Searching for Hockey Heaven

A clarion call should go out to the league and to hockey players everywhere, that Buffalo is hockey heaven. – Ted Black, February 22, 2011

Those words will be difficult to forget. It marked the start of what was expected to be a long, happy relationship between the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. However, just over two years later things aren’t as rosy as they were on Pegula Day.

Give Terry Pegula and his management team credit, they took strides towards improving things on and off the ice. They renovated the locker room, upgraded the concourses and introduced numerous new features throughout the arena in an effort to make First Niagara Center a hockey mecca. The under construction HARBORcenter project proves just that. Pegula even gave the go-ahead to empty the Brinks truck in free agency as the Sabres went out and snagged a pair of the most sought after free agents in the 2011 crop.

Yet, here we are. The Sabres are languishing for a second-straight season, the coach has been fired and the hot topic of conversation now centers around booing. It seems like Buffalo has become Hockey Purgatory, not Hockey Heaven.

All of the good will generated in the 2011 offseason seems to have been erased by two seasons of largely lethargic hockey and below average results. Losses on the ice have transformed to frustration in the stands as the ever enlightened fan base with the high #hockeyIQ has resorted to booing at the drop of a hat at some points this year. Now, as the Sabres draw closer to a lottery selection than a playoff spot, the question I ask is: How far gone is the mindset of Hockey Heaven?

This isn’t about the incessant boos the rain down on the team almost every night. Booing isn’t a subject I care to delve into as fans will always have the liberty to do whatever they please with their tickets; particularly when the product they’re paying to see is underperforming. Of course, that doesn’t mean that piling on a group of players who only have a partial responsibility in the current situation doesn’t seem like the best way to spend that energy.

Perhaps if they at least waited until the end of a particularly horrid period, no need to jump on a team after one or two shifts in a game they’re winning.

Regardless, what I’ve begun to wonder is what the growing volatility within First Niagara Center will do for the Sabres rep with players around the league. Even with the dazzling locker room and the bottomless pockets and sincerity of the owner; how attractive is Buffalo going to be for those outside the organization? Continue reading

Basement Brigade Viewing Party

As Sabres Nation demonstrated over the past few weeks, Western New York is ecstatic to have the game of hockey back full time. Thanks to the end of the lockout, fans get to see their favorite teams and players back in action in a condensed 48-game schedule. While the whirlwind schedule may go quickly, it also allows for plenty of time to watch a lot of hockey.

“The Basement Brigade” is taking advantage of this. Eric of 3rd Man In and Phil of Black & Blue & Gold put their heads together to organize a watch party at Mr. Goodbar on Saturday, February 2 for the Sabres road affair against the Canadiens (event link).

This is a great event to not only bring hockey fans together but to also help inject some life into the bar scene which certainly suffered as a result of the lockout. I’m personally unsure of my availability for the event at this point, but I hope to crawl out of the basement and rub elbows with fans and bloggers alike. Give the Facebook event a once over and come out to Goodbar to support a truly awesome idea from Phil and Eric.

Sabres first five will come quickly

With five games over the next seven games, the Sabres will know exactly what they can come to expect from the condensed 2013 NHL schedule. Rather than scrambling to provide specific previews for each and every game this season, it is more likely that you will see a look at each week of the season as it begins.

The Sabres open at home today against the Flyers and follow with games against the Leafs, Hurricanes (twice) and Capitals. Here are a few things to keep an eye on as the Sabres and NHL hockey returns. Continue reading

Burning questions as season looms

With training camps across the NHL set to open by this Saturday, at the earliest, the Sabres will be bringing in plenty of familiar faces to be evaluated for the 48 games that will be played in 2013.

Unlike a traditional training camp and preseason, this abbreviated version will keep the position battles to a minimum and many roster spots will go to the usual suspects. This is particularly good news for some veterans who may have otherwise had to claw for a spot on the 23-man roster and this also eliminates the ability for youngsters to make a statement as to if they belong in Buffalo for the duration of the season.

With every team in a similar situation, there is bound to be a league-wide struggle with chemistry. The teams that will be successful will be those who adapt and overcome any issues they have once the season gets going. The biggest struggle, outside of chemistry and fitness, will be those teams that hit any sort of losing streak. With a shortened schedule against conference foes, wins and losses will be magnified and any streak will be magnified that much more.

As the Sabres look to take advantage of the shortened season and build on an interesting offseason, here are a few questions that will likely have an impact on the season. Continue reading

Sabres Blog Summit: Recap

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. Continue reading

Proud to Puck launches today

Along with providing Bandits, Bills and Sabres content here at 2ITB, along with other random musings, I will be contributing as the Sabres writer for Proud to Puck. It is a new NHL news website that will offer coverage of the entire league. I’ll often re-post content here from P2P and vice-versa.

I am joining a great group of writers and it will be a fun season providing content for this new site. Be sure to check it out on a daily basis.

Welcome to Hockey Heaven

I’m in the process of completing a Photoshop project that will show my grand plan for the red wall that currently adorns the 100 level. Part of my plan is to include, what I think should be, the Sabres new catchphrase or slogan Hockey Heaven.

I guess I’m not the only one who has jumped all over Ted Black’s awesome tag line. This video was put together by the people running the Hockey Heaven Facebook page.

I am all aboard for Buffalo officially becoming known as Hockey Heaven. Let Detroit be Hockeytown and completely forget “the City of Hockey” that has no flow. Hockey Heaven is where it’s at, and Buffalo is Hockey Heaven.