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3 Reasons It’s Awesome The Farm Team Is (Likely) Coming Home, & 1 Reason It Sucks

05/18/11
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The story spread like wildfire yesterday to the delight of WNY hockey fans: Terry Pegula is in the middle of negotiating a purchase of the Rochester Americans from Curt Styres. Putting the nostalgia that comes with being 3 years removed from a 29 year affiliation aside, there are three awesome reasons for re-affiliation…and one reason that sucks.

Hit the jump for the list.

Filed Under ‘Awesome’:
Convenience
Buffalo and Portland are 9 hours and 40 minutes from each othe, by car. Buffalo and Rochester are only 90 minutes apart. The ability to call up and send down prospects becomes exponentially easier after re-affiliation, not to mention the ability to monitor the goings-on down on the farm as well. Regier will be able to make a couple of trips up to the BCA a week by car rather than maybe once a month by plane. Simply put, increased visibility and increased convenience = good.

Unification
Nothing against the well-run, first-class AHL organization that is the Portland Pirates, but Pegula buying the Amerks would give Darcy Regier’s hockey operations staff complete control over all phases of the on-ice product like never before. The team would likely have a general manager and coaching staff appointed by Regier with advisement from Ruff so that a singular vision of player development could be put in place. This ties back in with convenience as well.

Regionalism
Ted Black made it clear in a radio interview with Brad Riter that the Sabres are seeking to establish a strong regional presence. Part of that is appealing to the fans across the border. Most of it lies with bringing the 585′s passion for hockey back to where it once was. Buying and re-affiliating with the Amerks would certainly do that. It would re-energize the scene in Rochester, which had grown stagnant at best after dealing with a team made up of prospects culled from a parent club known and mocked for its terrible drafting practices.

Fans in Rochester are already clamoring for a Sabres/Amerks reunion and rightfully so. It’s a lot easier to care about the quality and development of players you’ll be watching in the winter when they’re drafted by and eventually play for a team that sets up shop in the next area code over and not on the opposite side of the Mason-Dixon Line. On the flip side, Sabres fans are excited about the possibility of seeing the farm team play a short trip up the 90 whereas airfare and hotel money was required to see the Pirates play at home.

Filed Under ‘Sucks’:
Divorce…Again
From a chat I had with Chris Roy from Maine Hockey Journal:

How do Pirates fans seem to feel about the affiliation with the Sabres?
The fan base here will follow a player to Buffalo and watch more intently there which something is rather new because with Anaheim there was 3 hr time difference and there wasn’t a real connection. People might watch Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but that’s it. Even when the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup it didn’t generate a lot of buzz, but I’ve heard people buying NHL CI just to watch the Sabres so they can see Gerbe, Weber, Ennis, Gragnani, Enroth and the list keeps on going. They are buying the gear, traveling to Boston to see the Sabres or even make trips to Buffalo. The Sabres are creating and building a marketplace on the east coast.

In three short years, a city of fans who rooted for the Bruins at the NHL level started to sway their allegiance to their home town team’s parent organization. Now, they’re likely to go through the feeling-out process yet again as the Pirates seek a new affiliation if the Sabres were to nullify their own.

The nature of the NHL/AHL affiliation process is one that is strictly business, but we can’t forget that people do get attached emotionally to their team and its players. It plain sucks to be a Portland fan excited for Zack Kassian next season only to find out that he or she probably won’t be rooting for him after all, but likely against him.

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