To USA Hockey Exec Dir Dave Ogrean, the Sabres' $172M HARBORCenter "represents the future of the sport," according to John Wawrow of the AP. Ogrean said, "This is going to become a mecca of sorts. I don't even think they know yet everything that they might do. But the potential is enormous." He added that HARBORCenter is "a first-of-its-kind U.S. hockey facility, and has prompted him to strengthen USA Hockey's ties with the Sabres." Ogrean: "I think this is a city where we are going to be coming back more and more frequently." USA Hockey "has already pegged Buffalo to host its annual All-American Prospects game in each of the next two years" and Ogrean indicated that Buffalo "will be a prime contender to host numerous other events," including the '18 World Junior Championships. The city's proximity "to hockey-enamored Canada ... serves as an ideal bridge to hockey," and HARBORCenter "has the potential to further capitalize on that connection by luring teams from across the border to come and play." Buffalo-Niagara Partnership President & CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen said, "We really are hitching our wagon to the powerhouse economy that is the Canadian market in Toronto, and hockey is one of these commonalities. Other than beer, one of the big things that joins us is hockey. So anything that positions Buffalo as America's hockey capital reinforces the relationship we want to build with Canada." HARBORCenter President John Koelmel said, "I don't have a catchphrase for it yet, but that's where I use 'All hockey paths will lead through Buffalo.' I really think we have a chance to establish ourselves as a real hub in the hub-and-spokes world of hockey" (AP, 2/22).
PEGULA'S PLIGHT: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington wrote in the three years since team Owner Terry Pegula bought the Sabres, they have "never seemed as far away from touching" the Stanley Cup as they do now. Harrington: "Plenty of Pegula’s spending has made no sense." The fans "wanted an owner who spent money in the wake" of former Owner Tom Golisano’s "tight wallet." They have "gotten that, but watch out what you ask for," as at least so far, this "hasn’t meant any success on the ice, but it’s meant a significant jump in ticket prices." HARBORCenter "is a unique use" of Pegula’s money. Its impact on the NHL operation "figures to be negligible at the start other than providing an alternate practice facility -- but it’s likely to be huge on the amateur hockey scene" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/22).
HISTORY BUFFS: In Buffalo, James Staas reported a "new exhibit on the Sabres' first five seasons" as a franchise opened Friday in the Buffalo History Museum. The exhibit, Forging a Connection: Your Buffalo Sabres 1970-75, "attracted about 1,100 visitors on opening day, which coincided with the museum's M&T Third Friday program, when admission is free." Museum officials said that it was "one of the largest turnouts for the program," which runs through May 25 (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/23).