The Buffalo Sabres opened the doors of the First Niagara Center and extended their hospitality to some of the team’s biggest fans, Wednesday.
Approximately 20-bloggers from across the city were invited down to the arena and allowed a one-on-one question-and-answer session with team President, Ted Black.
Despite being limited to a “live suggestion box” format, many bloggers came loaded with questions for all different aspects of the franchise.
From the Time Warner v. MSG dispute, to the use of empty space in the arena for different amenities, the only topics truly off-limits were the organizational questions all Sabres fans really want answers to.
Unfortunately this blogger did not get that memo, as I compiled a list riddled with questions for Mr. Black about the contract statuses of Gaustad, Hecht and Boyes, the overseas scouting department and the security of the team’s general manager and head coach, it was pretty clear coming through the door that none of these questions would be tolerated.
Instead the Sabres’ President discussed why the Sabres don’t have a regional sports network like most other cities with two major sports teams do. Mr. Black explained first and foremost that the Sabres would have to support the network solely, because the NFL doesn’t do local television contracts.
“Seventy is the round number of games each team can promise,” said Black.
After the national networks pick over approximately 10-games from each team’s schedule, the Sabres would have around 70-games to promise to a local network, which doesn’t give them much to work with and without the Bills support, a regional network doesn’t make much sense.
One of the most productive topics of the night was about introducing more wireless hot-spots in the arena. Apparently there are already three operating hot-spots throughout the arena that get very little use because they are not available in the lower bowl.
Another topic that the bloggers brought to Mr. Black’s attention was bringing some additional hockey events back to Buffalo such as; World Junior Championships, NCAA Frozen Four, NHL Draft, NHL All-Star Game and possibly another shot at a Winter Classic contest.
Although he said they would like to bring any one of those events to Buffalo, there is a lot of work that goes along with each of them, and at this point there is nothing presently in the works.
The quote of the night from Ted Black came when one blogger asked about the progress of the franchise and why fans should continue their support of the franchise moving forward, if there won’t be any changes to the on-ice product. “I feel like Pittsburgh won the Crosby lottery, but the Sabres won the owner lottery,” said, Black.
Black believes Terry Pegula should instill a sense of comfort in the fans that the status quo is unacceptable and despite not being where they want to be in an on-ice sense, the organization is still 2-years ahead of schedule from when he took over as president 10-months ago, “I hear the frustration, I get it, I wish we were scoring more goals,” said Black, “If Terry could lace up his skates I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored a hat-trick.”
He also commented on how having Pegula as an owner eases the fans concerns about losing players to free-agency. Gone are the days when players like Danny Briere, Chris Drury and Brian Campbell leave because of mismanagement and monetary issues.
“Winning is the best game entertainment going – when you win – no one complains about the music – beer is colder and when you win, you look smarter than when you lose,” he added.
In an effort to ramp up the excitement in the arena the Sabres also plan on doing more Student Surge Nights, looking to infuse a more energetic collegiate level of excitement in the arena.
To end the evening, the Sabres took the bloggers on a tour of the completely renovated locker room, along with some pizza, wings and beers for those of the appropriate age.
Although Mr. Black didn’t have to field many taxing organizational questions, he and the Sabres media department were extremely hospitable and professional in every aspect of the evening.