Late last night, the news that many Amerks fans, and especially season ticketholders, have been dreading finally broke.
Another AHL game has been moved from Rochester to Buffalo.
The organization already relocated one game earlier this season, moving an October 21st match vs Hamilton to October 23rd at the FN Center. Now, the December 28th game against Lake Erie will also be played in Buffalo. The move makes a lot of sense for the Buffalo and is great for hockey fans there. But, as usual, hockey fans in Rochester get the raw end of the deal.
Let me start by saying, I get why the Sabres are doing this.
NHL fans in every city are upset with the lockout. Season ticketholders and casual fans, whether they side with the owners, the players, or neither, are justifiably unhappy. And the longer the lockout continues, the more concern NHL owners should have about the fans coming back in large numbers.
Its been very clear, at least thru social media, that many fans in Buffalo have been clamoring for another Amerks game to be moved to Buffalo. And Sabres President Ted Black, always happy to appease Sabres fans, has listened to them.
Its a smart move for the Sabres. It helps appease hockey fans in Buffalo. Its a good public relations move. Its more fun for the players, who get to play in an NHL-quality arena in front of NHL-size crowds. Heck, the Sabres will probably even make a little more money than if the game was hosted in Rochester.
Its great for everyone. Except the fans in Rochester.
First off, I’ll assume that the vast majority of hockey fans in Buffalo have no idea that the AHL has gone from an 80-game to a 76-game schedule, so the Amerks have already lost 2 home games. Now that a second Amerks home game has been moved to Buffalo, fans in Rochester are seeing 10% fewer home games this season than we saw just 2 years ago. For season ticketholders, this is a huge gap.
Some Sabres fans plead that we should share our team, because their team isn’t playing right now. This is a flawed argument. The NHL owners, including Terry Pegula, made a conscious decision to lock out their players. I’m sorry for Sabres fans that their owner is part of an effort that is keeping them from playing this season. But I’m not sorry enough to give up *MY* team to keep *THEM* happy because *THEIR* league decided not to play. If the PHPA (the minor league hockey players association, separate from the NHLPA) ever decided to go on strike, we all know there’s no way Buffalo would ever move NHL games here to appease Rochester fans.
Other Buffalo fans have been more belligerent about it, saying that Buffalo “owns” us, and that we have to do what they say. In one respect, this is true. We ARE at Buffalo’s mercy, and have no voice in decision. Conversely, I can do without the condescending attitude from the Sabres fans who say this. (Keep in mind, this is a VERY small portion of Sabres fans, but they do exist). The Amerks have existed longer, have their own identity, and have their own group of passionate fans. We have no interest in being Buffalo’s whipping boy and conceding to their every whim.
On a more personal note, this adds a huge cost to the game for me. I can’t speak for all Amerks season ticketholders, but for me, for a regular home game, we can grab dinner at home, drive to the game just up the street, park for free, and enjoy the game. With the game moved to Buffalo, I now have to drive there (about $28 in gas, $5 in tolls round trip), pay $10 for parking, spend about another $15 for dinner (for 2 of us, thats on the low end)… suddenly, I’ve got another $58 in expenses to attend a game in Buffalo.
There are some Amerks fans who have no problem with the move. In October, I was told to stop complaining and consider it a fun night out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option for me because it was a weeknight game, and my son had school the next morning. We can’t be out until 11pm on a school night. This time around, at least its a weekend game, so hopefully there is more flexibility in people’s schedules. The first thing I did was check our youth hockey schedule, and luckily this didn’t cause any conflicts.
I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful to the new ownership in Buffalo. They’ve done a lot of great things for the Amerks. The modified video screen in Rochester is an amazing improvement. The merchandise quality in the Amerks store, although still too limited, is definitely nicer quality. The Amerks staff is clearly empowered to do all the right things as far as keeping season ticketholders happy, being active in the community, etc. The synergies between the two teams are very evident. I hope it continues for a long time.
But moving these games to Buffalo is really unfortunate for most Amerks fans. We’re losing too many games (including the AHL schedule changes), and its a huge change for us to make those same games when moved to Buffalo.
Yes, Buffalo fans have a big expense and time commitment if they want to attend a game in Rochester, but it would be a conscious decision to attend a game they weren’t normally going to. Now, Amerks fans have to make these bigger commitments for games they were already entitled to.
And that stinks.