With the Buffalo Bills starting to ramp up again for another season, the question has come up whether Buffalo is starting to become more of a Sabres town than a Bills town. The Sabres have a new sense of optimism with new owner Terry Pegula improving the team on paper. The Sabres offseason moves makes it appear that Pegula is backing up his statements when he bought the team about the fact that he was willing to spend what it took for this team to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bills are just heading into free agency and the start of training camp after the lockout put a halt to much of the offseason time to help build a team. Fans are becoming more and more frustrated as high quality free agents are either choosing other cities or the Bills aren't pursuing them. The situation feels much like it did when the NHL lockout ended and the Sabres biggest splash in free agency was Teppo Numminen. That move took a few days as the Sabres sat by and idly watched. Rules changes and a commitment to the team at hand got the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals that year though.
The optimism and excitement that Sabres fans are experiencing is starting to make people question whether Buffalo is slowly converting into a Sabres town instead of a Bills town. The Sabres have had more success in the past decade than the Bills and the new ownership has fans excited about the future. No matter how much success the Sabres will have, even if they do win the Stanley Cup in the next five years, this town will still be a Bills town first and foremost. The Bills are part of the lifeblood of many, many more fans in the Buffalo area. They have a larger footprint across the state as they are the only football team that plays in Upstate New York, actually in the state of New York but that's a minor technicality. Their reach stretches to Rochester and Syracuse and possibly into the North Country. The Sabres footprint is the same size, even more so with the Rochester Americans affiliation, but because football is the bigger sport, it is not as noticed as much.
The popularity of football has to help the popularity of the Bills as well. Football is the biggest spectator sport in terms of coverage and size of the overall league and having a team in Buffalo helps. As the Barrister mentions below, the atmosphere of football is hard to replicate for hockey because of the fact that it is eight home games compared to 41 games. The stadium is bigger, the opportunity for tailgating is better, and honestly for most of the season the weather is better too. Hockey is still a niche sport on the national landscape and that could hurt the Sabres popularity.
After the jump, we asked our followers on Twitter what they thought.
We took an unofficial poll on Twitter on Sunday morning to get a feel for how some of our followers felt. Granted, most of our followers are part of the hardcore Sabres fans group, but we still got responses all over the place. Here are some of the best.
@diebytheblade the city proper, is a Sabres town. but in the suburbs are much more of a Bills town. there's an age divide too I think.
@diebytheblade Sabres, though the atmosphere and routine of Bills games on Sundays is hard to match with an 82 game season.
The Sabres are becoming one of those teams that you just like to root for and with a new sense of optimism, it could very well be the team of the future for Buffalo. As the generations start to change in Buffalo, the Sabres could be the toast of the town but for the foreseeable future, the Bills have a hold on the Queen City.