Monday, December 08, 2008

How about the Niagara Falls Sabres?

It's a tough time to be a Buffalo sports fan. The day after the beloved Bills sold out (figuratively, anyway) by playing in Toronto a report has surfaced to suggest that the Sabers may be up for sale and that Jim Balsillie is front and centre to buy the team.

The key word there being centre, if you follow.

Half the Sabres' season-ticket base lives in Niagara anyway, right? Niagara Falls is 79 miles from the ACC in case you were wondering.

If you are really stuck on Hamilton (which would be appropriate since downtown Hamilton looks pretty much the same as downtown Buffalo), it's easier to pay off one team than two.


Dennis Prouse said...

Balsillie could also just wait to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, who are apparently heading for bankruptcy. There is also world today that the Arena Football League may fold operations as early as this week. The recession has officially hit the sports world.

The NHL is in a real pickle with the Sabres. Bettman's biggest accomplishment in the eyes of the owners has been to increase the value of their franchises. Golisano, however, is keen to sell the Sabres, and may be willing to accept far less than the recent going price for an NHL franchise. Who is the only person who might be willing to pay an artificially inflated price in order to be admitted to the club? Step right up, Jim Balsillie! Bettman is faced with a choice between accepting the re-location of a couple of franchises back to Canada, or watching franchise values plummet.

Jets fans must be giddy today. They may get their team back yet...

Duane Rollins said...

We should be so lucky. No one deserves their team back more than Winnipeg.

I don't want Buffalo to move to Canada. Buffalo has support. But, you can't deny there is a certain logic to it.

The Sabers are denying the report, as expected, by the way.

Dennis Prouse said...

As you say, that's pretty standard operating procedure. It's kind of an acceptable lie - I have seen businesses with aging inventory, slowly emptying shelves and fleeing employees publicly declare that all was well, literally hours before the bailiffs put the lock on the doors.

Perhaps the best the Sabres could hope for right now is a shared arrangement with Hamilton - perhaps 10 regular season games a year at Copps Coliseum. That sounds better than moving the team permanently.

I couldn't agree more on Jets fans - there is a big chunk of the population there who never did get over that move, and with good reason. To see the Jets name and uniform back in the League would be good for the soul. (I would LOVE to see a team back in Quebec City as well, but that would require a new building, a touch problematic in the current economic environment. Perhaps they could move into the Colisee with some kind of a commitment for a new building within five years.)

Mike Radoslav said...

I still believe that KW would be better suited than Hamilton for an NHL team - and I grew up in Hamilton! The crowd supports the Tabbies well and likely would do the same for the Sabres should they relocate, but when you see the support the Rangers get already it's clear the team would also do well further up Hwy 8.

Right now KW and Hamilton are moving in different directions, and as sad as it is to say for me I think that fortunes would be better suited if a team set up in KW - or to work as an inbetween, maybe built an arena somewhere in Cambridge to appease both cities.

Despite all this Toronto would likely be better suited than either, and could support another team. However regardless what happens Bettman does need to move teams north of the border in my opinion.

Dennis Prouse said...

Mike - I don't think Bettman is going to have much of a choice. Moving franchises north is the only thing he can do to prevent values from cratering. In fact, he had better act quickly, as events could be starting to get away from him already. I know it appears unrelated, but just look at how quickly the death of the Arena League crept up on everyone. Bettman is no dummy, and you can be sure he is working the phones and trying to stay on top of everyone's financial situations, but he may end up being the last one to know if a team goes under.

Mike Radoslav said...

No I agree, unfortunately Bettman just appears so stubborn to me I really will be waiting until I see it with my own eyes ;) I agree he is no dummy but he's sticking so firmly to his plan to expand the game in th States (and the South specifically) that I do hope he finally responds to reason and brings troubled teams back to Canada soon! As you stated above, he doesn't have much of a choice at all really at this point.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

A big part of it is how such a move would be perceived, though. For better or for worse, Bettman has tied his personal legacy to trying to break through in the Southern U.S. (to varying degrees of success). Thus, any relocation to Canada is a personal loss of face for him, and I think that's the biggest obstacle in the way. Also, look at how the American media would perceive it (i.e. Greg Wyshynski, who got mad about any talk of Phoenix struggling and dismissed relocation as merely jingoistic sabre-rattling (no pun intended). He's not alone in the American sports media; moving teams to Canada would look like a massive loss of prestige from their side of the border, even if it made economic and financial sense.

D said...

The possible death of Arena Football should scare the crap out of puck fans. It's another gate-driven league, no TV revenue, but no crazy "big league" salaries either. It has been more profitable than hockey in the past, and if Arena Football is truly a "canary in the coalmine", then we shall soon see if players really are willing to play for love of the game. A number of teams may fold and salaries will plummet.