SBD/October 25, 2013/Franchises

Columnist: Sabres' Pegula Will Turn Team Around Only If Fans Stay Away

Sabres fans, while loyal, have been known to boo players off the ice this year
Sabres fans "have come to accept failure," leaving team Owner Terry Pegula under "no pressure to listen to a fan base desperate for change," according to Bucky Gleason of the BUFFALO NEWS. Sabres fans "continue whining" about GM Darcy Regier, along with "suffering, a lack of entertainment, a lack of leadership." But it "starts in Buffalo where it started in Boston, with the owner." Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs for years was "viewed as a villain in Boston." Fans who "called him a tightwad thought he was the primary obstacle between the Bruins and the Stanley Cup." While the Bruins "never released actual figures," estimates had their season-ticket base "dipping to 5,000 or less" in the years following the '04-05 lockout. Only when "an unhealthy blend of disdain and indifference showed up in gate receipts did Jacobs understand the depth of the fans' disgust," which "forced major changes, starting with the front office." Similarly, Pegula can "run the Sabres how he chooses, but fans can spend their money how they choose, too." Gleason: "Consumers wouldn't continue buying rotten vegetables from the same market, so why do Sabres fans continue coming back no matter how nauseating the product?" NHL owners "equate success to attendance," and they "equate attendance to acceptance" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/24). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the Sabres have become "yet another case study on how money doesn't always cure all in pro sports." Pegula "inherited a team that had record back-to-back seasons of 100- and 96-points and has taken it straight downward." Instead of "responding positively to the infusion of cash, the Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since." Fans' anger right now "seems largely directed at Reiger," but also seems to be "increasingly targeted at Pegula" (THESTAR.com, 10/25).

GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE
: The AP's John Wawrow wrote as if the "worst start in franchise history isn't bad enough," Sabres President Ted Black during his weekly show on WGR-AM "braced his team's win-starved fans for potentially more tough times." Black emphasized the team's "intention to stay the course in developing their prospects this season." He said, ''When we're in a transition year like this, it is going to be difficult. It's going to be difficult to stomach the short run. The fans that follow this team, they signed up for this team, they signed up for a rough road.'' Black "isn't shying from the frustration and criticism directed at management." He said, "I'm not going to go anywhere and hide under a bed and wish I didn't have to do this or that. I'm going to do my damnedest to turn this thing around." Wawrow noted the Sabres have "been routinely booed off the ice by a once-loyal fan-base that's grown increasingly frustrated." Chants of "Fire Darcy!'' have "become familiar during home games." The Sabres "could very well end up" with the NHL's worst record, "and that, according to Black, might not be a bad thing in the long run" (AP, 10/24). 
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