With what most of us would call 'The most interesting off-season in Sabre's history' coming to a close, its safe to say that Terry Pegula and Co. have been quite impressive in dealing with the expectations they have placed on themselves. We've read news stories since February about Pegula putting his money where his mouth is to give the Sabres organization a chance to be a Stanley Cup contender. No need of wasting your time with how finally this team has acquired top free agents to help them contend, taken in suggestions from fans and acted upon them and have breathed new life into an already passionate fan base. We've seen Pegula and Black improve things that we've only thought of as we walked into the Arena/Center to watch the Sabres. We've witnessed what Darcy Regier can do without a collar around his neck like the past handful of years under former ownership. And now with the preseason half over we're starting to see Ruff and his coaching staff put the pieces of this roster together in the best way possible. We'll have to wait till October to really see the players deal with their heightened expectations.
Now...isn't it the fans turn?
On day one of the Pegula era, Team President Ted Black announced that Buffalo would be known as Hockey Heaven. To me, it sounded a bit corny. But maybe it just took a little time to sink in. We are a hockey town. And this isn't going to be an argument of a hockey town instead of a football town, we can be both. Just like this is a city that sees neighbors digging each other out of snow banks in late January, we're the same people that are shoulder to shoulder enjoying the festivals of the summer.
Hockey Heaven...seems right on when you think of it and we've embraced that title. Why shouldn't we? We pack Party in the Plaza events when we can't get a ticket to get into the FN Center to watch a playoff game. Hell, we packed over 71,000 fans into a football stadium to watch a hockey game. We watch the Cup Finals even when our team isn't playing in them and we're proud of the NHL players that come from WNY even if they don't pull on a blue and gold sweater.
Last season was an exciting time to be a Sabres fan. It was a roller coaster of a season to say the least and there were some pretty bad moments last year to go along with all the good ones. I remember being at the St.Louis game and watching the Sabres play a terrible game and get booed at the end of the night. Or the Nashville loss where the team blew a lead late and loss, again the booing. Don't get me wrong, we were right to get upset. But now that things have changed, what will the "Pegula Effect" have on fans during the coming season?
I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Sabres don't go 82-0-0 this season. Oh well, we don't need another President's Trophy anyways, we've been there, it's kind of an empty trophy isn't it? You know what else we don't need, we don't need someone saying Buffalo Sabres fans are timid and afraid. Afraid of getting excited because we only get the rug pulled out from under us, that we're nervous because when something good happens, something bad happens right after. In the Pegula era things shouldn't be different...they are different. It's time for Sabres fans to prove that this is Hockey Heaven. Scream, Yell, start hating the Leafs early because there's no reason for anyone to be nervous this season. Yeah, the Sabres will lose some games, they're going to Europe to start the season and then have a week off before they have the home opener which almost spells out SLOW START. But this season we won't get discouraged, we won't wait to talk about winning the division or having a shot at winning it all until April. We'll talk about it now.
We deserve to hold our heads up high, walk with a jump in our step as we head into FN Center and demand more league-wide attention. We have supported this franchise for years even when we weren't exactly sure what they were doing, or questioned how they were doing it. We'll be there together, 18,000 + on October 14th showing that we are Hockey Heaven and that the rest of the league hasn't seen Sabres fans at their best......until now.