Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sabres Fans: The Force of Nature

You will hear me say numerous times on this blog that Sabres fans are the best American fans in the NHL, possibly even the best fans in the NHL altogether.  This is not a topic that is open for debate.

However, upon further consideration, Sabres fans go a bit beyond that.  As one Versus executive once put it, “The fans in Buffalo are a force of nature.  We routinely beat American Idol up there.”

To me it isn’t the gargantuan TV ratings that Buffalo draws, nor is it the impressive attendance numbers in the market with the second lowest Median household income and second highest poverty rate in the league (only Miami, representing the Florida Panthers is higher).  [2008 census data].  No, to me there are two instances which speak to the level of dedication and passion that the Buffalo fanbase provides.

Exhibit A: Setting MSG Straight.

You’re a small market sports franchise.  No, scratch that, you’re the smallest American market in the league.  And you share a channel with the three largest markets in the league.  When you play games against the rest of the league, you get your announcing crew, and when you play those teams you get theirs.  One day you decided that your market should get its announcing crew regardless.  Crazy right?  Except it happens.  For all Sabres games against the Islanders, Devils, and Rangers, Western and Central New York is blessed with the sound of Rick Jeanneret and hilarity of Harry Neale.  The fan strength of the Buffalo Sabres is able to out-muscle a market nearly ten times bigger on a channel named after that arena.  Impressive.

Exhibit B: The Party In the Plaza and telling NBC to Go To Hell.

There were a few teams that projected their playoff games outside their respective arenas for their fans to gather and watch, namely Buffalo and Pittsburgh.  Perhaps before the lockout it was more prevalent.  Last season, Pittsburgh wanted to and NBC would not allow it, hoping to drive up ratings (because no one can estimate ratings correctly for a large group).

Things seemed headed in a similar direction this season as NBC gave the same order.  Except for the Sabres.  The Sabres essentially told NBC to go fuck themselves, and that they would use their own cameras within the arena to provide a great atmosphere for their fans.  With crowds spilling over 5,000 the fans come out in force to make it a no-brainer for the team.

We are the only team with a loyal enough die hard fanbase to reap either of those benefits.  Take notice NHL.

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