Ted Darling’s play-by-play call used to echo in homes throughout Southern Ontario. The original “Voice of the Sabres” wasn’t stymied by cable regulations, so folks in Fort Erie and St. Catharines could see and hear Buffalo’s games on over-the-air channels.
That changed once the Sabres moved from Channels 2, 7 and 29. The cable stations that began carrying the team couldn’t go north of the border, and the Sabres lost connection with a loyal segment of their fan base.
The sides are finally plugged in once again. The Sabres and Bell TV announced Wednesday that 50 games will be carried this season on Bell Fibe and Satellite TV services in homes from Fort Erie and Niagara Falls to Stoney Creek just south of Hamilton.
“This is a momentous day for our organization and, more importantly, the thousands of Sabres fans in Southern Ontario,” Sabres President Ted Black said. “We have been aware of the very large number of Sabres fans in Southern Ontario for quite some time, and until now they have been able to see only a very small percentage of Sabres television broadcasts despite being geographically closer to us than Rochester.
“We are very proud of getting this done for our fans, and we’re thankful to Bell TV and MSG for all the hard work that went into the negotiations.”
The Sabres have been trying for years to get back on Canadian television. Though Black said he’s not privy to Bell’s subscription numbers, he hopes to grow its base to “a couple hundred thousand” through a yearlong marketing initiative aimed at improving viewership and subscriber numbers.
The game broadcasts and commercials will be identical on both sides of the border, with the pre- and postgame shows also available for everyone.
“Without going into specifics, there were a number of regulatory nuances that the legal folks from MSG, Bell TV and the Sabres had to navigate in this process,” Black said via email.
Ryan Miller made it through another full workout without feeling the effects of a recent groin strain, so the goaltender will be available for the Sabres tonight when they host Columbus.
“We’re in a case where I really only missed one game in the schedule, and hopefully I get back in the rhythm where I was and we’ll go again,” said Miller, who didn’t dress on his scheduled night off Saturday in Pittsburgh and served as the backup Tuesday.
Henrik Tallinder (upper body) worked out with skating coach Dawn Braid, and coach Ron Rolston said he should be available Saturday in Chicago.
Nikita Zadorov, one of the Sabres’ two first-round draft picks, practiced for the first time since suffering a finger injury during training camp. The 18-year-old defenseman is still likely to be returned to his junior team in London, Ont.
“He would be available if we wanted to keep him here,” Rolston said. “We have to make that decision.”
Rookie center Johan Larsson is in line to play his third game of the season tonight, possibly in place of Mikhail Grigorenko. The appearance nearly was short-circuited.
A deflected puck caught Larsson in the face, forcing him to leave practice with a bloody mouth. He returned a short while later with a swollen lip.
Said Larsson: “I’ve got to work on my reaction time.”