3MI LIVE: Sabres vs. Rangers: Game Presentation Edition

Whether you’re a fan or a player, the most vital part to your experience at a game is the atmosphere. The final score usually helps, but you remember how being at the game makes you feel.

One of my biggest, actually, no, my biggest issue with the Sabres as an organization is how horrible the game presentation at First Niagara Center continues to be.

The crowd is habitually dead. The tone is extremely passive. The music continues to be a laughing stock. (See: media, some who weren’t even at the game, poking at them playing Christopher freaking Cross during the second intermission last night)

Travel to pretty much any other NHL arena and you’ll notice how much energy is in the building on a regular basis. The teams that struggle to draw struggle to create an energetic environment but that pretty much goes without saying.

This is supposed to be “Hockey Heaven,” right? What part of “Hockey Heaven” involves uninterested crowds, a complete lack of electricity in the building and nothing done to change it?

Think about it, every pending unrestricted free agent that comes to this arena as an opponent is taking notes. If you come here and experience how terrible the crowd is and how lame the atmosphere is, is that going to make you say “Screw the other 29 teams in the league, I gotta sign in Buffalo?” You’re deluded if you think so.

The environment is what sells. Sure, the team on the ice has something to do with it too. But whether you’re a fan, a player, a sponsor, anyone, if you come to a game and aren’t wrapped up by the intensity of this sport then somebody is doing something wrong. This is one of the greatest games on the planet. You have to try really hard not to get it right.

Of course, these are just my opinions. Feel free to corroborate what I think or disagree. It’s a discussion that not enough people take seriously.

So here we go.

+ + + + +

  • Pre-Warmups
  • Christmas music is getting mixed in, to fit the season. Of course, it’s that time of year. Why would we be able to escape the same fifteen songs that we’ve been hearing for the last four weeks for a couple hours? That’d be stupid. LET IT SNOW!
  • Warmups
  • I think pregame warmups are the easiest to do right. The players have input. They know what they want to hear. Usually they have good taste. Sabres come out to hard rock. I’m sure they all listen to this. “Bridges Burning” by Foo Fighters is next. If you’re just walking in right now, odds are you’re liking it.
  • One thing I’d love to see changed is what’s displayed on the videoboard during warmups. Currently, all they show is the traditional score banner on the top ribbon board, extended closeups of each player with minimal statistical information, and a Sabres logo graphic on the bottom board. Complete waste.
  • A good thing to do right now would be to cut off one of the ends of the main video screen and show NHL standings, league leaders, team leaders, etc.  I get the feeling that a lot of people who come to games don’t really think of what the game actually means in the grand scheme of things. They could also be scrolling out-of-town scores on the bottom ribbon board right now so fans might actually be reminded, “Oh yeah, there’s other games going on right now.”
  • As an organization, you want to bombard the fans with information. You want to show them why this game matters. Too much of what happens on a regular basis here disregards the fact that this is important beyond tonight.
  • The outer ribbon board around suite level is also showing that Sabres logo graphic. I think everyone would be okay if that was advertising right now. Go ahead and sell it.
    Post Warmups
  • Hard rock music goes to some soft funk song as a bed for the PA announcements. Happy Holidays graphic on the board. It’s like someone just opened a window.
  • I’d also like to point out that informational graphics on the video board are more effective when you pick a font that people can actually read.
  • I’m ok with the commercials. They’re necessary. I don’t think they’re that obtrusive.
  • They’re now playing some “It’s Almost Saturday Night” song now. This “Oh it’s (day of the week) today, so let’s play this song because it fits!” attitude needs to be dropped. Play something that’s going to engage the crowd, not bore them.
  • As I say that, they fade into “Axel F” because nothing says Saturday night hockey like the theme song to Beverly Hills Cop.
  • Moving on to pseudo-country Kid Rock doesn’t help either. But it’s a “Saturday” song!
  • Pregame
  • New intro was recently installed. Set to “For Those About To Rock We Salute You” by AC/DC. Would be great if this was a JV football team. Just because it’s a hard rock song doesn’t mean it’s good for an intro. It’s a step in the right direction, but not a step far enough.
  • The flag is no longer an integral part of the pregame. But it’s still there. The thing is extremely lame. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it make it around the arena right-side-up.
  • One thing they do right here: the anthems. Always very classy. Doug Allen is a winner.
  • I don’t know what’s the perfect song to play before puck drop, but it isn’t “Panama” by Van Halen.
  • 1st Period
  • First real “stoppage” gets the organ doing “Let’s Go Buffalo.” I’m okay with that.
  • They’re now playing some pseudo-techno crap. And fade that into “Enter Sandman” as they show highlights of last night. I wonder if that was intentional since that game was sleep-inducing. They seem to love cute stuff like that.
  • Now playing: Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance.” I support this late in a game that’s been safely put away. In a tied game early, no need for it. Setting a bad tone.
  • Now playing: Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream.” Good.
  • Now playing: Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” The cutoff for Britney songs being useable is 2001. If it’s after that, it’s not welcome. The only need for any Britney is late in a game that’s out of hand, when it’s supposed to be loose and fun.
  • Nothing is a better segue from Lee Greenwood than “We R Who We R” by Kesha.
  • Blooper reel hits at 14:13 of the first period. If it was on an actual tape, I’d love to burn it. I’m sure UB Orthopedics would be willing to renegotiate sponsorship if they wanted to make a change. This shit has to stop.
  • Now playing: “Moves Like Jagger” because god forbid we can go somewhere and not hear it.
  • Another thing that bothers me is that there is nothing that gives any indication to what “NYR” means on the scoreboard. If you don’t know the logo, you don’t know who they’re playing. Obviously the majority of fans don’t have an issue with this, but I think it’s very shortsighted and ignorant to put shitty design ahead of actually putting up required information.
  • There’s been a lot of organ so far.
  • 1st Intermission
  • Now playing: ELO’s “Fire On High.” I support this.
  • They’re playing some crappy cover of some crappy song while they do the kids shootout. Even the kids can’t like this crap.
  • We have our first Enya appearance of the night. Holy shit, people should get the chair for playing this garbage.
  • They’re doing birthdays and playing some horrible birthday song. The crowd is not engaged at this point. You’ve lost them for the rest of intermission. Congrats.
  • Playing commercials is great during intermission. Promotes in-arena events. Brings in ad revenue. But that shouldn’t be the most engaging part of intermission entertainment.
  • Now playing: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” It’s surely driving people to the concession stands. Good work, DJ.
  • Now playing: Some Beach Boys Christmas song. Surely, everyone in this arena is more interested in cuddling up beside the fire with a loved one than get excited for a hockey game that’s supposed to count. Nice touch.
  • They’re showing the MSG intermission report’s Around The NHL feature. At some point in the future, I’d love to see the Sabres have an in-arena host that can do an extended version of that for the people at the arena, since they don’t have the perk of flipping the channel.
  • Speaking of out-of-town games, why isn’t there somewhere in the arena that anyone can go and watch other games? Is Center Ice that hard to hook up? Is there no room for a bar area with a bunch of televisions for congregating?
  • Now playing: That song from Ferris Bueller when they’re driving into Chicago.
  • 2nd Period
  • Now playing: Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” for puck-drop. Maybe one of my favorite in-arena songs. Brings so much intensity. It just fits.
  • Now playing: Some shitty song that keeps saying “coast to coast.” Not sure the title. I’ll call it “shitty.”
  • Sabretooth roaming the aisles with a drum during action is completely unnecessary. Distracting people from what they’re supposed to be here to see is completely the wrong concept here.
  • They spent the last television timeout showing that video of the house with Christmas lights set to “Sabre Dance.” Cool video, but when you play stuff like that, you’re hurting crowd energy. The place is a library now.
  • Kudos to the Sabres for bringing the “Mad Minute” promo over from the Bandits. A very cool concept that can be rewarding for the fans. Sponsors love the spot too.
  • When you have to loop your powerplay song, you need to pick something else.
  • This whole “goal horn to Jeanneret call to Sabre Dance” isn’t getting enough credit for being awful. Can we have a goal song? A good one? Is that too much to ask?
  • Enterprise Hat Trick Challenge trivia. Great concept. I never feel like the questions are good.
  • Now playing: Some horrible Black Eyed Peas song. Can we get them eradicated from the arena music library?
  • Now playing: Devo’s “Whip It.” Some songs are what I define as “typical.” The goal should be “good without being typical.” I get the feeling that’s not the same goal they have.
  • After the Kiss Cam they just played about five seconds of a song that had potential. I get the sense they try to avoid picking something good and sticking with it so they can shuffle through three different things in the same amount of time. Leads to training short attention spans.
  • Organ now playing “Start Me Up” by Rolling Stones. Perfect timing. Get things started… with 3:00 left in the third period.
  • Now playing: Some awful 80’s hair band song. Sad when this is a high point.
  • 2nd Intermission
  • Now playing: “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MG’s. Good song. I think I can accept it in this spot, too.
  • Now playing: Some horrible pop song.
  • They’re replaying the birthdays. Again. Too busy to come up with something original? You have 7,000 people sitting here ignoring whatever you’re doing.
  • I do like the Junior Sabres updates
  • Now playing: The song the townspeople sing in the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Unbelievable.
  • Now playing: Some instrumental, can’t think of the title. Regardless of the name, it’s Christmas, and it’s awful.
  • I like the stampeding buffalo video as the team comes back to the ice.
  • 3rd Period
  • Now playing: “Fuel” by Metallica. Our second Metallica entry of the night. They can play a horrible metal band twice but no chance they mix in an old Goo Goo Dolls song. Sigh.
  • They need to find a way to get these law office ads to be less obtrusive and less awful.
  • Rangers take a timeout. The answer to generate momentum? “Mony Mony.” Crowd responds with silence. Good pick.
  • Some horrible Bon Jovi song is the answer to reenergize the crowd after New York’s third goal.
  • This “play Piano Man because it’s 9:00 on a Saturday in real life” isn’t funny or good. See: that pregame “what day of the week is it” song.
  • Hey organist, we need a pick me up. How about “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town?”
  • Now playing: Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” Great choice if they’re up two. Not quite right when down two.
  • The New York Lottery feature with the featured number is one of the best additions to the game presentation in a while. Very nice feature.
  • The DJ seems oblivious to the fact that the team is losing right now, and that music that would induce adrenaline may be more appropriate.
  • Who picked that font they use for the team names on the scoreboard anyways? What the hell is that? Looks bland and passive. Maybe it fits.
  • Carubba Collision set to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” What an inspired choice. Never hear that enough.
  • Now playing: Some song that was in NHL 11. Hockey fans like hearing songs they hear playing fake hockey.
  • Sabretooth decides to show up ten feet in front of me and bang his drum during play with 3:25 on the clock. Rangers score. Fans hit the stairs.
  • Now playing: “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins. They’re down three and there’s a minute left.
  • End of game
  • Now playing: “Shattered Dreams” by Johnny Hates Jazz. That wraps it up I think.

Fan input from throughout the game:

@juiceboxhero585: Yeah, no more damn PP chimes. The PP has gone terribly downhill because we’re playing like Ottawa.

@sabres916: I too would like more out of town stuff. Even show video of out of town goals during intermission

@BLMC88: Pretty sure every game I’ve been to there has been a different intro so far, which keeps it interesting. I like that.

@HockeyRef13: @SabresDotCom can we just let @3rdManIn run game presentation one night so we don’t have to listen to him bitch on twitter anymore?

Closing Thoughts

If you really sit down and look at the game presentation and what they actually do instead of just isolating it as background noise, you’ll continue to be disappointed each time you walk in the building.

Throughout the night, while continually updating this post, it’s been overwhelmingly agreeable feedback on much of what’s been covered. Most of the dissension has been questioning whether it’s even worth complaining about. Pretty much none of the comments I received have argued against anything that’s been said here. That says a lot. There’s not much worth defending.

When the Pegulas took over and instituted the “#SabreTunes” thing, it was a step in the right direction. Soliciting suggestions is always a worthwhile cause. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. That’s the problem here. The suggestions get cherry-picked to the point where it’s songs that aren’t out of the ordinary getting picked, and nothing is changing.

The upper management has been on record as saying they feel they have great people working here. In a lot of cases, they do. There’s a nasty side effect in believing in your people. If your people aren’t willing to change, you need to be willing to make the change. Having a loyalty can only go so far. You can’t be afraid to go in another direction for the sake of being loyal. Whether that’s a head coach, a player, a cook or someone in the office. If they aren’t doing their job to the best possible degree, you need to decide what’s more important. I would hope the answer to that is progress.


Posted on December 10, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This was a cool tangent from a typical game blog. I know I sent a Tweet regarding the use of the IIHF PP chimes. I hate it. They had a good thing going when they used “Shipping up to Boston” as the PP song. I’d love for them to go back to that. The fans surely will still identify with it and it is an energetic song.

    So what if it will be the same song game after game? The Blackhawks have “Chelsea Dagger”, the Wild have that horrendous “Crowd Chant”, make “Boston” yours again.

  2. I’m also severely disappointed by the game presentation. I would not be at all surprised if the music selections are what lead to the terrible atmosphere in the arena, especially on nights when they’re losing. I know they’re probably trying to play songs that everyone is familiar with, but they need to drop that ASAP. If it’s a song that the crowd may not be familiar with, why not display it somewhere where people can see the name and band? I continue to suggest metal songs for the #sabretunes hashtag, but they continually go ignored. I think the problem may be that the game presentation people are completely clueless about music and its effects. The Amerks play “Seek and Destroy” by Metallica as their PP song and play Volbeat during the warmups. Aside from that, they have the same issues in music selection. Someone needs to be fired if they can’t step up their game. There are plenty of bands from Buffalo that they could be using to pump the crowd up.

    Also, the bloody Sabres’ flag lost my interest after the first game I attended with it last season. It needs to be burned.

  3. The Sabres should actually not take requests, or at least not honor so many. Take a hard line and only place uptempo, rocking stuff that most people are familiar with.

    They could also take a cue from the Blackhawks who really know how to keep a crowd lively. Almost all they play is classic rock or hard rock songs.

    • The Sabres issue isn’t that they don’t take requests. They take requests, but instead of utilizing the good requests, they take the bad ones that fit in with the plethora of awful music they habitually play. They’re failing to grasp how bad their taste in music is.

  4. It seems impossible to me that they haven’t changed things by now when great atmospheres like Boston and Montreal are in our division.

  5. The Sabres early season European jaunt showed just how dynamic a game environment can be; crowds singing, the insistent beating of tribal drums, trumpets blaring, fans hyping each other with fight songs and call-and-answer chants. An intense interest in the game.

    The Sabres, however, seem content with giving their desired market a different experience, rather another safe, Big-Box bland, family-friendly play date; bring the little ones, nothing to worry about, the atmosphere won’t get too frenetic nor partisan and heated. Look, there’s SabreTooth! Benignly the fans will leave having had their cash trapped in the parking lot, fore-checked at the Sabres Store and manhandled at the concessions. This artful, game-winning, dispossession strategy can’t consistently work unless the game is only situationally diverting, as we all know how boredom seeks relief…nachos, pis-beer, etc, etc, etc…

  6. There are aspects of the game presentation that need an overhaul. This much is true. But the fans share an equal burden here. As PJ said, the European fans are dynamic and involved. Sabres fans sit on their hands and clap if Buffalo scores. It is certainly a chicken and egg situation.

  1. Pingback: 3MI LIVE: Sabres vs. Lightning: Game Presentation Edition | 3rd Man In

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