Yesterday’s blogger summit at First Niagara Center was one of those events that hones in on the attitude that the Pegula ownership group has brought to the table. Not only have the Sabres opened their arms to the blogging community covering the team, they offer them pizza, wings, pop and beer. Oh, and an audience with the team president.
The original blog summit took place in the summer and was a true eye-opening event for those so accustomed to the closed-door policies of the Golisano regime. As he described the incredible commitment level from the Pegulas, Black served up one of his more memorable quotes.
“The Penguins won the Sidney Crosby draft, Buffalo won the owner lottery.”
That is certainly a true sentiment. Events like these, the ticket deliveries and the general transparency offered at many levels is refreshing.
As for the summit itself, it was a congregation of about 20 Sabres blogs in the media work/meal room at FNC. In an attempt to avoid beating a dead horse, I’ll attempt not to cover the event ad nauseum as I’m sure many of my counterparts have offered great analysis already.
- As expected the MSG topic was tackled quickly. Black, being an expert on all things related to sports TV, offered a detailed and interesting explanation of why a regional sports network is so difficult to pull off. Things are particularly difficult in Buffalo’s case because the Sabres are the only major sports franchise that would act as an anchor. The long and the short of it comes down to the clout a professional hockey team would carry on such a network. Without another major sports team to help anchor it (particularly baseball). So there seems to be some troubleshooting ahead if a reincarnation of Empire is to appear.
- A few different topics were floated about fan experience and in-arena amenities. One interesting topic was brought up comparing a pretty awesome feature used by the Minnesota Wild. It would certainly be something that would be a great addition in games. Check Sabres in Seven for more details.
- On three separate occasions Black showed some real fire and passion regarding questions that had been raised. The first was in regards to the reported (from Sportsnet) length of Lindy Ruff’s contract. It was clear Black was perturbed that the network had made such a claim and went out of his way to refute said report. He again spoke passionately when asked about the potential for change on the roster and lastly when Eric from 3rd Man In brought up game presentation.
- The two questions I floated were regarding potential development in and around the arena and the potential return of the Frozen Four. Black’s responses and my additional thoughts on these topics will come in a separate post.
- The idea of the Sabres producing a full-length DVD of their history was brought up. A brilliant idea that will likely be brought up again when the 50th anniversary season rolls around. Based on the quality of the Sabres production staff, that movie would be killer.
- It turns out there will be a few more alumni nights this season. Dave Andreychuk and Brad May were two names said to be slated to appear at Sabres games this season. The connection with the alumni is truly fantastic.
- Phil from Black & Blue & Gold came well prepared and served as the summit’s very own Jason Woolley. His query on the Sabres current and future relationship with the Salvation Army was well constructed, and timely. While everyone wants to know about trades, Phil truly identified a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Kudos to him.
The only flaw I found with the press conference layout of the summit was that there was little opportunity for open conversation. Obviously with the number of people participating, the different topics being discussed and time constraints, this was bound to occur. So, in that regard, I totally understand. The group certainly opened up as the summit went along and there were even occurrences when the person asking the question held on to the mic to respond to Black’s response.
However, there were times that it appeared there was a going to be a follow-up, or room for a follow-up question that wasn’t asked. I was a guilty party here and truly I only have myself to blame. My first question regarded the use of the now-vacant Backstage Club/Ira Ross Aerospace Museum. I was hoping to come through Black’s response with a query as to the potential for putting a Sabres Hall of Fame in that space. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity.
The second occasion I saw this really kick is was Black’s exchange with Eric (3MI). Black offered a perfectly adequate response to Eric’s original suggestion on the in-arena atmosphere. However, Eric wasn’t able to offer his counter-argument, if you will. From knowing Eric, I knew he was getting at certain choices made with music, videos etc. I Tweeted as much. Certainly if Eric could have brought up the fact that the music is one of the main problems, his suggestion would have had some closure and completion to it.
Again, based on the forum in which this was hosted, this aspect doesn’t need to be changed. If anything it will serve as a lesson for future summits. This was a fantastic forum for a group of interesting peers to voice their ideas to the organization they are passionate about.
- “This isn’t XBOX ladies and gentlemen.” In response to query on stale core, lack of trades and what is being done to improve the team.
- “Do you think we will sit back and not do anything?” Again in response to question on trades.
- “Tell your follower to pick two songs. We will put his name on the [Videoboard] when we play them” Responding to comments on lack of atmosphere and game presentation.
- “Humpty Dumpty needs to be put back together again.” Regarding incredible rash of injuries sustained by the Sabres.
- “We are going to get there” On where the team is now and where they are headed.
Special thanks goes out to the Sabres public relations, community relations and new media staff for organizing this event and staying late to help work it. Of course, thanks to Ted Black for spending an hour with some of the most venomous bloggers in Western New York. I’ll be looking forward to my next opportunity to participate in such an event.