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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

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!


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

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


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.

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

Welcome to the NHL, Ryan Vinz

photo-2 In the midst of all the emotion, the excitement, the fast developing-by-the-minute story all unfolding at First Niagara Center, in a game that the Buffalo Sabres defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2, was the story of Ryan Vinz.

Vinz made his NHL debut tonight as the Sabres’ backup net minder to starter Jhonas Enroth, pressed into service about 6pm when the blockbuster trade sending Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues was made official.

The diminutive Vinz, who is listed at 5′ 8″, played as a goaltender for Clarkson University and now works for the Buffalo Sabres as a scout, and also serves on the HarborCenter staff as Director of Hockey Technology. He was leaving the office after a day’s work, and was planning to join his brother before the game and then catch the action in the stands, a routine he had followed on many a game night. Little did he know that his life was about to change in a big way.

Vinz gave a glimpse of how this all came together just an hour before puck drop. “Luckily I was still in the office and I had my equipment with me, so it worked out pretty well.” Indeed, with the game about to start, the Rochester farmhands hundreds of miles away playing in Chicago, and the Sabres desperate for a back up emergency goaltender, Vinz was handed the opportunity that many can only dream of. A chance to suit up and play a real game in the NHL.

He was asked tonight that had the Sabres been nursing a 6-1 lead and it was late in the game, would he have gone in? Vinz laughed and replied, “Naw. This was about as good as it gets as far as an experience for me.”

He admitted that he didn’t play too much hockey during his days at Clarkson. “Pretty much held the door for the others. And had an awesome view,” Vinz replied. “But getting to do this at the NHL level? Yeah. Psyched.” Vinz admitted that this was one of his proudest hockey moments ever. “I was very surprised about everything. And really nervous. But it was very exciting.”

Vinz’ brother ended up getting to watch the game in the stands, and it had to be almost surreal watching brother Ryan on the bench in a Buffalo Sabres uniform, when the plan just hours earlier was for the two brothers to share a couple beers and watch their team play. “I don’t know if he got anybody to use my ticket,” said Vinz. “He probably sold it online,” said Vinz with a laugh.

With Jaroslav Halak, the goaltender acquired in the trade with St. Louis, planning to join the Sabres in time for their next game at Dallas, Vinz will go back to his regular job in the Sabres organization. But for just one night, Ryan Vinz was an NHL goaltender. It will be a memory he will cherish for the rest of his life.

Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in life. Tonight was that night for Ryan Vinz.

Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in life. Tonight was that night for Ryan Vinz.

Buffalo’s HarborCenter…Rising before our very eyes

Cliff Benson from HarborCenter leads the tour this afternoon at the project site

Cliff Benson from HarborCenter leads the tour this afternoon at the project site

It’s probably one of the most exciting construction projects to ever hit downtown Buffalo. HarborCenter, the multipurpose twin hockey rink, hotel, parking structure, and adjoining restaurant and other retail space, is rising quickly at the foot of Main Street adjacent to the First Niagara Center. Today representatives of the Buffalo Sabres and Mortensen Construction, the general contractor on the project, took members of the media on a “hard hat tour” to update the construction progress on the facility.

“We’re right on schedule, not ahead of schedule, but things are progressing nicely and we’re on track for a September 2014 opening for the entire facility except for the hotel, which will open nine months later,” said John Koelmel, who along with Cliff Benson and Sabres PR members showed off the building and updated the progress to date.

Mortensen Construction is finishing work on the new Pegula Arena in State College, Pennsylvania, the new home of the Penn State Division 1 ice hockey program, and Benson admits that this project is far more more challenging. “There are so many different components, so many moving parts here.The complexity of this compared to Penn State is far higher. Although we are moving along on the same aggressive timeline. The attitude on the job site is fantastic. They learned a lot of stuff from the Penn State experience and are bringing it to this project,” said Benson.

Indeed, some of the nuances learned from peer projects have been incorporated at HarborCenter. On the Washington Street side is the footer for a specially outsized freight elevator. Why so big? “We need this size to be able to transport a Zamboni machine up to the sixth floor to where the hockey rinks will be situated,” explained Ryan Poropat, Superintendent of the project for Mortensen. Poropat, who has worked on many large scale sports construction projects, including the Olympic Stadium in London, was quick to point out some of the nuances of the construction, including a special footer in the northwest corner of the structure near Main and Scott Streets, which serve as the base for the elevator towers which will serve the hotel.


Looking north from the third floor deck of HarborCenter, One Canalside is rapidly nearing completion on the other side of Scott Street

Looking north from the third floor deck of HarborCenter, One Canalside is rapidly nearing completion on the other side of Scott Street

A new rendering of the building is on display high up in the pavilion at First Niagara Center, and will greet fans coming to the Sabres home opener this Friday against the Ottawa Senators. One area of the building for which substantive drawings have not been revealed are streetscape renderings of the Main Street side, and the sports themed restaurant planned for the northeast corner on Washington and Scott Streets.

Koelmel stated that plans are still being refined for the restaurant, which HarborCenter will own and operate, as opposed to leasing out the space to outside parties. He promised that more information on this component of the facility will be unveiled “in the next 30 to 45 days, tops.” Harbor Center officials had previously revealed that they had made several excursions to Toronto’s Real Sports Restaurant, an upscale sports bistro operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and are looking to create a similar atmosphere and buzz here.

As for the tenant mix anticipated for the street level of the facility, Koelmel replied, “We’re fairly well advanced with our thinking and our dialogue relative to the (restaurant) tenant at Main and Scott. We’ve just started our process for tenants at this end of the building which is at Main and Perry, we’ve had numerous inquiries from protective tenants as to who wants to partner with us and that dialogue and discussion is just now advancing.” Benson added, “We’ve been working with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation on all these things. We want this to be as user friendly as possible in terms of the pedestrian experience. We have to deal with traffic flow, how people get in and out of these facilities, it’s a little different than Chippewa Street when you have 15-20,000 people moving in and out at one time. But certainly, friendly to the environment down here, absolutely what we want to do here. We want to create a hospitality area here that connects with everything else that is going on across the street, wheat’s going on down here. That is the ultimate goal.

“We’re more than just sensitive to this issue of street friendly design,” added Koelmel. We’re fully engaged with the Canal Harbor people, with Benderson Development, Sam Savarino and others. Our focus is on the district, not just on the project. Fast forward to fall of 2014. Both canal projects will be done. The area around us continues to develop. Sam (Savarino) just opened up a new facility on Illinois Street the other night. The new casino is now open. The NFTA station renovation? That is not coincidental. We’re fully engaged with our district partners to make this experience as user friendly as it can be. We want people to come and come again and come again.”

Other items of interest on the project:

-The crane closest to the arena will be dismantled by next summer, while the second tall crane near Scott Street will continue functioning until next fall, continuing the buildout of the hotel structure which will reach 18 stories.

-Perry Street will be reopened to traffic once HarborCenter opens next September. A skywalk about 25 feet wide will connect the third level of the structure with the second floor of the First Niagara Center pavilion.

-Between 100-110 construction workers are on site at the HarborCenter on any given days.

– The Sabres are in the early stages of thinking where the main marquee for the First Niagara Center will be situated. Once the HarborCenter structure is fully in place, the marquee high top the arena will be largely obstructed from view.

– There will be hockeycentric store for equipment sales and repairs up on the rink level.

“This is moving along as fast as any construction project in the country,” said Benson. “It’s already started at a tremendous pace. We’re somewhat dependent on winter weather but we’re on schedule and ready to go.”



Redemption night for Ryan Miller

Ryan MillerAs far as things go, it was a pretty good night on Friday for goaltender Ryan Miller, and for the Buffalo Sabres organization.

Just one week after a night of ugliness between Miller and the Buffalo fans, the Sabres front office, the coaches and Miller himself cobbled together an almost perfect “feel good” night of hockey to try and put some of what happened in the past behind everyone, and move on to better things.

Few expected interim coach Ron Rolston to put Miller back on the home ice after what happened last week, but being Miller’s 500th career game, who would not want him to see him reach that milestone in a Buffalo uniform. So he got the start in net against the New York Islanders.

The team won, 2-1, in a shootout. It was one of those free wheeling, entertaining games that have been too few and far between this season at First Niagara Center. The players were having fun, the fans were oo-ing and aah-ing and chanting all night long, and few left the arena in the waning moments, when the norm is to see a trickle of fans leave their seats late in the contest even if the game is close.

It was Miller’s night to savor. And he did. He received pre game honors as team’s MVP, voted on by his fellow players. The audience applause wasn’t as robust as it could have been, but nobody jeered. The applause got a bit louder when the PA announcer informed the crowd that this was Miller’s 500th career start.

But it was the happenings at the end of the game that stole the show. Thomas Vanek was the only scorer for Buffalo in the shootout. In a poignant and symbolic gesture, Rolston inserted Jochen Hecht as the third shooter. He missed. Meantime, Miller was perfect during the shootout, stopping all three New York Islanders attempts, including the final one by John Tavares which had Miller backed up into almost the back of his own net. The referee waved no goal. Exhale.

Fans who won the “jerseys off our back” lined up to accept their coveted prizes from the players. Miller hung out the longest. He signed autographs for everyone. He exchanged a hug and kiss with an elderly lady on the ice. The game night crew was following their goaltender closely with the hand held camera, capturing the moments and beaming them onto the HD board.

All this did not take place by happenstance. The front office, the players, the coaches, and Ryan Miller desperately needed this reach out to the fans. They nailed it.

Miller held court with the media for a long spell in the locker room. For everyone, reality was setting in that Jochen Hecht would be leaving for good, and there was plenty of emotion in the air. Team owner Terry Pegula, an infrequent visitor to the post game gatherings, was there watching the whole scene. Hecht had his family present and battled tears as he had his turn before the microphones. Miller passionately talked about what the night meant to him. He was contrite and sincere. He won a few hearts back, even as he asserted that the future is full of uncertainty.

Sometimes the best public relations is not ignoring a problem, nor is it tackling it head on with assertive apologies and press conferences. Sometimes passive advocacy gets the best results. The front office, the PR crew, the team and their beleaguered goaltender scored a hat trick on Friday night. And that is something positive to build upon.

Why do “fans” leave Sabres games early?

Sabres do the curtain call after a dramatic shootout win (photo credit Suzanne K. Taylor)

Sabres do the curtain call after a dramatic shootout win (photo credit Suzanne K. Taylor)

18,836 was the attendance tonight at First Niagara Center. Yet another pretty full house and just under a sellout to watch the Buffalo Sabres take on the Montreal Canadiens.

If you were there, or if you watched on TV at home or at your favorite bistro with friends, then you saw what happened. Down 4-2, the team came roaring back, the first one thanks to a Thomas Vanek power play goal which happened all as a result of Steve Ott luring the Canadiens’ Ryan White into a foolish 4 minute double minor.

Honey, let’s hit the road we can be the first ones out of the ramp if we leave now!

The last 90 seconds of the game looked absolutely awful. Buffalo had a difficult time getting control and leading the puck out their own zone, and finally Marcus Foligno managed to penetrate deep with less than 20 seconds on the game clock. With a pileup in front of the net, Tyler Ennis took several whacks at it before Thomas Vanek, again, somehow managed to jam the puck home, and with 1.9 seconds left on the game clock, the Sabres had managed to do the improbable and tie the game and send it to overtime.

Gotta run! New episode of White Collar is on TNT tonight forgot to set the DVR

After a scoreless overtime which neither team recorded a single shot on goal, the Sabres headed to their first shootout of the season.

There’s a winter storm warning for tomorrow. Better leave now and stock up on milk and eggs and candles at Tops

Who else, Thomas Vanek, scored the first shootout shot, and Montreal’s hot rookie Alex Galchenyuk answered. After both teams failed to score in round 2, Pominville put the Sabres ahead in round 3, and Brian Gionta of Montreal was stuffed on the final shot to seal Buffalo’s win. The boos that were raining down in the dying seconds of regulation time turned to jubilation.

It’s late. Kids got school tomorrow. Let’s leave now and beat the traffic

Got all that?

So to the estimated 4000 of you who bailed and left the arena 57 minutes into the game, one has to ask, why bother even attending?

The two surface lots adjacent to the arena and the parking ramp attached to the building usually get gummed up and are a slow exit. “Fans” who departed surely sat in slow and stalled traffic while listening to the dramatic end to regulation time, and the overtime and shootout, glued to their car radios.

Even Ryan Miller quipped about this early fan exodus in his post game comments. “There weren’t 18,000 fans left, but we appreciate those who stayed,” said Miller.

Tickets for this game had a face value of anywhere from $53-$146. Tack on $5-$20 to park, beer, concessions. For many this is a big night out. And it again begs the question, why do Sabres “fans” leave early? A blowout? OK. But in this great game of hockey big things can happen quickly, and we’ve already seen two last second outcomes at home in this short season.

For those who stayed, they were amply rewarded. And the Sabres players, exhaling and offering a collective sigh of relief after three straight disappointing losses, all came out onto the ice for a curtain call and a fan salute after the three stars were announced. “It was Pominville’s idea,” said Coach Lindy Ruff in his post game comments. Ruff gave credit to his captain and revealed that a number of players had already removed some of their equipment and jerseys, yet all returned to show some love to the fans.

Sabres do it at home again this Sunday at 7 against the Boston Bruins. To those of you in the ramp, in the lots, crawling up Franklin Street or down Perry Street or hopping on the I-190 on ramp as the drama unfolded on the ice, feel free to come down and join in again. And stick around this time.

Sabres open Sunday

pegulaIt’s Game On at First Niagara Center.

The Buffalo Sabres held a press conference this afternoon in the newly reconstituted Lexus Club, with owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black and General Manager Darcy Regier in attendance.

Rapid fire, here are things you want to know:

-The Sabres have announced a contract extension for Regier. Terms were not disclosed, and Pegula gave Regier a hearty vote of confidence, comparing the synergy in the Sabres hockey department as adding to a painting.

-Start time tomorrow is 12:30PM, not the 12 noon time printed on the ticket.

-Doors will open at 10:15AM and the Sabres Store will open for business at 9:00AM.

-Fencing has been taken down on the Webster Block in front of the arena. The city owns the property and it is expected that there will be an attendant there and parking will be available.

-Ground will be broken approximately March 8 for the Harbor Center on the Webster Block. Land has still not changed title to the Sabres, but Black reported that all things are moving in tandem towards a successful start in March and the project remains on schedule.

-Season tickets are being printed right now. It looks like they will start hitting the mails Wednesday to the season ticket holders. Tickets for the first three games have already been printed and sent out to everyone.

Less than 10,000 tickets remain for the entire 24 game schedule, with 5 games now officially listed as sellouts. That averages to about 500 seats per game available for public purchase.

And for anyone who cares, when asked Pegula emphatically denied having any involvement is funding football coach Bill O’Brien’s contract at Penn State University. A substantial donor to Penn State, Pegula branded those stories as “blatantly false”.

First Niagara Center was buzzing with activity today; thousands of fans were in attendance to watch the team’s final practice before they hit the ice tomorrow to start the regular season. The line to the team store was almost out the door with an approximate wait time of one hour to get entry. Tomorrow will be the final day of the 50% off sale on all available merchandise. The hottest item being sought after (and apparently sold out) is the Mikhail Grigorenko jersey.

So there you have it… if you’re lucky enough to have a ticket then we will see YOU at First Niagara Center. For everyone else, the game will be nationally televised on NBC. Grab some friends and hit your favorite pub and cheer on the return of Buffalo Sabres hockey!

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