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The New Era takes you inside the Sabres organization, providing information on the team and the new atmosphere that is happening in the First Niagara Center.

POSTED ON Monday, 10.03.2011 / 12:27 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / THE NEW ERA
LANDSTUHL, GERMANY --- All too often in sports, the terms “hero” and “warrior” are used to describe the athletes that play the games. Whether it’s an overtime goal or a game-changing save, the media are quick to use adjectives that imply out-of-character moments in game. But after what they experienced today, you can be sure that every member of the Buffalo Sabres will never want those words used to describe them ever again.

Following their practice at SAP Arena the Sabres boarded a bus for a one-hour ride to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center that primarily treats soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. Opened in 1953, the 146-bed facility is the largest American hospital outside the United States.

For two incredibly humbling – and inspiring – hours, the players broke into several groups to tour the hospitals wards, along with the USO Wounded Warrior Center. The majority of my day was spent with a group consisting of Tyler Myers, Jochen Hecht, Tyler Ennis, Andrej Sekera and Jhonas Enroth. Together they represent five different countries (Myers is a dual Canadian/US citizen), while also being the five quietist Sabres you could possibly assemble. They are known for letting their actions speak on the ice, but not as loudly off it.

But on this day it didn’t matter how much they said or how loudly they said it. The Buffalo Sabres were a distraction, not the focus of attention.

Just their mere presence in each room was enough for these soldiers, many of whom who had no idea who they even were. To them, Myers was just some tall kid in the blue number 57 jersey. Ennis rode shotgun with Myers all day, his wavy blond hair covered up by a baseball cap. Enroth looked more like someone who had snuck into the tour, as his oversized goalie jersey tented his slight frame. Just like he is on the ice, Sekera stayed in the background for most of the day, but stepped up when the situation called for it. Hecht, the elder statesman of the group, often interjected when patients or staff had questions about hockey in Germany. He even took offense when a nurse suggested that we avoid that Autobahn during our trip. “What have you got against the Autobahn?” Hecht deadpanned, before breaking into a smile.

“Do you like hockey?” was a commonly used icebreaker question as the players entered a room, and more often than not it was Ennis starting the conversation. Each player carried hats, pucks and pictures to autograph, leaving them behind with each person they encountered – be it patients or staff. After presenting hats to five nurses, one woman yelled out “nice to meet y’all!” She admitted to me seconds later that she’d never watched a hockey game in her life, but will now cheer for the Sabres because “y’all have just been so nice to everyone today.”

As the day wore on, the players seemed to become more comfortable with not only their surroundings, but their role in this visit. As one patient put it, having the players take time out to visit them was “just the morale boost I needed today.” This seemed to loosen the group up, and the ensuing conversations became more natural and free flowing.

Their demeanor changed too. Myers would often stand back and let Ennis take the lead in each room. But during one visit when they approached a patient in an already crowded room, the 6-foot-8 Myers stuck his head above the crowd and waved at the wounded soldier sitting up in his bed across the room. A smile instantly came across his face, and he giggled at Myers, the tall kid in the hockey jersey waving at him from the doorway.

In some cases, the five shy players were even grilled by some loquacious patients worse than the media following a tough loss. “You guys ready for the season?” asked Patrick Hawco of the Marine Corps, sitting up slightly as a cast enveloped his leg. “You have been a consistent playoff team for a lot of years, is that gonna change?” The group laughed collectively, and Myers nervously answered, “Well … we really want the season to start. I think we’re gonna be good.”

Even the patients who don’t follow hockey weren’t afraid to call out the players. When the group walked into his room, a beaming Eric Tsosie looked up and asked “So what do you guys do?” A native of New Mexico, Tsosie proceeded to ask who the best players in the room were. “Well, Ennis is the best scorer in the room,” said Myers. Tsosie said he didn’t know much about hockey, then turned his laptop around to reveal the Sabres.com homepage, saying that he had been “researching stats” to check up on who might be coming in to see him. “It’s not like I have anything else to do right now,” he laughed.

Upon leaving each room, the players would all take turns shaking hands with the soldiers, while offering them thanks for their service. Prior to leaving Hawco’s room, he looked around at each player and thanked them for coming to visit him. “This has been awesome,” Hawco said. “I even got to meet Ryan Miller. He’s my hero.”

On his way out of the room, Sekera approached Hawco, shook his hand and said “Thank you sir for everything you’ve done for the country. We very much appreciate it.”

On this day, Andrej Sekera and the rest of the Buffalo Sabres had an opportunity to thank the real heroes.     

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 08.30.2011 / 2:46 PM
More than 40 former players took part in 20th annual Buffalo Sabres Alumni Golf Classic on Monday at Park Country Club. The all-day event kicked off with a shotgun start at 11 a.m. In memory of former player Rick Martin, each hole on the course was labeled “7.”  The tournament was followed by cocktails and dinner accompanied by a live and silent auction.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE TOURNAMENT

“It just goes to show that the guys that are still here, even though they’ve finished playing, they are still trying to give back and help out,” said former Sabre Rob Ray, who has been the Golf Committee Chairman for the event for the last few years. “Over the years, Larry Playfair has done a good job getting it to a level and as younger guys come in they continue to help out and it continues to grow.”

All proceeds from the Golf Classic will go to the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Family of Scholarships. The Scholarship Fund helps many students in Western New York and Southern Ontario communities who seek to further their education. The Scholarship program first began after former Sabre Brian Spencer had been killed and his wife diagnosed with cancer. Spencer’s children were being taken care of by their aunt who asked if there was anything the team did for children of alumni. The Alumni Association then started a Scholarship Program that has continued to grow.

The golf tournament is a special event for Alumni Association President Larry Playfair. Brian Spencer was from Playfair’s home town of Fort St. James, B.C., which was made up of only 2,200 people. When Spencer went on to play in the National Hockey League, he was someone Playfair looked up to. 

“To have an opportunity to say to our guys in Buffalo, ‘let’s do something for those kids’ was pretty neat,” said Playfair. “The tournament is a special thing now, because there are over 85 kids that have or are receiving money for their scholarships to go to school and it’s all because of a program we started in 1993.”

The Alumni Association now has many events over the year to raise money different organizations showing their commitment to the Buffalo Community. In addition to the Scholarship Fund, the Alumni Association has provided over $800,000 to various local organizations.
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POSTED ON Friday, 04.22.2011 / 3:12 PM
By Scott Miner - Manager of Digital Media / THE NEW ERA

With the series tied at two, the Sabres are back in Philadelphia for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The focus of the series has swung toward a physical style of play, and the Sabres have certainly shown a willingness and an ability to increase the intensity.  Buffalo collected 24 hits on Wednesday night with Tyler Myers leading the charge with five.

Head coach Lindy Ruff knows that intensity and physical play are what will lead his team to a victory.

“The emotion in this series has been great,” said Ruff. “I think it got ramped up a little bit, and I think it will be the guys on the ice who dictate who wins this series.”

4/22 - Lindy Ruff Pre-Game

The Sabres spent the majority of their morning skate working on the power play. Buffalo’s special teams are on opposite sides of the spectrum with its penalty kill at 90.5% for the series while the man-advantage units are producing at a 15.8% (3-for-19) rate.  Perhaps the most frustrating moment of the series, in terms of special teams, was the five-minute power play that Buffalo had in the third period of Wednesday night’s game. The Sabres started the final period with the man advantage after Flyers captain Mike Richards was assessed a major penalty for elbowing. The Sabres struggled to get anything going, managing just two shots during the power play and had trouble gaining entry into the Philadelphia zone for stretches of time. 

Look for defenseman Jordan Leopold to make a return to Buffalo’s power play. Ruff stated this morning that Leopold would get an opportunity to make a return to the special teams tonight.

Flyers forwards Andreas Nodl and Jeff Carter are listed as day-to-day with injuries according to NHL.com.  Defenseman Chris Pronger did participate in the morning skate for Philadelphia and remained on the ice for several minutes after, shooting pucks at the empty net. His status still remains day-to-day as Head Coach Peter Laviolette refused to comment on any changes to his lineup.

4/22 - Peter Laviolette Pre-Game

The game is set for 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on MSG, TSN and Versus. Follow all the play-by-play with Twitter.com/SabresDotCom and check back after the game for post-game reactions from players, coaches and more!

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 1:07 PM
By Scott Miner - Manager of Digital Media / THE NEW ERA
Patrick Kaleta & Jhonas Enroth discuss the game at center ice at the Nationwide Arena. (Photo: Sabres.com)

After last night's emotional overtime win, the Buffalo Sabres have clinched a spot in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Technically speaking, they clinched the spot once the game was tied at the end of regulation, but the extra point was the icing on the cake. Following the game, the team headed out to Columbus where it’ll wrap up the regular season tonight when they take on the Blue Jackets.

Buffalo had a team meeting and video session this morning prior to a handful of players taking the ice. Last night's heroes, Nathan Gerbe and Thomas Vanek, were on the ice for the optional skate along with forward Patrick Kaleta, whose status for the game tonight was not confirmed.

“Pat has had two regular practice and strength wise, he’s getting close. And he wants to play, but I don’t think he’s physically where he was before the injury happened.”
Head Coach Lindy Ruff discussing Patrick Kaleta

Full Lindy Ruff Interview

Defenseman Andrej Sekera and forward Mike Grier have not been cleared to play and will miss tonight’s season finale.

A familiar face will be on the opposing bench tonight as blueliner Craig Rivet suits up for what could possibly be his last NHL game. Rivet was claimed off waivers by Columbus on February 26 and has played in 13 games for the Blue Jackets, tallying one goal and a plus/minus of -7. Rivet came to Buffalo in the summer of 2008 when he signed as a free agent. He played 165 games for the Sabres totaling 42 points (4+38) and 237 penalty minutes.

Don’t forget to tune into MSG tonight at 6:30 for the pregame show and follow all the action with the live updates on Twitter.com/SabresDotCom
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.29.2011 / 2:34 PM
By Scott Miner - Manager of Digital Media / THE NEW ERA
It's game day in the Great White North and the Sabres and Maple Leafs are closing out the 2010-11 season series between one another.  The Sabres are 3-2-0 this year against Toronto after dropping the most recent game by a score of 4-3 in Toronto. This game has all sorts of playoff implications as both teams need the win.

The Sabres are sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 85 points. A win tonight would put them at 87 points and potentially in a three-way tie with Montreal and the New York Rangers for the six, seven and eight spots. Montreal is playing host to the Atlanta Thrashers, so Buffalo will still have a game in-hand on the Habs at the conclusion of tonight's games.  The Rangers, who will be in Buffalo to face the Sabres tomorrow night in another huge showdown, are off tonight and will have the same number of games played as the Sabres after tonight.

"Anytime you can eliminate a team its nice... you have less teams chasing you, less teams on your heals." - Forward Brad Boyes on taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are on the outside looking in and need a win tonight to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot.  Sitting in the 10th spot with 78 points, Toronto could move within five points of a playoff spot with a win, or fall to 11th place with a loss and an Atlanta win.

Sabres forward Mike Grier skated with the team this morning, but his status for the night remains in question. Head coach Lindy Ruff commented that Grier will be a game-time decision.

In other injury news, Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold did not make the trip due to a hand injury. Leopold was scheduled to meet with a specialist on Monday, however, missed that appointment as he came down with the flu. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, 24, was recalled from Portland (AHL) and participated in practice yesterday and today's morning skate. The 2005 third round selection was leading all AHL defenseman in assists (48) and points (60) at the time of his recall.

Fun Fact: Since 2005-06, the Sabres are 29-11-1 against the Maple Leafs.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.16.2011 / 3:24 PM
By Scott Miner - Manager of Digital Media / THE NEW ERA
I was hoping to write this blog a bit a sooner than today but the past couples of days have been a complete whirlwind.

Click here to check out highlights
It all started on Saturday night as the Bandits took down the Boston Blazers in a thrilling 12-10 game at HSBC Arena. If you’ve never been to a Bandits lacrosse game, I strongly recommend it. John Tavares, a living legend in the box lacrosse world, scored four goals and added two assists for a six-point night while goalie Mike Thompson turned away 40 shots en route to his sixth win of the year. As always, the crowd in “Banditland” was electric and the atmosphere is more of a party than a professional sports game.

Sunday started off as a regular Sabres game day and while preparing for the face-off, a co-worker stopped by to tell me the tragic news regarding Rick Martin. Hearing the news, it was like time stopped and I went from a game preparation mode to designing a graphic to announce that a legend in the hockey world and a Buffalo sports icon had passed on. I really don’t know what to say to follow this other than it is a loss, both to the Sabres and to the community.

Following all of that up was a 6-4 win over Ottawa and a 1-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last night. The loss on Tuesday night put the Sabres back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 12 games left to play, which should make for a very interesting final month of hockey at HSBC Arena.

Don’t forget that this weekend (March 17-20) is the 2011 Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend and NHL legends Dominik Hasek, Grant Fuhr, Willie O’Ree and Scotty Bowman will all be in attendance. Also, Lil’ Wayne will be performing at the Arena on Friday - tickets are still available.
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POSTED ON Friday, 03.11.2011 / 4:51 PM
By Scott Miner - Manager of Digital Media / THE NEW ERA
Welcome to the first entry of “The New Era.” If you are a frequent visitor to Sabres.com, you’ll know that “Sly Notes” is Kevin Sylvester’s take on the NHL and “Beyond the Boards” is a look inside Sabres hockey. This blog will be something a bit different. This blog will focus on the happenings at HSBC Arena. With a new owner comes change and we want to make sure that the fans are in-the-loop with what is going on at the Arena. So let’s get right to it.

The team returned to Buffalo today following a road trip that started back on February 28 and found that a number of changes had occurred at HSBC Arena, particularly in the Sabres’ dressing room.

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The brushed aluminum locker room door that use to be adorned with a large “B” with a sword running through has been removed and replaced with a blue and gold, 3-D, old school Sabres logo.

The main entrance of the room used to be dominated by a “Slug” logo, but now features a picture of the French Connection adjacent to the players’ stick rack.

Opposite of the stick rack is a glass plaque with Terry Pegula’s now famous quote from his introductory press conference:

“From this point forward, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup.”

And most notably, the old carpet inside the Sabres’ locker room has been removed and replaced with a large blue field with the team’s crest prominently featured in the center. The outer rim of the carpet is a new silver color.

Other subtle changes around the arena include replacing old logos with the new primary logo, including on the doors of the Sabres’ main offices.

A number of other changes are in store for the players and the fans, so make sure to check back often as we update this blog with what is going on at HSBC Arena.

Cheers!
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