A little while back Ray Slover wrote a piece in Sporting News naming Buffalo as America's best hockey city. I had a chance to interview Ray Slover and get a little bit more insight in to how the decision was made.
Die by the Blade: Ray, how were the selections for the best hockey city made? Was it a panel of writers or was the decision left entirely up to you?
Ray Slover: The choice was strictly mine. I looked around to find the best NHL cities and knowing the response of the fans of Buffalo to the Sabres and how enthusiastic it was, I decided that Buffalo was the ideal choice for this.
DBTB: Was there a specific criteria or was based entirely on opinion?
Slover: It was pretty much based on opinion and facts that were found through talking to people around the league.
DBTB: What was it that set Buffalo apart from other cities such as Detroit and New York?
Slover: You look at the way the fans filled up the HSBC Arena with a sellout every night. Buffalo had terrific television numbers in addition to the great fan response that took place in the building. The fan numbers were just mind boggling in relation to some of the other cities in the NHL. The numbers on the ratings were through the roof and the NHL salivates over these type of numbers. That was pretty much the deciding factor, in addition to the response of the fans in the building and in the streets. It was how many people were watching the Sabres throughout their playoff run and in the regular season.
DBTB: You pointed out in the article that the Sabres also had outstanding television ratings in the Stanley Cup despite already being eliminated.
Slover: That was another one of the clinchers. Not only did Sabres fans follow their own team but they followed the Stanley Cup Finals when their team wasn't even in it. That speaks volumes as well. It shows how good the hockey fans are in Buffalo and they aren't just Sabres fans. Obviously Sabres fans are a passionate bunch but it showed how good of a fan base this for hockey.
DBTB: Ray, were you able to attend any games in the NHL cities or was it based on other research?
Slover: I was not able to attend a game in HSBC Arena, but knowing what I was getting back from players, agents, scouts, and execs... you hear about the enthusiasm in Buffalo and that's pretty much where I started my basis on.
DBTB: It's easy for a city to get behind a team that is successful, how do you think Buffalo would have fared if they had a season like the Philadelphia Flyers?
Slover: That would have been tough. I would have liked to see the fans continue to give the team support but when a team is in the downs somehow fans just don't get out to watch the team. I know that Buffalo is good hockey country but you would have to look back over the years to see how the fans supported the team when it was in it's down years.
Note: Ray and i had an opportunity to talk about this years Sabres team as well and I will doing a post on that in the upcoming days. If you want to hear the audio version of the interview you can check it out on the Buffalo Beat Podcast form last week.