Numerous tidbits of new information were released today during a two-hour-long Sabres.com chat with team president Ted Black.
The chat focused on a number of topics, including arena renovations and training camp details, as well as what fans can expect in the season ahead.
As previously known, training camp opens for the players on September 16. Practices will take place at the Northtown Center on September 17 and 18, with the first practice at First Niagara Center on September 19th – also the day of the first preseason game.
September 19 has also been christened Slug Appreciation Day. Fans who wear slug merchandise will receive a 41% discount on similar merchandise with new logos on it. (Note: The team is not doing a ‘trade-in’ or accepting the old merchandise. Simply wear it and you receive a discount for new items.)
An evening practice will be held on September 28 and will be open to the public for those who work or are otherwise unavailable during the day. Game day practices during the regular season will remain free and open to the public.
On October 8, as the Sabres take on the Kings in Berlin, there will be a “Pucktoberfest” held at the FNC. This will include German and European fare, and the game will be televised on the big screens at 2 p.m.
A Party in the Plaza will be held before the home opener, and a Labatt party tent will be open for the first 500 fans at each game during the season.
For arena updates, Black said that the locker room renovations are going well. No tours are expected to be offered this year, due to time constraints. The large slug logos have now been removed from the Jumbotron, and will soon be replaced by traditional logos and First Niagara signage. All restrooms now have televisions in them, and men’s restrooms have a “beverage shelf” above the urinals.
Although there was question about possibly expanding the arena to include up to 22,000 seats, Black said there are no plans for expansion, and simply not enough room to add more seats.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes will be a new mural for when fans enter the arena. Three years later, say goodbye to the vision of the 2008 Winter Classic – finally! Finally, team store renovations are expected to be the next task at hand.
Preseason games will not be televised, with the exception of the home game against the Maple Leafs on September 24, which will be the Toronto feed. Contractual obstacles prevent the team from televising the remainder of the games, though Black said he will work on this for next season.
Fans can also expect increased social media use from the team. The Sabres will continue to utilize Facebook and Twitter to receive fan suggestions for song selections during games.
Black said that he is working on getting the Sabres in line to host the All Star Game, and that he would also be interested in hosting the NHL draft. The Winter Classic, however, would likely have to make several stops in other cities before the league would return it to Buffalo.
Although the team does not plan to do an alumni appreciation night every year, the final game of the season will still be known as Fan Appreciation Night. A similar alumni event is being planned for the Rochester Americans’ home opener, to celebrate and acknowledge those in the team’s history.
Old locker stalls, as well as the slug logos from around the arena, may be auctioned off on the Internet for charity, although this is still in the planning stages. The idea of a Sabres carnival is being considered for the future, although it will not happen this season, due to arena renovations and the team trip to Europe.
Black has scheduled two more upcoming Sabres.com chats, on Friday, September 16 at 11 a.m. and Wednesday, September 21 at 2 p.m.