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The Rasmus Dahlin Effect?

Are fans letting the hype impact their season ticket holder decisions?

United States v Sweden: Semifinals - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Buffalo Sabres fans have put up with a lot over the years, but you obviously don’t need to be told that.

After all, you’ve lived it.

From the years of “suffering” to the tanking to the failed rebuild of former General Manager Tim Murray, fans have dealt with loss after loss; failure after failure. And though every fan of the team has had to put up with the misery, no group of fans have dealt with more than season ticket holders.

These are the fans who shell out thousands of dollars a year to sit in broken and dingy seats inside an arena where the atmosphere resembles that of a funeral on most nights. While there have been some enjoyable moments that have gotten the arena loud, they’ve happened so few and far between that it’s hard to remember them. These fans have been asked to spend more and more each year as the cost of tickets increases while the product never seems to get any better. The team did announce that ticket prices wouldn’t go up this year after the abysmal performance of the 2017-18 season, but was it a case of too little, too late?

With the NHL Draft Lottery approaching back in April, Sabres fans were looking at their team, once again, having the best odds to draft first overall. The possible prize? Star Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin.

Pegged as the defensive equivalent to Connor McDavid, the thought of getting Dahlin had fans giddy. However, there was understandable pessimism after multiple failures to win the lottery following seasons where the team finished last. Then came the magic words: “The first overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft belongs to the Buffalo Sabres.”

Those words were enough to turn even the most negative of fan into an optimist. The idea that Dahlin was going to don the blue and gold come the fall had long-time season ticket holders excited for the first time in years.

“We did discuss not renewing this off-season more than in years past,” 12-year season ticket holder Pete Morris said. “[But] with the amount of young talent building on the Sabres there is cause for optimism.”

Morris added that his love of the game and the hope of the Sabres making the playoffs outweighs the money lost from unused tickets in years past.

That said, there were some fans that just aren’t buying into the team anymore, no matter how big the hype around Dahlin gets.

“Dahlin has no effect on my decision nor did Terry’s apology letter and ticket price freeze,” now former season ticket holder Tim Parsons said. “The benefits of being a [holder] used to be first in line for playoff seats, a guarantee that you were getting the cheapest ticket, and decent resale value if you couldn’t make the game.

“All of that has been gone.”

Parsons said he gave first-year general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Phil Housley a chance, but as the season unfolded, his decision became easier.

“I’ll just watch on TV or buy single games, as opposed to committing thousands of dollars for nothing,” he said.

Parsons and Morris are just a couple of the thousands of fans who have an opinion on the status of the organization. Some will flat out admit that Dahlin is the reason for their renewal while others will no doubt have the same view as Parsons where no moves would get them to shell out the money being a season ticket holder requires.

It’s been seven years since a playoff berth and over a decade since the last playoff series win. One player -- especially after so many fell for the false narrative that Jack Eichel was going to single-handedly bring the team to glory -- isn’t likely to change the mind of thousands of fans about the future of the Sabres on the ice.

In fact, there’s really only one thing that will change the outlook fans have about the franchise: actually winning.