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Vulgar Opinions: The Shine Is Off Pegulaville (NSFW)

01/01/12
by

I’m probably over a month late on this, but ah what the hell.

Oh how we all long for the excitement, how we long for those budding moments when Tom Golisano gave The Buffalo News one last chance to make asses of themselves with him and Larry Quinn before they’d have a chance to make new asses of themselves with Terry Pegula and Ted Black.  Those moments are gone…and what do we have left?

We have a team that seems no better than it was at this point last year.  There seems, on the surface, to be a ton of talent there, but they have yet to put it together, save for two games in Europe.  And really I think the blame for that rests on the shoulders of a few of the players more than anything, but eventually that works its way upwards as Pegula’s calmness and desire to not panic slowly morphs into Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

But we’re left with a few things that we never had before; hope and a trust in the men and women making the decisions.  Pegula and Black, I believe, have the guts to do some bold things to make the team better.  They’re not afraid to go after the guys they want, and I have to think they’re also not afraid to admit that some of their plan isn’t working and to reevaluate accordingly.

That’s the hockey side of things.  There is…so much more.

People were really excited about the changes to the Arena.  Updating the paint scheme to blue and gold is exactly the kind of simple change that the old administration seemed too incompetent to ever do.  It makes the arena look really nice.  Unfortunately the updates to other parts of the arena, namely the vendor signs, make it feel a bit impersonal.  I often feel like I’m walking through a plaza full of law firms, orthodontists, and insurance agencies.  It has that kind of cold corporate atmosphere.  The locker room is stunning no doubt, but all it does is make the First Niagara Center a nice place to be, not an intimidating place for opponents to play.  What about the visitors’ locker room?  Can we make it an eye-melting neon pink?  Or put Lindy Ruff’s eight foot tall face on the walls?  Anything to make opponents feel a little weird, right?  How about making it as close to violating New York State code as possible?

Which brings me to the next item, the atmosphere at the arena.  It’s terrible.  You can blame the team if you want, but there are worse teams in worse markets with better crowds.  The music is the same kind of generic crap that’s played in a thousand other buildings, there is no identity unique to the Sabres, the intermission presentations kill the crowd, the opening and the post-goal theatrics feel like they’re crammed with too many things, and aside from a crappy cycle of scores on the video ribbon, you’d never know there was anything else going on in the hockey world.  For a community that’s very passionate and intelligent about hockey, the arena staff treats us like idiots.  I will ask this question to the ownership directly: Ownership, why don’t you play Amerks highlights on the jumbotron when they’re playing at the same time?  Most of these players (as we’re finding out this year), will eventually wear a Sabres uniform.  Watching them do well excites us.  We’re not idiots you know.  Also, is it a crime to show more NHL highlights?  You know what also gets the crowd excited?  Watching video of our rivals losing.

To me the changes that have been made so far are starting to feel more superficial than anything.  We have urinal beer shelves and warm water in the bathrooms…yippee.  Our post-goal celebration is a mess.  RJ does not belong there, he belongs when the goal is announced.  We need a goal song, one that is unique to Buffalo and that we can call our own.  We need to give fans a reason to get excited about being in the building, to feel like every night they’re there is special.  And we need to reach out to the variety of cultures in Buffalo, to show that the team embraces everyone and wants them to be a part of something special.  Right now it just feels ordinary.

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