September 24, 2005
by Brian Wheeler
Rochester has been good for the Buffalo Sabres, and the team is trying desperately to pay the Flower City back. Friday night, the Sabres conducted the team's first practice in Rochester this season at the Thomas Creek Ice Arena in Fairport, N.Y. Increasing fan support in the area is considered vital for the growth of the Sabres.
"It's real exciting to be back," stated assistant coach Brian McCutcheon, who recorded a 128-82-9 record as head coach of the Rochester Americans. "This is a great market for the Sabres as everybody knows. Mr. Golisano is making every attempt to reach out to this area."
"I think it's great that they are more accessible," stated Sabres fan and Rochester resident, Andy Prinzing, who attended Friday night's practice. "I'm looking forward to the season to start."
Separated by just 80 miles, Buffalo and Rochester has been linked for years by hockey, the Rochester Americans and Buffalo Sabres, and the of course, the Thruway.
"Obviously, it's such a prime market to consider since it's such as easy buzz down the highway, as Tom Golisano himself has pointed out," stated play-by-play announcer, Rick Jeanneret. "He drives himself in for every game and doesn't take a fancy limousine or anything like that; he just zips down the highway."
"Once the team has a chance to practice a little more in Rochester and play a few games here, which is going to happen in the preseason and regular season, they will start to build up a great relationship that will only get better as time goes on."
Following the two practices this weekend, the team will return to Rochester on Friday, September 30, to face the Minnesota Wild in a 7:30 p.m. preseason game at Blue Cross Arena.
On Wednesday, October 26, Buffalo will once again return to Rochester to face-off against the Washington Capitals in an NHL regular season game at the War Memorial.
"I thought it was a better environment than seeing the games in Buffalo," said Prinzing of the Sabres regular season game played in Rochester against the New Jersey Devils during the 2003-04 season. "The (Blue Cross Arena) was packed and it was a really festive environment."
Jeanneret couldn't have agreed more with Prinzing's assessment.
"I can tell you that when we played the regular season game here two years ago, it was wild," stated Jeanneret. "It was absolutely nuts. They had to open the doors early that night because there were so many people out on the streets waiting to get in."
"That was a great night and I would imagine that it is going to be the same thing this year."