As the Buffalo Sabres prepare to enter the 2016-2017season, there are certainly some components – both on and off-ice – that could use some changes or improvements. I decided to sit down and think about what I’d like to see from the team this season and moving forward. Here is my short ‘wish list’ for off-ice upgrades the Sabres should consider.

5. More giveaways

This is one category that I’ve thought the Sabres needed to ramp up for several years. The Sabres seem pretty low on giveaways during the season, especially when you consider some other NHL teams. Fan Appreciation Night has included giveaways to selected fans in the form of the “Jersey off the Backs,” and “Rowards,” but I’m talking about regular giveaways throughout the season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins deserve credit; they are a great example. They have a solid promotional schedule already released for the upcoming season, with giveaways ranging from team calendars to yearbooks, and include caps, trading cards, banners, magnets and t-shirts. Each giveaway has a presenting partner, something the Sabres could certainly swing, and all in all, 12 of 41 Penguins home games this year have a giveaway at the door.

Why can’t the Sabres do something similar? I’m not talking about handing out those paper/plastic pom-poms from a few years ago during the playoffs (anyone else remember those?) and I’m not talking about handing out free jerseys to everyone either – just a happy middle ground.

The announcement of a DJ Kool performance in the Party in the Plaza prior to the home opener is awesome. While I don’t think the team needs to throw in a ton of gimmicks to attract fans, because people are going to come one way or the other, but it is nice to see some new things happening. It’s like “Fan Appreciation Night”…but, more than once a season.

4. Continue with Beyond Blue & Gold… and more.

As soon as the Sabres premiered their series of “Beyond Blue & Gold,” a lot of fans were hooked.  The video series is a great behind-the-scenes look at the team and its inner workings. It lets people get an inside glance at the draft room and learn more about players’ lives, for example.

All I’m asking is that they don’t stop. Keep this series going! It’s fantastic.

Just a few ideas of things I’d like to see:

- An episode surrounding Rick Jeanneret
- Feature on Sam Reinhart
- Prospects-themed episode (AHL/etc.)
- Episode surrounding Robin Lehner

3. Find more & better ways to acknowledge fans that don’t live in Buffalo.

This has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. The previous Buffalo Sabres Fan Advantage mobile app offered lots of neat rewards, but if you weren’t a season ticket holder, it seemed pretty difficult to ever actually earn anything substantial. Even watching on TV and entering the broadcast codes wasn’t quite enough.

The new My OneBuffalo app sounds a little better in theory, but it hasn’t fully launched yet (at least not the Sabres part) and only time will tell if it’s actually any improvement.

Yes, the Sabres occasionally have fan events in other cities before games. But I still don’t think that’s enough; especially when you’ve got the team’s official Twitter account answering a question of “How can we watch this scrimmage?” with “Get tickets!” without even bothering to consider that the person may not live in the area.

Sabres fans are…. well, pretty much everywhere, it seems. Let’s all put our brains together & figure out some better ways to connect with the ones who *aren’t* in the 716.

2. Hockey 101 for new fans

Another thing I’d like to see the Sabres do would be to introduce some sort of “Hockey 101” series. Right now, the Sabres do have a section of their website with this theme, including definitions of some basic hockey terms and the like.

But why not expand this into some in-person events? Invite fans who are interested to come down to KeyBank Center, offer them a tour of the facility, and then have some informal, friendly meetings? They could range from lessons on the basics of hockey (basic terminology & plays, etc.) to more in-depth lessons. Players, coaches, and staff could come out and talk to the people. If you really want to stick with the “brand,” have the event at (716) Food & Sport.

Here’s the way I see it: you need to find a nice balance between trying to attract & show appreciation for new fans and respecting those fans who have been around a while. A Hockey 101 series of events could be a great way to reach that demographic of people who might want to get into the sport but have a hard time finding a way in. Provide a light, non-judgmental environment for newcomers to learn. Please, take a lesson from the mistakes of teams like the NY Islanders. For the love of all that is good, market the series properly. DON’T market it as an event ‘just for women’ or ‘for the boys.’

1. Acknowledge the Black & Red era.

For a while now, I’ve seen many fans online hoping the Sabres will do something to commemorate or recognize the black & red goathead era of the team, such as host a game night where fans are encouraged to wear their old merchandise and honor players from that time.

Just as the ‘Hockey 101’ series I mentioned earlier would target some of the newer fans, a Black & Red night would be a nice way to acknowledge some of the fans whose love for the team developed during this time in the Sabres’ history. Overall, I think this is a great idea to honor the team’s past and I would absolutely love to see the team do this sort of theme night at a game. It would be even better if the Sabres were able to bring players from that era, and play some of the old classic Jumbotron videos they used to have, because, let’s be real – who doesn’t love that old ’05-’06 intro video?

 

My personal favorite, however, remains the 2000 - 2003 “Through the City” introduction where players ‘skated’ around Buffalo. To this day…. still awesome.

 

Buffalo’s fandom is one of the deepest and most historic in professional sports, and the fans have stayed loyal throughout some of the longest droughts in the nation’s top four sports. Acknowledging the fans and the team’s history, working to offer them a more in depth look, and engaging new fans on their level are all great ways for the team to show their appreciation for our commitment.