There is little doubt the Sabres Summit was a success. It served as a forum for Sabres bloggers to have their voice heard by the Sabres organization. Specifically, their voice was heard by team President Ted Black.
Of the topics I had pegged to bring up, a few were covered by my fellow bloggers, as I expected. However, I had two topics that I wanted to make sure I brought up. The first being the potential re-use for the empty Backstage Club/former Ira Ross Aerospace Museum. The second topic was about the potential return of the Frozen Four and re-implementing the Punch Imlach Hockey Showcase.
The space that was previously used by the Ira Ross Aerospace Museum is situated along the side of FNC, behind the Sabres Store and below the Harbor Club. While the arena renovations were being completed, this housed the Sabres gym equipment. Now it lies vacant, waiting for a new use.
Black noted that the space is 12,000 square feet, there is little space to utilize it as a restaurant due to the store and other neighboring rooms. However, he also pointed out that he has a secret plan for the space that he doesn’t yet wish to reveal. My hope is that his idea is for a Sabres Hall of Fame.
I was unfortunately unable to follow-up my original question with my thoughts on establishing a Hall of Fame in that space. Black also mentioned the terrible location for the entrance to that part of the building. Certainly an avenue for access through the arena could be established, particularly for an attraction like that. Black also mentioned that the idea of building vertically into the Harbor Club could be a possibility. It could also offer a secondary source of access.
Not to harp on the idea, as I have detailed most of my thoughts previously, but I think the potential is there to take advantage of the trajectory that Canalside is taking along with the potential connection of the harbor bridge in the near future.
One other idea I did mention with regards to Canalside was for the Sabres to be part of a project to build a Sabres-centric bar. Just like HockeyTown in Detroit, just with a bit more of Pegula’s or the organization’s influence.
I didn’t elaborate on this at all because it wasn’t the main point of my suggestion. Black sounded optimistic and expressed his interest in being part of the development around Canalside. Unlike Larry Quinn, he doesn’t sound interested in being an integral part, but that is okay. My only thought on the Sabres bar (call it Hockey Heaven) would be to create another destination for pre and post-game drinks and food. There is a great market during the season and in the summer to feed customers into the doors. Building in Canalside across from FNC seems like a perfect spot.
My second suggestion was in regards to the potential return of the Frozen Four. Black mentioned his interest in getting the draft and All-Star game back to Buffalo and I put the Frozen Four on those coattails. While he appeared to be open to the idea, the exciting part was when he mentioned Niagara and Canisius’ interest in bringing the event back. It seems like they schools have approached the Sabres regarding the Frozen Four, hopefully a return of the tournament isn’t too far away.
Mike Gilbert was able to provide some insight as to why the Punch Imlach Showcase went away. He said they were used to show the NCAA that the arena was capable of supporting doubleheader games and to show there was some fan interest. Now, the original Showcase(s) weren’t successful. It was likely due to bad publicity or lack of interest in college hockey. However, now that the city is so enthralled with the sport, it seems like the potential is there for the Sabres to at least explore bringing in some big schools to play at FNC.
For example, maybe Terry Pegula can get Penn State and Robert Morris to come up to Buffalo to face Canisius and Niagara. A round-robin tournament between the two Pittsburgh schools and the two Buffalo schools could build rivalries and offer some sound entertainment. Obviously getting even bigger names (North Dakota, Michigan, BC etc.) would be the ultimate goal.
The genesis for this idea is the fact that hockey in WNY is huge. No matter what level, there are a ton of hockey fans. Black has it right when he talks about the market. So long as the event was properly promoted, the lower levels would certainly have their fair share of fans for such an event.
Think of the GLI and the Beanpot (just for starters). These are massively popular college tournaments played in NHL arenas. Take pieces from each of those tournaments and build a comparable model in Buffalo. There is no reason to expect it not to work.