Amerks Sale to Sabres Still Has Hurdles

No one has their finger on the pulse of the Amerks more than Kevin Oklobzija of the Democrat and Chronicle and he laid out some details in Sundays paper titled, “Much needs to happen before Buffalo Sabres buy Rochester Americans.”

It’s certainly something that seems to have kicked the “buzz” in the shins about the potential of the two teams reuniting.  The negotiations are likely pretty intense as both owners, Curt Styres and Terry Pegula, are smart businessmen who have a desire to win.  Pegula isn’t likely to give Styres a blank check and ask what he wants for the franchise but he’s also not going to overpay for a sports team that has lost money for a long time.

One thing does seem to be known, the Sabres do want to buy the Amerks.

Another thing that seems to be known, it’s turning out to be more complicated than originally thought.  The fact that the front office handles business for both the Rochester Americans and Rochester Knighthawks.  Pegula would be buying the Amerks, not the Knighthawks.  The Amerks and Knighthawks have always been associated, there was likely never a plan in place to split them apart if needed.

Some guesses about what is being negotiated:

How will advertising revenue’s inside of the arena be split up?

How will the front office work?  Styres would likely want to keep some of the front office to help sell the Knighthawks but the Amerks use the building a lot more.

Is all of the production equipment in the building owned by Blue Cross Arena?  Is it shared between the Amerks and Knighthawks?  If so, does one then have to rent from the other?

The Sabres and Portland Pirates still have an affiliation agreement and would likely to require a payout to break the contract.  Is that something deducted from the purchase price of the Amerks so it happens?  Is that an out of pocket expense for Pegula?

I’d love to think of a scenario/affiliation with a team other than the Sabres where interest would increase and the buzz would stick around and have people excited for hockey games but that just doesn’t seem to exist.

Curt Styres has worked hard trying to build a fan base again but the losing teams have derailed just about everything.

“It takes a long time and a winning product to cultivate a fan base,” said Peter Psyllos, owner of The Distillery on Mount Hope Avenue, a sponsor of the Amerks since the 1980s. “We witnessed a gradual decline of the Amerks’ fan base when the Sabres left.

“We applaud Terry Pegula for his support of western New York and if this deal comes together, we feel it will be great for the Rochester area.”

The decline of the Amerks fan base took a nose dive when the dual affiliation between the Sabres and Panthers began in 2005.  It was post NHL lockout hockey and as the Sabres were playing winning hockey the excitement shifted away from the Amerks.

Rory Fitzpatrick is more involved than just about anyone else with the local hockey community and shared this with the D&C:

“It just seems like the Amerks have become a non-issue since the Sabres left,” said former Amerk and Sabres defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick, a lifelong Irondequoit resident.

“I was with both teams (when the roster was stocked by Sabres, and then the Panthers) and the excitement just wasn’t there when Buffalo left. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, ‘It looks like I’ll be going to Amerk games again.'”

I’ve heard the same things everywhere I have gone.  When someone see’s the Amerks logo on my car window it’s now an instant conversation starter.

Towards the end of the season Lewis Staats had made a comment saying that after three years they would look at how the business was doing and what the potential of the business is.  There seems to be potential as they’ve increased revenue through ticket sales and also built business relationships, but they have to be asking how many more years it’ll take to start turning profits.

The D&C article and all of the other unknowns seem to be complicating things and it all paints a doom and gloom type of scenario where negotiations could run out of time for the 2011-2012 season.

I can’t imagine Styres wants to spend a lot of time and hard work on a fourth straight money losing season.  I can imagine Pegula wants to build hockey even bigger in Western New York and use the Amerks as part of that rather than them being a competitor.

Here’s hoping we’ll all here the news we want to hear before July 1st so that when free agency begins every hockey fan can watch the Sabres begin building a Stanley Cup winning team and the Amerks get the right parts needed to win a Calder Cup.