The summer is expected to bring changes to One Seymour H Knox III Plaza both on the ice and off. Tim Murray will not only be ushering in the second overall pick in the draft – which is all but assured to be Jack Eichel – along with a number of other acquisitions which are expected to improve the on-ice product.
Away from the ice, improvements to the arena will be on their way again as First Niagara Center continues to get updates as its 20th birthday approaches. One area of the arena that I think needs immediate attention is the rafters. Particularly the items hanging from the rafters.
Presently the Sabres have seven retired numbers, ten Sabres championship banners, two banners in memory of the Knoxes, six banners commemorating the Bandits retired numbers and championships and then four “Gold Ring Sponsor” banners. That’s the extent of what hangs from the FNC rafters (aside from the US and Canadian flags) and I’d like to see the Sabres organization address this aspect of the in-arena experience.
First off, the Sabres banners look horrible. They’re separated by a large gap and there are at least three different fonts used on the seven banners. The French Connection and Tim Horton banners are obviously made with a different font than Gare, LaFontaine or Hasek’s and it appears as if the Hasek banner has a slightly different number font than the others as well.
Additionally, the Hasek banner itself is a different size than the rest. It appears to be the same width but the break to the pointed end is lower than that of the neighboring banners. Combining that poor measurement with the varying fonts – and potentially colors – cries out for the team to revisit and re-hang the banners with a uniform look.
Finding a new location for them, hopefully somewhere in the rafters that isn’t interrupted by a spotlight stand, would provide the ability to order them properly as well. The large gap between Gare and LaFontaine’s banners look ridiculous and I’d rather see the team decide to abandon that spotlight location in order to provide a better layout for their retired numbers.
The benefit to addressing the retired numbers now is that the organization is a long way off from retiring another number. There are plenty of appropriate candidates (Mike Ramsey) but when you could effectively argue that the team could stand to remove a couple of the ones they have hung now, I expect that another banner won’t be hung for at least 10 years, if not longer. Without another upcoming number to retire the team can pull down the current collection and make sure they all look right without having to worry about putting another incorrect banner up in the near future.
I’d also like to see the two Knox banners moved closer to the retired numbers. The founders of the team deserve to be honored with the players they helped to bring to our city. I understand the decision to separate the players from founders, but I feel the Know banners look out of place between the US and Canadian flags compared to alongside the retired number banners.
A topic that’s been touched on occasionally is the idea of honoring the Buffalo Braves. As a major part of Buffalo’s major league sporting history, the Braves absolutely deserve to be honored in the rafters of FNC. If we can hang a banner for First Niagara or Labatt Blue, we can hang a banner for the Braves and Bob McAdoo (and Randy Smith per Andrew and Pete at Artvoice).
The Pegulas have no ties to the Braves, nor does First Niagara Center as a building. However, as a key cog to the Memorial Auditorium, the Braves are a major piece of our history and creating a banner to honor the team and their former stars is too easy for the Sabres organization to be not making.
In fact, each month or year that they fail to announce and hang a Braves banner is a massive disappoint.
My last plea with the Sabres is to remove the gold ring sponsorship banners from the rafters proper. The rafters are a hallowed space that should only be occupied by championship and retired number banners. It’s just as dumb to hang a Billy Joel banner (MSG) as is it to give a corporate partner a banner in your building.
The added ring above the videoboard with the light up logos was a brilliant touch and there is still room for two more sponsors and simply adding something that refers to them as “Gold Ring Sponsors” on that space would be equally effective and would be substantially better than the banners they’re using now. Buffalo could also follow suit to the former Mellon Arena and even Nationwide Arena which put up billboards in the upper reaches of their respective arenas. The Sabres could adorn the end zone sections of the 300 level with these gold ring sponsors as a replacement to the ridiculous banners they use now.
All of these changes can occur over the summer and be ready for day one of the 2015-16 season. Hanging redesigned, uniform retired number banners in a better order that doesn’t include a gap, honoring the Buffalo Braves and removing sponsorship banners are easy offseason chores but would reflect well in the arena for next year.