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Tim Bits

Filed under: Sports
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All of these sketches were done in the last week by Marquil at






The first Sabres giveback is rolled out

SabslogoJust two days after the Buffalo Sabres announced that ticket prices for season ticket holders and single game purchasers will remain the same as previously announced last summer, the team has presented its first tangible “giveback” to its fans and customers.

The Sabres will be holding a “Fan Appreciation Sale”, which will be a 50% reduction in all merchandise at the Sabres team store at the First Niagara Center. The sale will begin during training camp and conclude at the end of the first home game at the arena. The store will also be open beyond its normal 10am-5pm scheduled hours whenever a team scrimmage or public practice is scheduled.

In a statement released to the media by the team’s public relations department, Sabres President Ted Black said, “Our fans showed tremendous patience and loyalty during the past few months. Nothing will erase the pain of a lockout and cancelled games but we wanted to give back to our fans in this way to get them excited for what is sure to be a fast-paced and thrilling 2012-13 season.”

While this gesture to the fan base is a decent one, the fact of the matter is the 15,500 tickets held by season ticket holders of record have been greatly inconvenienced by this work stoppage, and the Sabres front office seems to be doing little to address this issue, except to thump out their chests and congratulate themselves as to how few cancellations they suffered since last year (about 80 according to figures supplied by the team).

Consider this: last March season subscribers sent in hefty checks to cover their costs for rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs. Those playoffs never happened. Many then rolled those dollars into their deposits for 2012-13 season tickets, and added payments throughout the summer to cover their sizable bills. Then came the lockout, and the option to either receive refunds or allow the team to hold the moneys and pay out 4% simple interest which would eventually be credited in the form of Sabrebucks. Those who opted for refunds got their partial checks or credits in dribs and drabs throughout the fall; the rest have had moneys tied up into their tickets for as long as ten months.

Add the latest outrage, which is beyond the team’s control. The news of end of the lockout is now in its 5th day, and as of 4PM Thursday the league has yet to unveil its 2013 schedule. Many season ticket customers split their seats among shareholders (disclosure time, I own 8 season tickets and the parsing out of my tickets on such short notice is going to be an absolute nightmare); others might have vacation plans or pending outings which might be on hold until home dates are revealed. Others sell off excess seats, especially those Leafs games to those Toronto fans who like to come here and watch their team lose. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced yesterday that the schedule would not be announced until the NHLPA formally announces its ratification vote. What that seminal moment has to do with the details of the schedule is anyone’s guess.

Bottom line: the team needs to do more. Thousands of season ticket holders representing 15,500 tickets, the financial cornerstone of the franchise, have been severely inconvenienced, yes emotionally, but certainly financially by having thousands of dollars per ticket being tied up in an accounting and payment jumble over the past 10 months. The half price t-shirt or jersey is nice, the apology by President Black heartfelt and sincere, and the “Thank You Fans” message which might once again appear on the ice, well, OK. But the customers who write the checks have been burdened, and will continue to be burdened in the coming days and weeks, as they have to make game night plans on a very short notice, receive their printed tickets at most likely the very last minute, then have to plan and distribute and put those tickets to good use.

Some other teams have leaked plans for dirt cheap season passes and free ticket for kids. Here’s hoping that Ted Black and his front office team evaluate this further, and can do a bit better as well.

NHL Adrift

Filed under: EmpireWire
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Courtesy Marquil at

The Daily Five – Things To Like About NHL Realignment

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When the news broke yesterday that the NHL had committed to a realignment package, I immediately thought to ask my good friend and sports guru, Brad Riter to tell me what I should like about it.

Brad is currently the public address announcer for UB Basketball games. Prior to that, Brad was Sports Director and Program Director at WECK 1230AM where he worked UB Bulls football games and discussed sports with a stellar gallery of guests each day. Prior to his tenure at WECK, Brad hosted the Sabres post-game show at WGR 550AM as well as his own nightly talk show. His resume is much more extensive than that, but trust me, he knows a thing or two about sports.

Take it away, Brad.

Brad Riter

Five Things To Like About NHL Realignment:

My first contribution to “The Daily Five” revolves around the announcement of a surprisingly radical realignment plan by the NHL Board of Governors.  The whole thing kicks in next season.

Dating back to the NFL’s realignment of 2002, I’ve made a case to anyone willing to listen that a league consisting of four eight-team divisions makes far more sense than one made up of eight four-team divisions.   So with this move, we get the “super divisions” that I’ve been calling for…only they’re called “conferences.”  And it’s 10 years late.  And it’s in a different sport.

1. Current rivalries remain intact.  Assuming you’re a Sabres fan, nothing that you’re REALLY used to is going away.  A ton of games against Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto await.  Bonus:  for fans who like to map a vacation around the team’s travel plans, now you’ve got extra visits to the Panthers and Lightning to utilize (at least until Number 2 on my list goes into effect.)  Oh, and every team visits every city every year.  Cool.

2. Potential for back to back games (or even a 3 game series) in one city.  If simplification of travel is truly at the heart of this plan, wouldn’t it make sense to occasionally (or ultimately, after a transitional phase, always) play the entire slate of games between two teams in one trip?  Do the Oilers really need to make the 1367 mile flight from Edmonton to Los Angeles three separate times throughout the season and vice versa?  One trip to play three games over the course of five nights makes more sense, adds playoff-like intensity, and allows familiarity to breed contempt.

Palpable Contempt

3. “Conference” (formerly “division”) now means something so the regular season means more…   or something…  I think…  right?  I’ll admit I can’t completely get my head around this yet but it certainly feels as though moving into an era where you always need to battle one of your closest rivals to make it past round one of the playoffs is a good thing.  With round two playoff rules yet to be announced, this may wind up being irrelevant but, for now, I’m happy to watch a league in which you’ve got to make it out of your division conference before you get to take on the rest of the league.  Note:  We’re all going to need some time to adjust to the language of this whole thing.  As fans of professional sports in North America, we’re conditioned to think of the term “conference” as a synonym for “half the league” and that doesn’t go away just because Commissioner Gary Bettman has an idea.

4. Possible (likely?) return of historic “conference” names.  When “Adams Division” is replaced by “Northeast Division,” a Canadian angel loses its wings, crashes to Earth and dies.  Even perpetually out-of-touch Bettman has to be aware of society’s obsession with nostalgia.  Here’s a chance to return the Smythes and Norrises of the world to their rightful place in the daily NHL conversation.  It’s also an opportunity to put a new spin on it, honoring more recent legends like Gretzky and Orr.  If it’s Bettman alone making the decision, don’t rule out names like “Conference One” but my fingers are crossed that the Board of Governors and logic will prevail.

5. If you don’t like it, don’t worry…  it won’t last.  The NHL has spent the past 30+ years searching for a magical formula.   While this is the first adjustment since 1998, the league’s track record gives us no indication that we should think of what we’re getting now as permanent.