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Things That Cross Your Mind When Nuttin’s Happening

08/02/11

Fans in HSBC Arena plaza

A couple of developments this week have my thoughts turning towards Sabres fans right now.

The first was my brother deciding to choose a team to follow in the English Premier League.  After some careful consideration, he fell on Liverpool.  This resulted in a couple of things.  One, Phil was happy to have welcomed another person to the party.  Second, when he started to look up blogs to follow about his new club, he was instantly inundated with tweets from other Liverpool fans, saying hello and advising on who & what to follow online.

So the question occurred to both him and me:  Are Sabres fans like this? 


Now, there are obviously differences between the franchises in question.  One has been around since 1892, and has won 18 league titles.  The other is 40 years old, and has made the final round of league playoffs exactly…twice.  Needless to say, there is a whole lot more tradition AND winning going on with the Reds.  People without previous ties are gonna swarm to that like bees to honey.  You’d think fans wouldn’t have a need or care to roll out the welcome wagon for a newbie in that scenario.

Now the Sabres.  In my lifetime, they’ve been the “it” team to root for roughly 6 months.  Otherwise, they’ve been just another team in the NHL.  Never truly awful for any great stretch of time, but never truly great for that long either.  No titles.  Small market.  You know all this.  As a result, you’d think if the word out there on the Twitter was that somebody was thinking of claiming the Sabres as their own to root for, there would be an all-out blitz by the Twitterati to bring them onboard.  We’re City of Good Neighbor’s after all.  Pull up a chair.

Also, Monday was the referendum in Nassau County on a proposal to borrow $400 million to build the New York Islanders a new arena, plus other attractions.  It got voted down – boy did it get voted down.  I have to think that there are still lots of Islander fans out there.  But after more than a decade of ineptness on and off the ice, they have been pummeled into either fiscal sanity (Nassau Co. is considered one of the highest taxed areas of the country) or indifference (voter turnout was around 100,000).  Whichever, it’s anybody’s guess what happens now with the franchise when the lease at the coliseum expires in 2015.

The story on Long Island got me thinking on a “What if…” scenario.  Remember the days of bankruptcy and half-empty buildings around here?  Well, what if that had occurred while the team was still playing in Memorial Auditorium and was trying to secure public financing for a new building?  What would the popular opinion be around these parts?  Would Sabres fans been vocal in support, or shrug and yawn?  Would HSBC Arena have gotten built, helping to keep the team?  Or would Buffalo have become another Winnipeg, getting the building only after losing its franchise & having to wait for another to become available to move back to the Queen City?

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