Blog Archives

It’s not about winning: Improving the Sabres’ game experience at First Niagara Center


There’s been a lot on this blog about things that don’t happen on the ice. Not everything you do as a Sabres fan is about the roster and the final score. Sports is more than that. It’s a cultural thing. It’s an experience.

Being a fan is a visceral, and it’s a huge investment both emotionally and financially to walk into First Niagara Center on a regular basis. You want to want to be there. You want to feel like you’re missing out if you’re not, like the investment is worth it.

I’ve talked (at times, ad nauseam) about things like game presentation, social media and marketing, not only because of my sports business background, but because to me, and every other fan, that stuff matters. Usually it’s fairly simple things, like not sticking a blooper reel on the scoreboard in a tight game, or playing songs during stoppages that will help set or reset the tone, or wanting a twitter account that doesn’t feel like it’s run by a teenage fan-boy/fan-girl. Simple things that, if addressed and optimized, can incrementally improve the overall experience, getting people more engaged and making the arena a better place to be.

Before this blog goes dormant, I want to put this wish-list out there. Some of these things may have been discussed, some of them may have not permeated the groupthink at First Niagara Center. Either way, I’m a season ticket holder (likely, for life) and the inherent value of being there for a game means something. It should.

This isn’t meant to be some sort of takedown or exposé on what the organization does wrong. This will get read by Sabres employees (Hey guys! Thanks for blocking me on twitter for no good reason! It’s still really dumb!) and I’m hoping what’s said doesn’t get taken personally or as an insult. This is just sort of a plea/roadmap for improvement that I want to put out there before I go away.

So, put on the coffee. Here’s a few things the Sabres can do around the arena to make it a better place to be. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Believe the hype. McDavid shines, Otters defeat IceDogs in Buffalo

Connor McDavidIt should’ve been expected.

For many in Buffalo feeling conflicted about the merit of the tanking that’s totally not going on this season, tonight was the first glimpse at the prize waiting to be claimed: Connor McDavid.

And the Erie Otters forward showed why.

In front of a large crowd at First Niagara Center (announced at 11,391 and realistically around 9,000), McDavid and his teammates put on a show, with Erie defeating the Niagara IceDogs by an 8-4 final.

The first period was enough for people to see, as McDavid tallied three assists and showed his flare on almost every shift, propelling the Otters to a 4-2 lead. He’d add a goal in the third to push his point total through the first 10 games of the season to 29 (9+20), extending his league lead.

McDavid’s linemate Alex DeBrincat (2016 Draft eligible) scored twice, as did Kurtis MacDermid (LA Kings free agent signing). Troy Donnay, Patrick Murphy and Shaun Bily also scored for the Otters, who sit 9-0-0-1 on the season.

Niagara’s Jordan Maletta (undrafted) had two goals, while Graham Knott (2016 Draft eligible) and Cody Payne also scored for the visitors from across the border.

Buffalo native Stephen Dhillon ended up getting cleanup duty in the IceDogs’ goal, stopping 11 of 13 shots in 27:09, just his second OHL appearance.

Some thoughts on the night:

  • I’ve seen Connor McDavid play four times. He has 15 points in those four games. This was an average night for him. It’s incredible.
  • Lots of talk about Erie’s Dylan Strome (who could also be a top-5 pick in this summer’s draft) heading into tonight, warning fans not to forget about him. To be honest, he looked solid, you can see the talent, but he was unremarkable. Hard to stand out when you’ve got #97 on your team, but he reminded me of the times I saw Niagara’s Brendan Perlini last season. Perlini was targeted as a top 10 pick, and went in the first round to Phoenix, but never really stood out or showed star quality. I’m sure I’ll see Strome again, but first impression wasn’t great. Read the rest of this entry

On venom, change and attitude

For years, it’s been fairly easy to ignore the frequent moronic work of certain media types, some specifically, at an area publication.

While some prove time and time again to be quality reporters or writers or personalities in the Buffalo sports market, some have done the opposite. Today would’ve been another Bucky Gleason column that would be ignored by many tired of his antics over the years. But there’s a certain line in the piece about Ted Black preaching patience that was brought to my attention via twitter:

Black found the people around him to be different than the irate talk-show callers he hears and venomous bloggers he reads who want the roster blown up and everybody fired.

Using that outlet to paint the blogging community with that brush is insulting to the entire group that helps extend discourse on our teams. It’s a completely ignorant potshot that in itself is venomous.

Does the basis of intent for this slam come from the constant distaste for Bucky’s work that we as bloggers have shown over the years? I’m sure it has something to do with it. But this piece isn’t about Gleason being a moron. There’s something else to this.

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The message attempted to be conveyed in the column seems to be along the lines of “everything is fine, don’t worry about it.” It points to talk-show callers and bloggers as being negative, and indirectly, wrong.

Mentioned in the column is growing discontent amongst the fanbase about the roster and staff. Personally, I think the number of people who think Lindy Ruff needs to be fired isn’t very large. Personally, I don’t think he’s the problem or the only problem right now.

In response to the unrest, Ted Black had this to say:

“Is there any thought of getting rid of Darcy or Lindy right now? No. None.”

I find that answer incredibly disheartening.

When I say that’s disheartening, I don’t mean that I don’t like it because I think Ruff should be fired. I absolutely hate the idea that a coaching change isn’t an option at all. To me, when you say that there’s no thought to it, you’re not considering every possible route to get where we all want the team to go. Read the rest of this entry

Complaints & Grievances: Preseason deserves effort too

I really, really, really wanted to write this immediately after getting back from the bar after the game. But I decided that, in the interest of a more reasonable perspective, it’d be best to sleep on it and wait a day to speak my peace. So, I’m going to do my best to refrain from using profanities like I usually would so this doesn’t seem like a rant, but I have something I need to say as a season ticket holder and not a blogger.

I’m absolutely disgusted by how the game presentation was handled on Monday night.


I’ve been going to games at FNC, HSBC, Marine Midland Arena, whatever you want to call it, regularly for well over a decade. I’m a proud season ticket holder. I will support the team in perpetuity. They’re my team. But I’m getting to the point where I’m losing interest in going to home games.

It’s not a new thing for me to complain about it on this site. And it’s definitely not something I’m ready to quit complaining about.

The Sabres organization has done a phenomenal job improving as a whole since February. I can’t understate that. I’m incredibly appreciative of the upgrades to the arena and the customer service. Ted Black and Terry Pegula, don’t ever change.

But, as a paying customer, I’m absolutely appalled with the half-assed job by the people running the experience inside the seating bowl.

And before I get a single comment about how “It’s just preseason,” that’s absolute crap. That excuse went the way of the dodo the moment season ticket holders got billed for both preseason games.

Personally, I was very happy that both preseason games were included in the package, unlike recent years where we’ve been given the non-Toronto game so the team can make an extra few bucks. I cherish the opportunity to see the players further down the depth chart in action. Unfortunately, for most of the fans at the game (I’m guessing the majority based on the large number of times I overheard someone say “Who is that?”) they showed up and left without ever having a clue as to who those players were. Read the rest of this entry