven name to fill either position

Thinks the GM should have cut that waste of money two years ago

LOVE Are insulted by the thought of sexy, scantily clad girls scraping the ice

Knew that the same lameduck player who walked as a free agent would blow up in another city

Doesn’t make a peep for an entire game, but claps in unison when the speakers say “everybody clap your hands”

Boos every former player, no matter what the circumstances were surrounding their departure

Sits on their hands all game but will cheer after a goal

Leaves with six minutes to go in a one-goal game

Still refers to the Winter Classic as the Ice Bowl

Hates when the Sabres play the trap, despite not being capable of identifying it

Wonders why the Sabres don’t score goals like you see in video games

Wants to know why the Bills are the only team never to score on bombs

Complains about every possible facet of every pro sports team in the city

Will sit in their season’s or by their TV every day until one of their teams wins a championship.

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

Ryan Miller wants more from the fans. I agree

In his comments to reporters today Ryan Miller came out and said he wants HSBC Arena to be louder for the playoffs. I think he is spot on in asking for more from the Sabres fans.

During far too many Sabres games this season, before and after Pegula Day, the Arena has been far too quiet. A great deal of blame can be saddled on the team for lackluster play (see, 3-0 vs. St. Louis) but the fans certainly don’t help the cause. Continue reading