Today, the basement dwellers of the Buffalo Sabres variety occupied the Buffalo Sabres locker room for yet another Blogger Summit with Ted Black and various other Sabres personnel. Some blogs represented (and forgive me, because I will forget some of the fifteen others that were in attendance) were Die by the Blade, Black, Blue, and Gold, Sabre Noise, Two in the Box, 3rd Man In, The Hosers, plus many more. More than likely, you’ll be able to check out their more detailed recaps, but here’s a quick run-down.
Once again, the Sabres staff set up and provided an incredibly welcoming and information experience from start to finish. Of course, one way to get to the heart of us basement people (as Ted Black referred to more than once, without quite knowing what to call us and not wanting to be offensive), is free beer and La Nova pizza so the happy hour did not hurt. Though Michael Gilbert and Ted Black wandered through the happy hour and visited with each table to mingle and chat prior to the official summit. Within the hour, we all were directed to the Sabres locker room, where a sort of press conference style set-up was provided. Ted Black made some notable announcements, followed by questions previously submitted, and finally a Q&A session for anything not previously addressed.
Some of the most important topics addressed (in my opinion) included the new WGR 550 show hosted and executively produced by Kevin Sylvester. This will begin this Monday (June 18th) from 10am-12pm, broadcasted from a new area of the Sabres Store, though right now it will be a bit of a makeshift area. During the NFL season, the slot will only occur Tuesdays-Thursdays. Sabres Hockey Hotline is expected that aside from various Sabres personnel, players included, the show will access opposing team personnel and even game day practices, which will allow for specifics such as practicing lines and starting goalie information.
As far as the TV broadcast is concerned, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. There will be Sabres logos and the Sabres broadcast for every game, no more New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, or New York Islanders intermission reports or graphics. On this topic, Rick Jeanneret will continue to call another season and even more games than last, though the games have yet to be determined. Brian Duff has joined full-time on the multimedia team, along with Rob Ray at color commentary, though he will likely still be between the benches.
A very exciting thing for five blogs that is brand spankin’ new consists of blogger credentials with limited access to the locker room after games. The following five blogs were chosen based on amount of games attended and on a “merit” basis: Buffalo Wins, Black, Blue and Gold, Queen City Sports, Die by the Blade, and 3rd Man In. You’ll want to bookmark those and keep track during the season because I assure you their recaps and the opportunity in the locker room will provide a different insight than what you might read from the usual media with access.
Other topics covered were changes to inside and outside the arena. Once again, some “things” are in the works but Ted Black isn’t ready to announce them. In terms of an All Star Game, though he’s mentioned and expressed the interest to the league, he would rather wait until all renovations and construction to the outside of the arena are complete. It makes sense to have a completed project to show to hockey fans, as opposed to a construction war zone.
As far as the ticket increase, the Sabres did not qualify for revenue sharing last season. That being said, a ticket increase was needed in order to profit from that in the coming season. According to Black, the Sabres are among the top 5 in ticket sales with prices in the bottom 10 and essentially the trick is to find the right balance for this market in Buffalo.
In terms of game presentation and the atmosphere of the arena, Ted Black and staff were sure to make it known that they have tried, are trying, and will continue to try to improve. Whether this is during the game (giveaways — which are generally things teams do to draw a crowd, something the Sabres do not need), or before (tent party, which is no longer occurring), the personnel are open to suggestions and new things. On this same topic, Michael Gilbert and Chris Bandura both travel with the team throughout the season and take note of what other teams are doing. Michael Gilbert, though biased, said the Sabres have a better game presentation than about 70% of other arenas. Some of the worst? The Panthers and Hurricanes. Some of the best? The Capitals. It can also be noted that the survey given to season ticket holders and those on the wait list proved the Blooper Reel is one of the things fans look forward to most. Who knew?
The one question I did take the time to ask referred to the You Can Play Project and Jason Pominville’s PSA. Mainly, I wanted to know why I hadn’t seen Pominville’s PSA shown at the First Niagara Center, which I immediately received an answer that it was. I am sure at some point, possibly once, it was shown… but why not more? Why not nearly every game? With a role model like Pominville and a sports-oriented anti-bullying, pro-diversity PSA, it’s almost like a no-brainer that this would target the specific demographic within Buffalo. In terms of having a spot for the PSA during the TV timeouts when fans are still in the stands, it appears we might not have that good of a chance witnessing it. With advertisements and sponsors, time is limited. While he did mention they could take a look at slots, it didn’t sound too promising that there was too much room for adjustment in this area.
Overall, the summit was incredibly informative and well-put together. Kudos to the entire Sabres staff and much thanks for extending the invite to Sabres in Seven! Be sure to check out the various other Buffalo Sabres blogs in the coming days for other viewpoints and more indepth reviews of questions I haven’t covered (believe me — there are tons!)