BUFFALO, NY- Most of the Sabres news over the past day has revolve around Terry Pegula, but there was another guy at that HSBC Arena podium on Tuesday. That being the man who has been given the task of turning the new owner's vision into reality.
His name is Ted Black, and he is the new President of the Buffalo Sabres. Black has barely unpacked the boxes in the former office of Larry Quinn, but he has already dove into the job head-first.
Last Wednesday, six days before the deal was finalized, Black took in a game, but not the way you'd expect from an NHL executive. Black wanted to take in the experience that a normal fan has at a Sabres game. He says while he feels fortunate to be able to sit in a luxury box for many games, "it's a very narrow way to look at the fan experience".
He wanted the whole experience, so Black grabbed a hotdog at the vendor's cart across the street from the main arena entrance and asked one of the street-side ticket vendors, also known as scalpers, for his most inexpensive ticket. There he was, the former Vice President for Business with the Pittsburgh Penguins, former General Manager of Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, paying $20 for a single ticket in section 316, four rows from the roof.
Black says that while he enjoyed just taking in a game, he did find the atmosphere in the building stale. He chalked a lot of that up to the game, a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he said there's room to improve the fan experience.
Another area that Black would like to develop is the connection between the players and the fans. He pointed out Pegula's reaction when he saw Gil Perreault at Tuesday's press conference. As he welled up with tears, he told the Sabre great "You're my hero!" Black says that's a bond that lasts a lifetime. The new Sabre President wants to rebuild that player-fan connection.
One idea that he is considering is something that his former team, the Penguins, actually borrowed from the Edmonton Oilers. They have players hand deliver tickets to random season ticket-holders homes.
Black plans on spending the coming months getting ideas and advice from everyone he can think of, whether it's the players, alumni, even the Zamboni driver. In other words, he's looking for ideas from everywhere, including the fans. "I want to build an infrastructure in which we're really engaging the fans, and find out what they want."
Right now he is trying to come up with a mechanism to make that happen. If you have a suggestion for improvements that could be made, send us an email and we'll deliver it to Ted Black for you.