Observations from the opener, off the ice

Friday’s home opener was the first chance the fans had to see all of the First Niagara Center renovations first-hand. It was the first night the new-look team played on home ice without prospects sprinkled into the lineup. It was also the first night the Sabres opened up the F’N Center press box to the blogging community.

The awesome new signage on the video board is visible here, along with the questionable sponsor banners in the rafters.

It is just another one of those things the Sabres organization continues to do right. The PR staff was good enough to accommodate myself – along with a pair of other Sabres bloggers – with a press credential for the game. In addition to my game story, I wanted to reflect on a few other things I noticed during the home opener: Continue reading

New Sabres locker room open for business

The Sabres returned to the First Niagara Center – which is receiving new outer signage this week – for their first practice session since returning from Europe. They were greeted with a shiny new players lounge and locker room.

I don't know why, but this is my favorite feature. It screams professionalism for some reason.

John Vogl and Bill Hoppe were quick to Tweet pictures (thanks for the entry image Bill) and Jessie Pegula followed up with some later in the day. The Buffalo News gallery has some very good shots that are slightly higher quality than a camera phone offers.

From the few pictures I have seen, this thing is outstanding.

The signage, decor and overall look of the outer features are very cool (entry image). It translates to the Sabres Hall of Fame wall and the retired numbers. All of this is equally impressive and incredibly cool. For some reason the Buffalo Sabres wall strikes me as one of the coolest features. I’m not sure why, but it just looks like something a winning team has.

As for the interior, I can’t tell much from the pictures. However, the player’s lounge looks pretty cool as does the locker room itself. It is very open – to promote communication – and the decor is very similar to the outer portion. The Sabres logos at the center of the room are the obvious focal points, while each player stall has a picture of the player in action. There is also a quote over the door way that reads, “Belief, Commitment, Character, Discipline, Trust” all above the word “Excellence.”

It has a “Play Like A Champion Today” feel to it. While I’m not an NHL player, I have to say this is quite an awe striking renovation. It wouldn’t be fair to say they have gotten anything right or wrong, but from where I’m sitting there can’t be too much missing. I know the goal was to catch up to some of the newer buildings and the state-of-the-art rooms around the league. I think it is safe to assume this locker facility is second to none.

Between the minor touches around the arena and this project, I have to think that Terry Pegula took the First Niagara Center from a 15-year old building to a five-year old building with little more than a snap of his fingers. There are certain things that can’t be changed in that building, but he certainly put it in the neighborhood of the newest buildings in the league.

Keep an eye on The Buffalo News and Sabres.com for more pictures as the week progresses.

F’N Center upgrades and more

As the offseason began, the construction crews moved into the First Niagara Center. Now that the summer has come to a close there are plenty of new features the soak in at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza.

No more Slugs on the videoboard and a new paintjob are among the numerous renovations made to the F'N Center.

Terry Pegula and company entered the offseason hoping to start the transformation of Buffalo into Hockey Heaven. It all started with the renovations of the Sabres locker room, plus an overhaul of the coaching staff’s offices and visitors locker space as well.

The locker room, expected to be the class of the NHL, is all but finished. An overhaul of the concessions and the de-Slugging of the entire arena was completed some time ago. The Sabres put gobs of money into the ice equipment, with laser beam Zambonis and dehumidification (is that a word) equipment. There are also plans to install a 90-foot video board on the outside of the arena, as well.

I’m certainly missing a handful of additional renovations and upgrades that will make the overall experience of the F’N Center – both on the ice and in the stands – better for everyone involved. Continue reading

We have Zambonis with frickin’ laser beams attached to them?

We have Zambonis with frickin' laser beams attached to them!?!?
Late in the summer of 2010 a guy named Terry Pegula gave a bunch of money to Penn State in order to lift their hockey program from the ACHA club ranks to NCAA Division I. It was only a short time later that the first rumor of his interest in the Buffalo Sabres was broken by the Buffalo media.
In the eight or nine months that have followed the winds of change have blown through the Buffalo Sabres organization. Suddenly the organization is spending as much money as they need to in order to get the players they need to succeed and spending cash on any type of arena upgrade you can think of.
I can only think of what Mr. Pegula would look like in a gray jumpsuit, with a big Sabres ring on his pinky as he raises it to his mouth and says, “We have Zambonis with frickin’ laser beams attached to them!” Continue reading