Buffalo Sabres president Ted Black took part in a live chat yesterday with Sabres/Amerks fans and the Rochester Democrat And Chronicle's Kevin Oklobzija, and offered some insight into the many and varied upgrades the Sabres and Amerks are making this summer both on and off the ice.
The chat, which can be found here in its entirety, was shorter than Black's previous marathon chats on Sabres.com but still answered many lingering questions about arena upgrades, the fan experience, and the Sabres farm system. If you missed it live, here are some of the highlights in no particular order.
- Not that this comes as a major surprise, but it looks as though the team is going to give popular salary-dump option Ales Kotalik a fair shake in camp. Black stated that Kotalik's fate would depend on how he performed in the preseason.
- The fan experience in Rochester looks to be much better than last season. Black and Pegula (or TMP, as Black calls him) are looking into the following: an alumni reunion similar to what the Sabres had last season, a "break the ice" event for the freezing of the ice surface, improving the jumbotron and concessions, improving the Amerks broadcast experience, and getting Rochester games to be carried by Time Warner Cable in the Buffalo area.
- The HSBC Arena renovations are progressing well; specific changes Black mentioned aside from the locker room are improved concession stands, arena walls and pillars painted in team colors, upgraded wifi throughout the arena, and upgraded chairs/tables in the Harbor Club. The team is also looking at offering tours of the new locker rooms while the Sabres open the season in Europe.
- My favorite quote from Black came when asked about the slugs on the jumbotron: "We are de-slugging as we speak, although the &*$% things are still on the scoreboard... " I love this guy.
More press conference nuggets, plus a video of the HSBC renovations after the break.
- When asked about bringing back a regional sports network for Buffalo a la Empire, Black skirted the question but did say that we should expect "a couple interesting announcements" about the Sabres/MSG partnership in the next few weeks. Your guess is as good as mine here.
- Sabres preseason games will not be televised. Bummer.
- The Amerks have increased season ticket sales by 30% last year, and Black is looking to start some fun new traditions as a perk to season ticket holders.
- The Amerks will continue to offer dollar hot dog and dollar beer nights. Whew.
Finally, here's the recent video from Sabres.com on the locker room renovations at HSBC Arena, in case you've got eight minutes to burn at work.