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Sabres goal song – a big hit

For two periods last night, the Buffalo Sabres’ “Next Chapter” looked a lot like the Last Chapter… a quiet and unmotivated crowd, a team trying to find its footing, and the visiting Ottawa Senators nursing what looked like an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

It all changed in the third period, when Jack Eichel lit the lamp for his first NHL goal. It was beauty when he launched a wrister from the slot, and that gave the team, and the sellout crowd at First Niagara Center, a much needed spark.

And then the Goal Song.

Everyone was waiting to hear the winner of the fan voting for the new Sabres song, done over a two week period, bracketology style on the team’s web site. We reported on the contest in last week’s print edition of Artvoice.

And the winner is? “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. Our guess at the outset of the voting was that this song would be an early casualty, a beat and vibe more suited to a stage in the NBA than to the game of hockey.

No matter. The song spun. And the game events crew spliced the song up to capture the best parts within the song, and ran it just long enough to keep the crowd, and the players, pumped, all culminating with the cry of “Let me hear some no-i-i-i-ise!” The fans gleefully obliged.

The song was jammed again when Evander Kane scored what looked like the tying goal just a minute later. But a goal challenge was called by the Ottawa bench, and Sabres player Zemgus Girgensons was offsides. No goal. Still 2-1 Ottawa, and an empty netter with about a minute to go would seal a 3-1 win for the Sens.

“This is the loudest I’ve hear this building in over two years,” said Marcus Foligno in the dressing room after the game. “It was good to see the fans so enthusiastic and raising the roof with all the noise”, added Girgensons. Just walking around the dressing room after the game and listening in on many of the player interviews, the feedback from just about everyone was that the crowd was about as jacked and electric as hasn’t happened, well, at least since the last time the Sabres made the playoffs. And that was way back in 2011.

So DJ Kool it is. Looks like the front office, the game night crew, and the fans, have found themselves a winner.


The Buffalist: Oct 5-11

 TheBuffalist

“Watch the dust start to rise through the air
I don’t know if it ever comes back again
Breathe it in so I never forget where we came from

Don’t put out the fire
It’s been the summer like I wanted but it’s never enough
And although my bones are tired
I won’t change a thing”

  “Wipe Yourself Off Man, You Dead” – Four Year Strong

 

5.  Sugar City Soul Night @ Milkie’s (Oct 10)

So the Bills just lost and you’re feeling the blues.  Well, you can get yourself a little jolt of soulful energy this Saturday at Milkie’s when some great local DJs will be spinning some of the best Soul records from their extensive collection.  Milkie’s is a Buffalo staple of course, and if you aren’t familiar with Sugar City check them out here.  They have done some phenomenal things for the Buffalo arts community and run one of the most unique music venues in the city.  They’ll be taking $5 “donations” at the bar this Saturday, so I highly recommend you throw them a couple extra bucks for what they do.

4. Four Year Strong @ Waiting Room (Oct 10)

Pop punk can sort of get a bad rap due to the extensive list of corny bands that have showcased the genre on the big stage over the years, but this is not one of those bands.  They’re closer to the Bouncing Souls then they are to Sum 41 in terms of the “pop” punk sound, so don’t be afraid that you’ll have to check your punk cred at the door.  The Waiting Room is a pretty cool venue too so this ought to be a pretty awesome show.  Make sure you get nice and close to the pit and get a little sweaty, that’s all part of the fun. 

3. The Dodos @ Mohawk Place (Oct 8)

Riding high on their well received 2015 album Individ, The Dodos will be bringing their kinetic brand of indie rock to Buffalo’s Mohawk Place this Thursday.  Although beset by tragedy in 2012 with the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer, the band formerly known as “Dodo Bird” has kept moving forward and have built up quite a following over the years.  They have an incredibly fresh and energetic sound that ditches some of the snarkyness of modern indie rock in a great way.  Mohawk Place might be my favorite venue in Buffalo so if you haven’t had a chance to check it out A) why do you choose to live under a rock and B) this is as great an opportunity as any to give it a try.

2.  Carrie: The Musical @ The American Repertory Theater of WNY (Oct 3)

Take advantage of one of your last opportunities to see The American Repertory Theater of WNY‘s production of Carrie: The Musical.  If you haven’t been, the venue location is located at 18 Agassiz Circle (otherwise known as Medaille College).  The reviews have been pretty solid, with the Buffalo News giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars along with plenty of other positive buzz.  The talent is mostly home-grown, with theater veterans Christopher Standart and Michael Hake running the production, directing and musical duties.  The last 2 shows will be this Friday and Saturday so get on over there and check it out while you still can! 

1. Sabres Opening Night Festivities @ First Niagara Center/Harborcenter (Oct 8)

It’s here!  It’s finally here!  We can root for the Sabres again!  If the Giants beating up on the Bills has got you down, you should hopefully be able to get your sports fix with the other Buffalo sports team the Buffalo Sabres.  The great news is that they are looking to finally be pretty good, although anything is better than the hell that has been the last 2 years of Sabres Hockey.   They might not be good enough for the playoffs but they’ll at least be exciting.  They’ve looked pretty good in preseason, with the new savior of Buffalo Jack Eichel scoring a couple beauties.  Even vets like Tyler Ennis have been looking pretty damn good, and that doesn’t even include all the shiny new tools in the form of Ryan O’reilly and Evander Kane.  They’re a little green on defense and the goaltending is very suspect, but like I said we’ve got nowhere to go but up for this team.  Let’s Go Buffalo!

Hot Takes:  Joywave @ The Waiting Room (Oct 9).

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!

You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook as well for Buffalo event updates.

 


Season ticket holders to Sabres: “Thank you sir, may I have another”

IMG_4058Back in 2011 when Sabres owner Terry Pegula took the helm of his franchise, he famously announced no intention to raise ticket prices, telling his ticket buying public that if he needs to raise revenue he would go out and drill another oil well.
Perhaps the past year’s drop in oil prices and collapse in the hydraulic fracturing market has changed Pegula’s thinking, for the Buffalo Sabres today announced yet another price increase for season tickets, in the works for the 2015-2016 season. This is the reward for two years of watching hideous hockey and suffering through the worst performances of the team in franchise history.
The team made no formal announcement to the public or press release to the media, but instead delivered the grim news via mail to their season ticket holders. Contained in the packet is a letter from Sabres Vice President John Sinclair explaining season ticket holder benefits, a price chart, invoice, and a glossy 16 page brochure outlining “The Next Chapter” in the rebuild of the team.
A cost/benefit analysis of the pricing structure offers the following:

-Ticket prices go up as much as $5 for the priciest club seats ($107 to $112) to as low as $1 for the 300 level end zones ($27 to $28). Other increases are from $2-$4 per ticket depending on the location.

-The boosting of the Sabrebucks rebate from 2.5% to 6.5% as a reward for early renewal last season was apparently a one year wonder. Season ticket holders will receive only 2.5% in rebates.

-The cost for the mandatory purchase of 3 preseason games will also cost more, with most tickets going up by $2.

-Season ticket holders will receive tickets to the CCM/USA Prospects game and a Rochester Americans AHL game at First Niagara Center at no additional cost.

-To replace the loss of the 4% supplemental Sabrebucks incentive, the team will provide a bonus of 500 Sabres Advantage Points to anyone holding such an account. Advantage Points is a mobile app where ticket holders can scan tickets or food receipts to collect points to be redeemed for merchandise.To monetize the value of 500 points, that gets you 1/3 of the way to obtaining a t-shirt or hat.

The Sabres have capped season ticket sales at 16,000, and the overall season ticket pricing is roughly 40% less than window prices which single ticket buyers pay. Despite the increase, prices in Buffalo are still a bargain compared to some NHL peer cities.

Sabres fans can only hope that oil prices rebound and that the closed wells in the Marcellus Shale and Bakken fields reopen. That might translate into the first year of no ticket price increases in the Pegula Era come 2016-2017.


#BUFvsPIT: We need to rock the house

Sabslogo
I walked over to Bada Bing sports bar on Chippewa from my home last night to watch the third period of the Sabres v Blue Jackets game, to enjoy a couple beers and appetizers, for sure. But mostly to commune with fellow fans as our team was (once again) playing out of their minds in a game they had no business being in.

As time was ticking down, my mind was racing. Mostly I was thinking how ugly the scene might be at First Niagara Center come Saturday if the Sabres don’t finish this. I also thought of the unthinkable: what if two years of tanking, or blueprint, or suffering, or whatever you want to call it, falls apart on the final day. Our family are long time season ticket holders, 8 tickets split up amongst 15 or so participants. Who will want to buy those tickets next year?

Not helping the mood? The news coming out of Erie that Connor McDavid had scored 5 goals in their OHL playoff game; the news coming out of Boston that Jack Eichel had won the Hobey Baker award as the best of the best in college hockey, this one night after he amazed and dazzled in the Frozen Four semifinal. Two generational players; so tantalizingly close to calling one of them a Buffalo Sabre.

So I will admit it now; when Cam Atkinson scored to give Columbus a 3-2 lead with 9 minutes to go, I let it all out. I cheered. I high fived. I joined in the jubilant celebration at Bada Bing, complete with the goal horn they set off in the place. Up to that point, I had refused to give in to cheering against my own team, a team I had fallen in love with as a little boy when my brother Taras and I attended our first game ever in February of 1971 and watched our heroes beat the California Golden Seals 3-0.

These emotions are not unique to me. We’ve all gone through a lot these last few weeks in the race to the bottom. It has pitted fan against fan, media members are carping at each other, the players are trying to mask their antagonism towards the fans, the front office is putting on a brave face. It’s been awful.

And it’s over.

Tonight at First Niagara Center, Buffalo fans have the opportunity to wash away the stink. To raise the spirit of the community. To set the tone now for the better days ahead that are sure to come upon us, and come fast. And the way to do that is to fill that arena with a playoff game calibre energy that will ignite and inspire the team, show the hockey world what it means to be a Buffalo fan, and send us into the night looking to the off season with boundless enthusiasm – next week’s draft lottery, the NHL combine, draft day, free agent day, the opening of training camp.

The opponent will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose entire season might be on the line depending on what Ottawa and Boston do in their games. Hey, I like the roadie to PNC Park and a Buccos game and a Primanti’s sandwich just as much as the next guy, but would it not be just desserts and an exclamation point to this final week to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs? We all have visions of Sidney Crosby always besting Ryan Miller (ref: Winter Classic). We all remember a Steelers team playing their scrubs and knocking the Bills out of the playoffs on the final day of the season a few years back.

The outcome of tonight’s game really isn’t at all important. If the Penguins win.. well, good for them. Buffalo will have its day real soon. But if the Sabres win, and even if they don’t, won’t it be great to cheer? To genuinely cheer?

I’m not cheering for any individual player. A year from now some of these guys will be on a bus to Wheeling or Utica, plying their trade via their two way contracts. I just hope they banked their riches when they had a chance, for the truth is some of these people who wore a Buffalo uniform had no business being here, and were only here because the Sabres plan deemed them necessary to be here.

But for the guys who will remain, who will be part of the core of the 2015-2016 Buffalo Sabres, it is time to reignite their love affair with the fan base and the city. And it’s time to get some good press and vibe for us. The national headlines following the Sabres/Coyotes game didn’t help our cause. Players see what’s going on. Will quality free agents take a chance on Buffalo seeing how fans reacted towards their own team? Mind you, the best of the best will receive obscene amounts of money wherever they play; selling them on Buffalo means selling them on our great city and its passionate fan base.

I will be in my season ticket seats in section 113 at the game, dressed in Sabres gear and attending with my brother, my niece and her husband. Peter Farrell’s got the Artvoice press box chair. I will be in full throated support of my Buffalo Sabres. With any luck, me and a lot of other fans will be hoarse come Sunday morning. Let’s Go Buffalo!

4-11

Graphic credit: Chris Ostrander, Two In The Box, @2ITB_Buffalo


(716) Food and Sport… What you need to know

HarborCenter's glitzy new  bistro will be opening its doors to the public on Friday

HarborCenter’s glitzy new bistro will be opening its doors to the public on Friday

It’s been a whirlwind week over at HarborCenter, the $172-million privately funded hockey center over at Canalside.

The new destination Tim Hortons Cafe opened for business with lines out the door, a statue of Horton was unveiled across the street. Then the HarborCenter rinks opened last weekend with packed houses for Canisius College and debuts for both the ECC Kats and the Buffalo Junior Sabres. the first of many HarborCenter tournaments packed downtown hotels last weekend, with more to come. Construction on the building continues with the hotel tower being buttoned up for the cold weather ahead, and a huge construction punch list of finishes and enhancements still to be set in place.

So tomorrow, Friday, the next component of HarborCenter opens its doors at 3:00PM, and this one promises to be another event with a “wow” factor. (716) Food and Sport, a 13,000 square foot, 365 seat sports themed restaurant will begin serving the general public for the very first time. According, to HarborCenter president John Koelmel, there won’t be any big ribbon cutting or ballon launching hoopla, just an opening of the doors and a staff ready to wait and welcome and serve.

Koelmel met with the media this morning as crews were still putting finishing touches on the restaurant’s entrance. Drink menus and cloth napkins adorned each of the tables. The restaurant has already welcomed diners throughout the week at private events for sponsors and staff connected with the project through a series of training events. Said Koelmel, “It’s been phenomenal. We’ve served over 1000 people, from friends and family to other vendors and supporters that have been willing to come in and help us test drive. The feedback has been fabulous. First and foremost the facility itself it’s an enjoyable place to be. It’s comfortable. It’s fun. It’s relaxing. It’s high energy. To the food and drink the response has been fantastic. We’re looking to tweak a few things to make what’s very good that much better. It’s coming together very nicely.

Koelmel admitted that owner Terry Pegula has yet to set foot in the now opened HarborCenter, but plans to get his first peek tonight at a private grand opening event. “We’re looking forward to his first walk through this fabulous showcase.

As for particulars for the public, here is some helpful information if you’re planning to visit (716) Food and Sport:

– The doors will open for business on Friday at 3PM and be open until 2AM. Then regular hours of business will be 7 days a week from 11AM until 2AM.

-The restaurant will not be open to the public this Sunday as they will be hosting a private event. So if you were thinking of debuting at the place for your first Sunday of Bills football and the NFL Sunday Ticket, you will have to wait a week.

-Ample parking is available in the HarborCenter parking ramp and will initially be complimentary for 716 patrons, as HarborCenter management tweaks the entire parking situation for its fans using the amenities in the building, as well as on nights when the Sabres play at home in the adjacent First Niagara Center.

-For the first few weeks, seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis and no reservations will be accepted. As the staff becomes acclimated to customer flow and get situated, patrons will be able to make reservations by phone or online.

-The 716 Food and Sport free mobile app is available for download and contains a table reservation component, as well as a wealth of information on the food and drink menu.

-Although there are two entrances, the main one at the corner of Washington and Scott and the second connecting to level 2 of the HarborCenter ramp, initially only the street entrance will be open for public access, again, while management and staff acclimates to the customer flow.

-Work is continuing on the Main Street lobby to the HarborCenter, which is open but a bit hard to find as it is situated behind a stack of jersey barriers lining the Main Street Metrorail tracks. These will remain in place while work on the hotel tower continues.

-No date yet on the opening of a skybridge which will connect the third level of the HarborCenter ramp to the First Niagara Center pavilion.

-As was previously announced, there are no plans for outdoor patio seating on the entry plaza near the main entrance.

-And yes, 716 Food and Sport logoed merchandise and apparel will be sold and available near the main entrance of the restaurant.


Canisius Hockey at HarborCenter: “The excitement was off the charts”

It's a three way ceremonial puck drop to launch the hockey era at HarborCenter this past Friday

It’s a three way ceremonial puck drop to launch the hockey era at HarborCenter this past Friday

For those coming down to Canalside on the Metrorail on Friday, now running on two tracks downtown once again after a summer of construction disruption, that’s where the energy began. Blue and gold clad Canisius students, riding downtown to check out their spiffy new digs at HarborCenter, singing and chanting on the rail car, as Canisius College opened up their new era in NCAA division 1 men’s ice hockey with back to back games.

Fans gawked and craned their necks skyward, admiring the new structure which dominates the Inner Harbor skyline. “This is what a real city feels like!” exclaimed one Canisius alum as he carried his two youngsters clad in Griffs blue and gold into the Washington Street lobby.

And so it began. A pair of sold out Canisius games in the main rink, while the first weekend of tournament play went on throughout the weekend, many staged at the adjacent rink 2. It was a beehive of activity, fresh scrubbed faces wearing the logoed jumpsuits of their teams, parents and coaches trudging behind carrying duffel bags and sticks, excited fans eagerly snapping photos and touring the new facility, the arena a sea of Canisius blue and gold, busy HarborCenter staffers running about making sure that everything was going off as smoothly as possible, and taking notes for any glitches that need to be worked out.

Canisius College played the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes from the Big 10, and on opening night blew a very early 2-0 lead to settle for a 3-3 overtime tie. It was bad news for the Griffs the following night, dropping the decision 4-1, with only a late shorthanded goal breaking up the Buckeyes shutout.

Those who were in attendance on Friday weren’t disappointed. The student section was in full throated support, not an empty seat in the house or along the standing room rails in the end zones, and after short ceremonies and ceremonial puck drops, it only took 22 seconds for Canisius’ Shane Conacher to light the lamp and score the first ever Griffs goal at HarborCenter. “We’ve been waiting all year for this thing to start, and once we learned it was sold out that brought so much more energy to the building. The crowd was awesome tonight, we wanted to bring it for them, and getting the early 2-0 lead was something really special,” said Conacher.

In the excitement of the moment, Conacher wasn’t sure if the historic puck marking the first ever goal was retrieved. “The coach was yelling, ‘get the puck! get the puck!’ I hope somebody managed to grab it,” said Conacher.

Coach Dave Smith offered vague answers as to the location of that puck, but was pretty firm as he spoke about the buzz and energy that made the first game and the historic first weekend at their new facility so memorable. “The energy in the building was so noticeable that before the puck drop, the referee came and said, ‘there is so much energy in here, we don’t want to take it away. Let’s let ’em play.’ And they did. And it went back and forth. And that’s what made it special. The excitement was off the charts,” said Smith.

Canisius College Athletic Director Bill Maher spent much of his weekend at both games greeting students, alums, guests and fans while checking up on things throughout the building, and taking on many media requests for interviews. “You start out with a lot of excitement when it comes to a new facility, and then when it comes to the first day there’s a lot of concern, because you have a lot of things you need to pull off and make sure your customers have a good experience, but that transitions into when you start the game you have a lot of electricity and excitement in the building,” said Maher.

This was a long time coming for Canisius, whose hockey program once played at the Nichols rink, and then at Buffalo State College, both facilities many notches below the emerging and growing standards of a division 1 team. “It’s just the next step for the growth of our program. They feel very, very at home. They are very proud of it themselves. Our coaches can recruit to that (the HarborCenter), they can develop the young men here, they can train here. This will pay dividends on so many levels.”

Maher is optimistic that attendance for Canisius hockey will spike at HarborCenter, with the team having averaged just about 700 fans per game at the old facility. “Our first games are already sold out, our next two games on November 14 and 15 against RIT are selling very, very well, and those fans travel very well, so I anticipate those games will be sellouts as well.”

Traveling well. So what impact is HarborCenter already making on the downtown scene? HarborCenter president John Koelmel replies, “Our five hotel partners (Hyatt, Adams Mark, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott) are fully booked this weekend. Our ice sheets are completely spoken for and in fact oversubscribed until past April 1.” Koelmel then added, “Visiting teams who are participating in the tournaments are not just asking for rooms. They want to be downtown, not out in the suburbs. They want to fully take in the ‘Buffalo Experience’ and all that our city has to offer. And yes, we are going to deliver just that, for them. And for us.”

The next big thing at HarborCenter will be this Friday’s public opening of 716 Food and Sport, the glitzy new sports restaurant fronting on the corner of Washington and Scott. Several of 716’s food offerings are on the menu at the HarborCenter rinks concession stands, ranging from beef on weck to chicken finger subs to caesar salad to fruit smoothies in a variety of flavors. Judging from the long lines the fare was a big hit with the patrons. “We’re taking downtown and Canalside to a whole new level,” promised Koelmel. “Who could possibly criticize this building? Who could possibly take issue with what we have accomplished here in such a short period of time? And get ready. There’s much more to come.”

HarborCenter miscellany…
-Entry to the building is via two lobbies: one fronting Washington Street and the other on Main Street. The Main Street entrance is masked by jersey barriers and fencing, still in place as construction on the hotel continues. The (not well marked) path is accessed right by the tunnel at Main and Perry Sts.

-Two full service concession stands in place to serve fans. The one in the end zone at ice level (level 6) is not easy to find, and best accessed via an obscure staircase in the north end zone. A merchandise shop selling HarborCenter logo apparel and other souvenirs is also tucked away on level 6.

-Seating bowl needs a scoreboard at both ends. And a working shots on goal clock.

-Parking at the HarborCenter ramp was free for opening weekend, and there will be a nominal $3 charge for future Canisius hockey events. Still to be sorted out is how the parking will work when both Canisius College and the Buffalo Sabres play games at the same time. There are three such dates on the schedule.

-Doing the public address announcing at Canisius hockey games is none other than Buffalo Bisons Public Relations director Brad Bisbing, who does a solid job on the mic. If you’re hoping for annoying and screeching, though, Bisbing will probably disappoint you. But worry not, for Buffalo Bandits season opens in two months.

-There are still pockets of HarborCenter that are a full fledged construction zone, and we’re not talking about the hotel tower. The Main Street lobby is still encased in drywall, ceiling tiles are missing at several of the parking levels, the Mercantile Exchange retail space on Main is a vacant shell, and we’re wondering if a full fledged ticket office and windows are in the cards anywhere in the building. Crews are racing by the day to place finishing touches on a whole punch list of uncompleted spaces both inside and outside.

-Download the 716 Food and Sport mobile app. Customers will be available to make table reservations on the app, although that feature was not functional as of today.

-“716 Poutine” is available and sold at the full service concession stand on the concourse level. You’re welcome.

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Tim Horton immortalized: “It was a good day”

Hard to believe it, but there are now over 200 Tim Hortons cafe and bake shops dotting the landscape across Western New York. Countless more stores are located across the bridge and into Canada. What small town or burg in Ontario does not have their very own Timmy-Ho’s?

So some might have raised their eyebrows and wondered why the opening of yet another Hortons cafe and bake shop, this one on the corner of Main And Scott streets at Canalside, merited headline news and the top story on yesterday’s evening newscasts.

But this Tim Hortons opening was special. Very special. For one thing, it heralded the official opening of the first component of HarborCenter, the mammoth multi use structure which is already transforming Canalside into a year round happening destination.

Sabres president Ted Black and Tim Horton's three daughters unveil the statue of Tim Horton, now proudly standing on the very site of Horton's final playing days.

Sabres president Ted Black and Tim Horton’s three daughters unveil the statue of Tim Horton, now proudly standing on the very site of Horton’s final playing days.

More importantly, yesterday’s opening celebrated Tim Horton, the man, the hockey player, the individual that was one of the building blocks of the early days of the Buffalo Sabres franchise. Who left an indelible mark on the team and whose name and number hang proudly from the rafters at First Niagara Center.

When coach Punch Imlach was summarily fired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1970 after winning four Stanley Cups for their team in the 60s (Toronto hasn’t won a Cup since), he came to Buffalo and boldly promised that the fledgling Buffalo Sabres would be the first expansion team to win a championship. Buffalo drafted first that year, selected Gilbert Perreault and built the team around their hot prospect. And what Imlach did was recruit a lot of retreads and over the hill players from his former squad in Toronto.

The team wasn’t that good during that first season. But the Sabres captured the hearts and support of the community. Demand for tickets spiked as the old Aud was expanded, and even with 5000 new seats in the oranges a Buffalo Sabres ticket was a hot and precious commodity for much of the 70s.

Prior to the 1972-73 season, Imlach managed to pluck one of his former prized assets off the waiver wire – Tim Horton was being let go from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo snatched him up, even offering Horton the then unheard of sum of $100,000 to come and play in Buffalo. It was a steal. Horton was one of the strongest and toughest players on the Toronto roster… he was so intimidating that nobody wanted to fight him. His character and his presence in the Leafs locker room helped catapult them to four championships, and they were a dominant force for most of that decade in the NHL.

Horton’s contributions to the Leafs were so great that his name and number hang from the rafters at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, banners that also enshrine some of the veritable gods of hockey who played for the Leafs over the last century.

And here in Buffalo? Oh did he become a force. The record will show that he only scored one goal in the 124 games he played for the Buffalo Sabres. But his steadying influence, his leadership in the locker room, his mentoring of young defensemen such as Jim Schoenfeld, Bill Hajt and Jerry Korab, were invaluable as the ragtag Sabres made their improbable run to the playoffs in only the third season of their existence. Who could forget game 5 that year at the Forum in Montreal, Rene Robert scoring in overtime to beat Scotty Bowman’s Habs and force a game 6 in Buffalo. Who could forget a loud and packed Aud contingent chanting “Thank You Sabres” two days later as Montreal won that night to take the series. Grainy video still exists of that moment and it still brings chills down the spine, even to Sabres fans who weren’t alive back then or too young to remember.

Horton was a huge part of that success and accomplishment, and why the Sabres are cemented and bonded to this community to this day. His life was tragically cut short when he crashed his vehicle on the QEW the morning of February 21, 1974. Driving too fast, too much liquor. The Sabres had a game at home that night, and news traveled throughout the day as to what had happened. The game against Atlanta that night went on as planned; players from both teams wore black armbands. Defenseman Jim Schoenfeld wept openly as a moment of silence was observed. The sadness of the moment permeated throughout the building, and players who were on that squad that season will admit to this day that was the saddest moment in the franchise’s history.

The Sabres went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in 1974-75, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. Might the Sabres have won it all had Horton still been alive and in a Buffalo uniform? One will never know but the discussion makes for great hockey fodder, and one thing is for sure: the thuggish players who constituted the Flyers lineup would not have messed with the Sabres with Horton on the blue line. He was a player to be feared.

What was important about all of yesterday’s hoopla was not another donut shop. It was the enshrinement of a man who made a difference for Buffalo. A store. And a statue. So that fathers can take their sons and point to Horton and shares the stories of their youth, when they were wide eyed youngsters watching their heroes on the ice for the first time.

When Tim Horton’s three daughters come to town to commemorate their dad, it matters. When a new signature Tim Hortons shop opens, branded in Sabres’ blue and gold, it matters. When a restaurant doubles as a veritable museum, celebrating Horton’s career, displaying memorabilia of the old Aud and the Erie Canal and offering visitors yet another attraction at Canalside, it matters. When the CEO of Tim Hortons USA comes to Buffalo, bearing a gift of a statue to the people of Buffalo and Western New York, it matters.

And that is why yesterday was a good day for Buffalo. And with HarborCenter opening this weekend, what will be plenty of more good days. Best of all, Sabres president Ted Black said, “we’re just getting started.”

Just what we wanted to hear.


At First Niagara Center… It’s All About The Food

fnc02

Long, long gone are the days of the Aud concessions… boiled hot dogs, cardboard pizza, popcorn, soda and beer headlining the ballpark dreck.

Today at First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres, along with their culinary partners Delaware North, unveiled an entire array of new food and concession items which hungry fans will have to choose from when they come to Sabres hockey games starting with the season opener this Thursday.

There will be new unique food items in the suites, in the Lexus Club on the 100 level, the Harbour Club 200, as well as offerings available at concession stands in the rest of the seating areas. And the Sabres couldn’t wait to show off their new treats to the media at a special unveiling in the Lexus Club.

On the general concession menu? The Sabres front office has been talking up the pizza logs, served with marianara sauce, or enjoy them Buffalo style, brushed with hot sauce and served with a side of bleu cheese.

Up in the suites, patrons will have access to a special Poutine Potato bar, roasted potatoes topped with beef gravy and cheese curds, and also can be topped with either bacon, cheddar, or Montreal style brisket. Other new items include a tomato mozzarella pizza dip served with cheese sticks, beef tenderloin served on a brioche roll with caramelized onion, roasted red pepper and sriracha aioli, and for dessert, a root beer float prepared with Perry’s vanilla ice cream and Saranac root beer.

But the biggest hit today? One of the simplest of items: maple bacon on a stick. Imagine a thick slab of bacon, grilled and marbled with maple and served on a skewer. This tasty treat will be available in the Harbour Club 200, and judging by today’s comments from those in attendance, the lines should be long.

Scott Green is the Executive Chef at First Niagara Center, and led the team responsible for many of the new food offerings in the building. “Certainly we are driven by what fans demand and ask for, and we are also influenced by what works in other similar venues. We wanted to create a menu that emphasizes Buffalo and uses local ingredients and producers. Look at our menu and the words ‘Costanzo’s, Perry’s, Sahlen’s’ will jump right out at you.”

Green’s challenge was to develop food items which can be efficiently mass prepared and served with the emphasis on freshness and warmth. “We certainly don’t want to keep items under a heat lamp, so we experiment in the kitchen and find what works and what fans will enjoy. We think we have a good line up.”

As for my challenge? Trying to shed a few pounds and comfortably get back into my fall apparel, I hunkered down about a week and a half ago and started the low carbohydrate and cut the sugars diet routine, have been sticking to the program and it’s already yielding results. So how to attend a tasting event, dive into all the arena culinary delights, and not blow up on carbs and refined sugars?

The answer was simple… invite Artvoice Managing Editor Buck Quigley to come along, Buck having absolutely no battle with the bulge.

So we went in different directions, me opting for the maple bacon on a stick, the apple bacon salad served with walnuts, feta and concord vinaigrette, while Buck went for the poutine bar with the Montreal beef brisket, the premium shellfish platter, concentrating on the oysters on a half shell, and ending up with a root beer float.

Judging from the samplings at a HarborCenter event a few months back, look for the concession fare at their facility to be something special as well. On top of all that, the new 716 Food and Sport bistro will be rolling out their entire menu sometime mid month. They’ve been tweeting some sneak previews of their restaurant fare.
Bottom line? If you’re planning a visit to an event at First Niagara Center or HarborCenter, go hungry. You won’t be disappointed.
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BUCK’s TOP PICK: Premium shellfish platter, with crab legs, shrimp and oysters on the half shell
BUCK’s SECOND PICK: Poutine potato bar topped with Montreal style brisket
NEEDS WORK: Pistachio crusted salmon, with roasted garlic mashed potato, fennel, arugula; olives, peppers and tomato butter

ANDREW’s TOP PICK: Shrimp and crab lobster rolls, wrapped with mayo, celery and lemon
ANDREW’s SECOND PICK: Reuben burger, swiss, pastrami, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing
NEEDS WORK: Chicken Gyro, with feta, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, kalamatas and tzatziki sauce

OVERALL TOP PICK: Maple bacon on a stick!

Here is a list of all the new items that will be available in the non-premium areas of First Niagara Center:

· Italian sausage flat bread
Artichoke hearts, caramelized onion and crisp flatbread
· Buffalo chicken flat bread
House made hot bleu sauce, tossed chicken tenders tossed, six Italian cheeses and crumbled bleu cheese
· Original pizza logs
1. Traditional, served with marinara sauce
2. Buffalo style, brushed with spicy hot sauce, served with a side of bleu cheese hot sauce for dipping
· Fried banana pepper rings
Southwestern ranch dipping sauce
· Cuban melt panini sandwich
Pulled pork, smoked ham, swiss cheese and dill pickle chips
· Pastrami and swiss panini sandwich
Lean shaved pastrami and melted swiss cheese
· Loaded potato chips
· Loaded baked potato
Cheddar cheese sauce, bacon bits, sour cream and scallions
· Dessert chips
Hot fudge, salted caramel, whipped cream and chopped maraschino cherries
· Hot ice cream sandwich
Sweet bread filled with ice cream, hot sealed, and served with strawberry or chocolate sauce for dipping




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