Hockey is back in Buffalo. The lockout that seemed like it would cancel the entire season ended and left hockey-thirsty fans with a short but intense 48-game schedule.
While the lockout dragged on, the sports talk radio waves were full of disgruntled fans screaming how they were done with hockey and would never set foot in the First Niagara Center again. It seems, however, that they’ve changed their tune.
The Sabres season is now under way, and it appears the arena is going to be quite full for all the games on the Sabres home schedule. Many people thought that the lockout would affect ticket sales for the Sabres, but the loyal fans of Buffalo were quick to support their team once the labor dispute ended. Many home games have already sold out, and there are only a few tickets left for the remaining games. The Sabres organization rolled out the welcome mat for returning fans, offering hockey buffs 50 percent off all merchandise. The arena store quickly sold more than 50,000 pieces of blue-and-gold memorabilia – a franchise record.
The abbreviated season means most teams are playing games at least every other day in the condensed schedule, if they aren’t playing games back-to-back. Many fans love the schedule, and how hockey can be seen almost every day.
While fans may like that the hockey drought is over, it might be a somewhat different story for players. The players have to travel more with less downtime which increases the wear and tear their bodies take and decreases their ability to recover. As seen from the NBA lockout last year, with an increase of games in a shorter period of time, injuries are bound to occur much more. The increase of injuries also comes from players not conditioning and the lack of training camp. Coach Lindy Ruff shared his concern over player readiness in a recent news conference.
With the start of the new season comes new hopes and players for the Sabres. During the offseason the Sabres dealt Derek Roy to the Dallas Stars, in return for Steve Ott and John Scott. This move was to help the Sabres extend their physical presence on the ice, and relieve themselves of another “finesse” player from their overstock. Ott brings a tough attitude with his ability to finish checks.
The Sabres started their season with two good wins against Philadelphia and Toronto, but then lost four straight. Their on-ice performance isn’t meeting up to the hype. While it’s clear that Buffalo fans are ready for hockey, are the Sabres?
Wesley Watson is a sophomore at Lancaster High School.
While fans may like that the hockey drought is over, it might be a somewhat different story for players.