Terry Pegula

Pegula Effect: Sabres fans showing optimism with their wallet

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Things are going pretty well in Buffalo’s corner of the hockey world these days. Ever since fan-turned-awesome-owner Terry Pegula took over the team, the future has looked a little brighter for the Sabres and their fans. At the trade deadline, GM Darcy Regier was a “buyer” for the first time in years as they acquired Brad Boyes and his $4 million contract. After the season, they picked up defensive stalwart Robyn Regehr in a salary dump from the Calgary Flames. The team continued when they went out and traded for the rights for Christian Ehrhoff, then dropped a 10-year contract that shocked people all over North America. To cap it all off on July 1st, the team landed Ville Leino with a 6-year, $27 million contract.

Just how much money have they spent? Let’s put it this way: they’re almost $3 million over the salary cap ceiling. Quite a change from the penny pinching ways of the past, isn’t it?

Predictably, Sabres fans in Buffalo are excited with what they’ve seen during the short Pegula regime. Today, the team announced that fans are showing their excitement with their hard-earned money as well. From the club press release:

“The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has achieved a record renewal rate of 99% for their 2011-12 season tickets. As a result, season ticket sales have been capped at 15,200 tickets for the 2011-12 season. That total includes 100 new season tickets, which have been sold to members of the Buffalo Sabres Blue & Gold club.

Due to this extraordinary rate of renewal, the supply of tickets for the upcoming season will be much more limited than years past. The demand was so great that the Sabres will – for the first time in franchise history – cap the number of Mini-Packs at 3,500 accounts.

“We anticipate this year’s Mini-Packs will sell out quickly,” said John Sinclair, the VP of Ticket Operations & Services. “Those individuals that are currently members of the Blue & Gold Club will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets, as well as individuals who purchased Mini-Packs last season. At that point, it will move to the general public.”

The 99% renewal rate is a huge number when the rest of the Sabres attendance numbers are taken into account. Last season, they played to a 98.7% capacity rate as they averaged 18,452 fans per game. Buffalo’s home arena has an official capacity of 18,690 people per game (not counting standing-room-only crowds); so they’ve already been packing the place as it was. Twelve teams played to at least 100% capacity last season—the Sabres look to be a shoe-in to join the list next season.

Now that ownership has the Sabres as the hottest ticket in town, the next step is for the players to take care of their end of the deal. Fans will pack the HSBC Arena, but the new players will have to help the team capitalize on the buzz and take the next step in the standings. They have a competitive top 6 up front, a great top 4 on the backend, and an elite goaltender that will give them a chance to win every night. If they can put it all together, the Sabres should be an exciting team to watch next season.

As the Sabres let us know today, there will be plenty of people in the arena to watch it all go down.

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.

Outdoor game rumors: Jets host Oilers, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings face off during the first period of the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.

A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.

Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.

(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)

Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.

The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.

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Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.

Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.