Q&A WITH PRESIDENT TED BLACK
Recently, Sabres President Ted Black took the time to answer some questions from SabresFans.com. Sabres fans from all over the globe participate on the site's message board and game night chat room and compiled quite the list of questions for Black. A partial list of questions & answers are below or visit SabresFans.com for the full article.
AF: How did you get involved in hockey?
TNB: I never played hockey. That may turn off some purists and I respect that perspective. That said, I have been intimately involved with the business of hockey since 1999. I got my start when I met Ken Sawyer at a Christmas party in 1998. He had just left the NHL and I helped him with a couple of projects. In September 1999 he asked me to consider working with him at the Penguins. As Woody Allen said, "the key to life is showing up." And in my case, I showed up at a Christmas party.
AF: Do you see similarities in the markets of Buffalo and Pittsburgh? What are the differences?
TNB: The people are similar - proud, kind and passionate. With regard to hockey, I believe Buffalo is a stronger market because hockey is so entwined with the fabric of the community. It is part of who we are and extends to men, women, kids, grandparents, dogs and cats. In Pittsburgh, football enjoys the same cultural significance.
Drew from Buffalo - As you no doubt have discovered, we fans of the Sabres have taken your "Hockey Heaven" comment to heart, and many of us feel there has not been a more apt description of our little city. If you could, please briefly explain what elements of our team, community, and fandom prompted you to give us such a great new label!
TNB: Hi Drew, thanks for taking the time to ask a question. When I uttered the phrase, "Buffalo is Hockey Heaven," I spoke from my heart. Our team is not miles away from a Cup. The pieces are here. It might not happen next year, but it will happen. No city deserves it more. No city will cherish it more. And no city will celebrate it more.
Ross in Perry, NY - First of all, I'd like to thank you for you willingness to listen to fan suggestions! The changes you and Mr. Pegula have made so far are fantastic! I'm curious to know who your favorite hockey team and player was growing up? Also, if you were to wear a current Sabres player jersey to a game, who's would it be?
TNB: Thanks Ross. Listening to fans (customers) is the foundation of any successful business and talking with all of you is one of the reasons I love my job and this city. My favorite team was the Penguins and favorite player was Mario. I am blessed that ML and I became and remain friends and we stay in touch. He is a better person than he ever was a hockey player. As for the Sabres, I have an affinity for Nathan Gerbe. I love his heart and hustle on the ice and he is a good person outside the arena. The fact that my youngest son shares the same first name probably helps too.
Jim, aka Milo (Kyiv, Ukraine) - Let me echo many others in thanking you and Mr. Pegula for what you have done so far, and what you seem poised to do to improve the team we love in the off season. (Let's go deep into the playoffs first, of course!) Will the Sabres play more weekend afternoon games? Does the team have any say in the scheduling of these games? Those of us in Europe have to choose between sleep and watching games - it's nice to get a few where we can have both!
TNB: Hi Jim. So glad to see that the Sabres Nation extends into several continents. With regard to afternoon games, we are looking into it. The first draft of the schedule has not yet come out, but I am looking to minimize the number of back to backs. Given the popularity of the party on the plaza it would be cool to do some afternoon games with outdoor parties on the plaza. We will consider family friendly times on weekends. We do have a say in the process and the NHL works hard to accommodate the teams, the networks and the arena scheduling conflicts for concerts and other events. For those of you in Europe, thanks for your support and we look forward to bringing Hockey Heaven to Finland and Germany in October.
Emily in Budapest - Those of us that reside of out of the Buffalo area and rely on Center Ice to see the games have to miss pre- and post-game coverage, which is really unfortunate. Is there any way that it could be streamed online as well? I know that MSG has certain broadcasting rights, but it would be really nice to be able to see both shows--especially the pregame since its triumphant return. Thanks for everything you've done so far, and I'm really excited for the future of the Sabres with you and the Pegulas at the helm.
TNB: Hi Emily. You raise an interesting idea. I had not considered streaming the pre/post but I will look into it. You are a great example of one of my favorite sayings "all of us are smarter than any of us."
Bill in Grand Island - I'd like to know what ownership's philosophy is on building a Cup contending team. What positions are most important? What do the Sabres lack now (assuming we don't win the Cup this year). Is it going to require a long and extensive rebuild?
TNB: Hi Bill. Great question and a difficult one to fully know the answer to with absolute certainty. This and other teams will evolve. As we sit here today, I would say that the team is built around a world class goalie and a core of very talented players that can and will form the nucleus of a Cup champion. Going into the off season, it seems like the Sabres, along with most other teams, are looking for more help at center, strong 2-way players and depth in defense. We are not rebuilding. The window to make a play for the Cup is over the next 1-3 years.
AF: Fans are leery of the "status quo" approach that has been the mantra of the Sabres for the past few years. There are a few players that have been here for several years that fans are extremely frustrated with. Can we expect to see moves and acquisitions in the offseason that will markedly improve this team? How active will the team be in the free agent market?
TNB: The status quo is our enemy. Look around. If you accept it, you cease to improve. This off season will be interesting. There are not a lot of big-name free agents. My personal belief and hope is that we will see a lot more teams making trades in and around the draft.
AF: Does Mr. Pegula want to have a say in the player personnel side of the team? What will the decision making process be like under Mr. Pegula?
TNB: Terry does not have "final say." I know that sounds weird. I don't have "final say." Darcy does not have "final say." We have a flat management team and there are and will be many voices and points of view taken into consideration. In the end, we will do whatever we need to do to win the Cup. That is the reason for the Sabres existence.
AF: Since a belief in winning is important, will the team weigh that factor when looking to acquire players? Or is it something the team thinks it can inculcate into arriving players?
TNB: Belief in winning is important. However, belief without hard work and deeds is an empty pursuit. We want players who will work hard and do the "million little things," to be a champion.