As much as I hate to admit this season is over, I’ve finally come to grips with it. While this means I’ve been able to stomach (actually, enjoy) watching hockey again a full two weeks or so after having seen the Sabres eliminated, it also means I’m looking forward to next season. And with the new ownership, this off-season looks more optimistic than anything I’ve ever witnessed as a Sabre fan.
Now, I don’t want to talk about what the Sabres should/shouldn’t do with regard to personnel here. We have plenty of time to speculate on those matters. Nor do I want to talk about last season (Zach & Co. are doing an excellent job of grading players on the season). I want to talk about the Suggestion Box.
Terry Pegula has been given a lot of props already, and deservedly so. In a short period of time, he and his family have given this organization a huge boost. And yes, you have to include the family. You really think it was his or Ted Black’s idea to send the player’s wives a gift? Ideas come from everywhere. Anyway, back to the Suggestion Box.
Ted Black was on WGR last week talking about the team’s suggestion box, and how it had more than 10,000 submissions (I think my favorite simple one is the team changing the color of cotton candy from red, white, and blue to just blue & gold). He also said he’d welcome more.
I have a bunch of suggestions for the team as far as "off the ice" stuff goes, and I’ll list them shortly. I’d like for the community here to add to it (and edit my ideas). We might all disagree a lot, but collectively, we’re a pretty smart group of Sabre fans, and I bet a few of our ideas could be implemented. Once I get feedback from you all, I‘ll edit them all into one enormous email, and send it to the Sabres on behalf of us DBTBers. And now, in no particular order…
Bigger seats, more leg room. I understand the concept of fitting as many people as you can into an arena; it makes money. But sometimes it stinks. I’m not an overly big guy at all (6’1",
225, 230, 235 lbs), but I would love that extra few inches in and between the seats, and I’d be willing to pay for it. How about eliminating a few seats in a row in some sections for guys who are…looking for room? Adding leg room would be tough; you’d almost have to pull out a whole section of seats, and redesign the whole thing. Might it be worth it? For me, yes!
I love the "Slug" exchange idea, and I’m willing to bet it will happen. How about giving away a few more jerseys each and every game? I know most of my ideas here are bordering on giving away Terry Pegula’s money (sorry TP), but does giving away a jersey every period really hurt the bottom line? If they gave away a game jersey (wholesale value $40?) every period of every home game, it’d cost them less than 5 grand. Heck, I could even swing that.
Hire extra police to direct traffic after the game. So many people leave games early, and I don’t disagree with them. It sucks getting stuck in that mess. It doesn’t have to be that way though. With a little bit of brains, and a little bit of organization, it should be a piece of cake to get out of there with ease. Admit it…many of you have left games early to beat the traffic. Let me ask this - if you were a hockey player, wouldn’t it be a whole lot cooler to be announced as one of the stars of the game in front of a full house as compared to watching more than half the place leave prior to that announcement?
Please give me back the "Second Shift Replay." Sure, it’s easy to say just DVR the game. But this request isn’t just about seeing the game if you were working the proverbial second shift. I think it’s fair to say that it’s practically impossible (especially if you live in WNY) to not know the score of the game, and ’watch’ it ’live’ later on DVR. Having the replay on TV at your local gin mill gives those who worked a nighter a chance to watch the game with other folks, as opposed to going solo on the couch. One of my favorite Sabre memories was not actually watching this game live. A few of my friends and I met out for beers at the Old Pink in Allentown around midnight to watch the replay. We all knew what the score was, and it didn’t matter. Even though they lost, the place went crazy during that brawl. Events and memories help communities build a bond with a pro sports team. Give those second shifters a chance to experience that, even if it’s just a replay.
Give me a souvenir cup. Granted, they are at times pretty cheesy. Sometimes though…they’re cool, and they stick. As an example, I was living in Pittsburgh the year PNC park opened (great park by the way). I kept one of the souvenir cups they handed out that year, and to this day, I still use it. It holds a bunch of crappy pens and pencils in my junk closet. Doesn’t matter how you use it - what matters is that it has the ability to bring up a good memory, and that’s all that counts.
Lose the roof. In my opinion, the acoustics in that joint are terrible, and it’s been a beef of mine since day one. Although I’m not an engineer by any means, I think the design of the roof actually minimizes crowd noise. It just feels like there is so much room for crowd noise to dissipate. Figure out a way to get rid of that extra space up top, and I’d bet you’d feel a little more "energy" in the rink.
And while talking about the roof (and again spending a lot of Terry Pegula’s money), I’d also suggest buying out the contract for the naming rights to the arena, and placing the Sabres current logo on the roof. [Editor’s note - I think HSBC owns the rights for a bunch more years though, so this just might not be practical. More important, the Sabres need to keep bringing in a certain amount of revenue to qualify for revenue sharing. For now, that’s a topic for another day]
I hate the design of the arenas entrance, as well as the exits, referring to traffic. How about making it a little easier for folks to get in and get out? Again, I know it’s not an easy thing to do, and would cost a whole bunch of money, but it’s something I’d at least consider..
[Editor’s note - Ted Black made a mention on WGR mentioning the possible addition of escalators for the 300 level. Guess I wasn’t the only one making this suggestion?]
Encourage a little tailgating. Borrow a page from the Bills, along the lines of the things they run at the field house before games. Call the folks at Albright Knox, and resurrect the "Forty: The Sabres in the NHL" exhibit as an outside work in the plaza.
I’m over the disdain I had when the team’s minor league affiliate moved from Rochester to Portland. Buy that team. Re-name it the Portland Sabres, dress ‘em the same, and more important, treat them just as you would the actual Sabre team. Have a few of their games in Buffalo. Get a few of their games on TV here too. That’s gonna be a fun team to watch next year given the likely additions of Kassian, Foligno, McNabb, and Boychuck.
This next one - I know it’ll never happen. But I can dream at least, right? Get rid of the advertising along the boards. It’s not a big deal by any means, but every time I ever see a game with no advertising on the boards, it just looks cooler to me. But again, this might fall into that whole revenue thing…
Give away the game pucks. As a kid, any time I went to a hockey or baseball game, I always hoped for a hockey puck or baseball to find it’s way out of the field of play and into my hands. Matter of fact, I still do. The netting installed in every rink (and wisely I will add) has all but eliminated the chance many will get to catch a puck (or get knocked out by one). How about this - raffle off every game puck once it’s no longer in use? Give ‘em away at the games, or send them out via snail mail. Do something with them. For the record, my Dad bought a puck for me at my first Sabre game ever, a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Flames. I still have it. If you’re still interested in building a fan base with the kids, stupid little things like this matter…a lot.
No offense to Doug Allen here, but I’d like a replacement. "It’s not you, it’s me" kind of thinking. Dude does the anthem the right way, but it’s just not very inspiring. I’m not asking for this every game, but I am asking for a lil something something. Not a Ronan fan either. If I had my way, I’d pick a passionate & robust lady from some part of WNY who’d sing that song like every note was the most important thing in her life.
Good luck with the other music, specifically referring to goal scoring tunes. I pray to Baby Jesus every night that the stupid "Swords of a 1000 Men" song suggested by WGR doesn’t catch on. Like so many, I just want the Sabre Dance back. I took organ lessons back in 1982 for about six months. The only thing I still can remotely play is a few bars from that song. It needs a comeback.
I hate smart phones at sporting events. Hate them. I’d love to see the Arena send out a signal rendering all phones useless, forcing people to focus on the game they paid good money to watch. But alas, I’m a realist, and know this is a wasted wish. So instead, I’ll go ahead and make a 180 degree turn, and embrace technology to enhance the event.
Send me text messages that are relevant before, during, and after the game. Send me the link to the Lindy Ruff presser before a game. Send me the interviews between periods. Send me stats from NHL.com, and highlights I may have missed. Give me the Carubba Collision on my phone.
I was once involved in a charity effort organized by former Buffalo Bill JP Losman called Buffalo Lives. I was only involved once, because after the first outing to clean up the city, JP was benched, took his ball, and went home, and the charity fell by the wayside. Being foolish, I assumed another Buffalo Bill would pick up where he left off (wouldn’t now be a perfect time for a Bill to do it, and gain the favor of the fans during the lockout? Now that’s a story for another day for BuffaloRumblings). How about the Sabres infusing some life into that venture now? With so many alumni living in the area (mostly the affluent suburbs), wouldn’t it be a nice way to give back to the city a little? For the inner city folks living in disparaged neighborhoods who don’t have a clue who Terry Pegula is, it’d be a good way to introduce them to hockey. Just help ‘em clean up the place a little, and they might become fans for life.
I went to the Winter Classic in 2008. No words to describe it’s awesomeness. Buffalo doesn’t figure to have another one anytime soon on New Years Day (this year’s is actually on January 2nd). Why can’t we just schedule our own on another day or night in Winter? It doesn’t even have to be Ralph Wilson Stadium either; how about at Dunn Tire Park?. Why not just schedule one on a Friday or Saturday night during Christmas Week, or even on New Years Eve itself? If the only argument is that it would take away thunder from the NHL’s NBC package, then that’s a lousy argument.
Making another Pittsburgh reference here, what could be done to copy the Terrible Towel without being a copycat? The legendary Steeler announcer Myron Cope came up with the idea for that, and if memory serves me correctly, all proceeds of sales go to a local Pittsburgh charity. Let’s put our thinking caps on to come up with something for RJ.
And speaking of RJ, I’d suggest starting to really put some effort into settling on his replacement soon. His time is coming to an end, and I’d hate to see this team on such a solid ground stuck with a crappy play by play guy when that day comes.
My Mom is in a wheelchair because of Multiple Sclerosis. She’s been a huge Sabre fan since I can remember. We try to get to a game or two every year, but it’s difficult. Let me say, the Sabres are all class when it comes to accommodating folks with disabilities. The ushers in those sections are fantastic. The problem is getting from the entrance to wherever you’re going to, and back. People in the arena can walk like a bunch of jerks, especially around the elevators. What about better/separate bathroom facilities? (Handicapped stalls in public restrooms really don’t cut it). Would it be possible to construct a "lane" for wheelchairs to get to and from? If so, I know for a fact we’d be taking my Mom to a whole lot more games. And I bet, there are thousands and thousands of folks out there who would consider attending a game or two if it was easier to do so.
Here’s a few ideas/suggestions that aren’t mine (I added my two cents to some of them) that I liked upon hearing/reading somewhere along the way. My apologies for not being able to reference them and giving props to the original thinkers…
Bring back the Earl of Bud and Conehead. Two of the best beer vendors ever.
Bring back Milt Ellis. You don’t need him live - bring back an old clip of him announcing the Sabre entrance. That voice is Sabre hockey.
Get out of the Delaware North contract, and have all local food favorites. Mighty Taco, Ted’s, Charlie the Butcher, LaNova, Duff’s, and my very own Buffalo Chicken Wing Pierogi stand would be a much better way to grub than the current stands. Aside from that, offer people some healthy choices too.
As far as alcoholic beverages go, I think women get shafted. They’re a significant portion of the audience, and they don’t have many choices from which to drink. If you got a gal who likes hockey & beer, then you’re a lottery winner. In general, girls/women like foofy drinks. Have a stand in every level that sells both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks like "Strawberry Sabre Daiquiris" or "Sabre Smoothies" or "Pineapple Rum Pominvilles." I could go on, but you get the point (I hope). Keep the women happy, and chances are you’ll have a better time too.
Without trying to sound chauvinistic, I have another idea for women. Back in the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl era, there were classes offered at ECC (I think) that introduced women to the basics of football, from a Buffalo Bills perspective. How about putting out an interactive web site that caters to women learning Buffalo Sabres hockey? I guarantee you if that option was available to my Mom back in the early 70’s, she’d have jumped all over it. I’d bet there are thousands of gals out there in their early 20’s and up who’d now visit a page like that. That’s a demographic worth chasing in my opinion.
That’s all I have for the time being. Hopefully, many of you can add to this, as well as cleaning up some of my ideas/suggestions. Have at it…and as always...Go Sabres!