News broke yesterday that Buffalo won’t be returning to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament after three previous appearances.
The news is slightly disappointing as the Traverse City Tournament is a terrific showcase for a team’s prospects and allows management to see their youngsters in more game situations than they’d typically get during camp and free agency. However, the tournament isn’t exactly close and there isn’t any enormous overarching benefit of shipping a busload of prospects up to the upper reaches of Michigan.
Ideally, the Sabres would take the opportunity to remove themselves from the annual event and host a similar tournament in Buffalo, utilizing HarborCenter as ground zero for the games. As John Vogl added today, it would appear that is already in the works.
With Vogl noting that the Sabres already have eyes on using HabrorCenter and First Niagara Center as the hub for such a tournament tells me that this is probably closer to fruition than we may already know. It makes too much sense for the Sabres not to do it.
Having a pair of rinks with seating capable of hosting the games and the added benefit of keeping your prospects at home in your own building is too good to be true. Additionally, it would allow the Sabres to showcase the facilities to the prospects on other teams who may be considering Buffalo as a free agent one day in the future. This is a sentiment that’s been spoken by Ted Black on occasion when referring to events like hosting the Erie Otters, All-American Prospects Game, NHL Combine, the Draft, etc. I can’t say his logic is flawed.
I assume a future tournament would see the Sabres play each of their games in First Niagara Center as there would certainly be a fair demand for tickets, while most of the other games would occur at HarborCenter. Exactly which teams Buffalo would invite is somewhat immaterial, although with a more central location than Northern Michigan, it may be easier to lure teams to the Nickel City.
While I don’t have any previous knowledge of how Traverse City operates on a day-to-day basis, it seems as if the tournament itself would be relatively straightforward. Set the games and let things run their course. I can’t imagine there would be a requirement for too many extra frills as most fans would be unfamiliar with many of the players playing for the Sabres, let alone the other teams in the tournament (#hockeyIQ).
One thing I’d love to see incorporated, however, is some sort of actual TV coverage for the games. It’s my understanding that the rink at Traverse City is a logistical nightmare for trying to set up a broadcast. Of course, neither HarborCenter nor FNC mimic that nightmare as each are fully equipped to handle a broadcast set up. With both facilities capable of televising the games, it would be a shame not to provide the service. Not to mention, NHL Network could use some additional content and these games would certainly fit the bill.
Given that there are already whispers of the Sabres hoping to capitalize on HarborCenter and their three-rink playground at the foot of Washington, I have to think we’ll hear of a Sabres-hosted event sooner rather than later. I’m looking forward to that announcement and I look forward to grabbing a weekend pass once it rolls around.