Now that the sale of the Rochester Americans to the Buffalo Sabres has been finalized we can begin discussing what is needed for the Rochester Americans to again be a successful team on and off the ice. There are many people that believe simply being associated with the Sabres again will guarantee a return to a packed barn. Yes, many fans will likely return but there’s more to it than that.
Fans of NHL hockey may not fully understand that American Hockey League teams have their own identity in many cities and they are about more than just “player development.” Our teams NEED to win. We demand more than just development (here we’re about us, not you up there, don’t take it personally). Games need to be won. Playoff games need to be won. Championships need to be won. Not just players developing.
Yes, it’s a “development league” but as stated above it’s more than that. If the only reason was for development the tickets would be free, the games would hold no meaning and players wouldn’t be tortured with long overnight bus rides.
So, here’s a list of our expectations (some reasonable, some maybe not so much to an outsider). We’d be happy to sit down in person to discuss them further at any time! Terry Pegula, Ted Black or Darcy Regier get in touch at any time.
It’s also worth noting that this list of expectations would go to any NHL affiliate not just the Sabres.
- We demand WINNING. Yes, development needs to happen but WINNING needs to be the top priority. A winning team and winning environment is something that will follow a player through their career. Ask any player who has won a Calder Cup in the AHL and they’ll tell you how it was one of their best moments in life. Ask a player off the record who has been on one of the miserable teams the past five years and they’ll say how they couldn’t wait to get out.
- Keep Jody Gage on as General Manager of the Amerks (or some other role assuming he wants to stay). He knows the city, knows the sport and has a history. He also wants to win as much as anyone else.
- 3-4 top notch veteran players. Young players can’t develop on their own. Skilled veterans for them to play alongside will help further their development and give a championship team the leadership it needs. American Hockey League teams are allowed five veterans (no limits to pro games played) and one exempt veteran (under 320 pro games played).
- Trade deadline bolstering. Not always a guarantee but by the time the trade deadline comes around teams know which players have potential for a future in the organization and which ones do not. They also know what is needed to help a team through injuries or callups to the NHL playoffs. Stocking players a head of time is a benefit to everything.
- This is the Rochester Americans, can we keep the Sabres logo’s off of the jerseys, ice, boards and anywhere else inside the playing area? Some Sabres fans will say, “but they’re in the Sabres system.” You are correct, but they’re playing for the Rochester Americans. The focus should be on success with the team they are with, that will get them to where they want to go. It will also help to show that this team is in Rochester, NY. Rochester is a city on its own, it’s not a suburb of Buffalo and civic pride in the team will go a long way.
- All of the supposed THOUSANDS of fans who supposedly departed when the Sabres departed better be back for every home game even if the team is in last place in the league. Yes Sabres fans, we’re calling you out here. You said you stopped going because of this so prove it (and for more than five games in a season).
- The value must remain for season ticket holders. Curt Styres and company have done a lot of work building value back into the cost of an Amerks ticket after years of free giveaways. Someone who pays for premium seats doesn’t want to show up and find out the person next to them has been getting free tickets all season.
- Get SMG out of Blue Cross Arena. Nothing else needs to be said.
- Don Stevens must stay (assuming he wants to) as play by play announcer. It would not be acceptable for him to be replaced. I think that’s a no brainer he’ll stay but just wanted to toss it out there.
- Bring back Fred Costello to play good old fashioned organ music during home games.
- Embrace Amerks alumni. The list of Rochester Americans alumni is massive but rarely heard from for whatever reason. Part of what we plan to do this season is start catching up with those players but it’d be cool to see more Sabres/Amerks alumni games.
I’m sure these things will spur a discussion as they should and look forward to thoughts and comments! This should be a great thing for Western New York hockey in general.