VIP Seats, Buying & Selling Tickets

Sabres “Fan-First” Thinking Makes a Huge Difference

by vipseats March 13, 2012 23:04

By Alex Szczesny, Marketing Director

When Terry Pegula took over the Buffalo Sabres last February, he made an immediate impact both on and off the ice.  Pegula spared no expensie on improving his team, their facilities and even his fans relationship with the club. 


Within weeks of the purchase, new Sabres President Ted Black announced the “Sabres Suggestion Box,” which was an online forum where fans were allowed to make suggestions on everything related to the Blue & Gold.  Fans shared their input on everything from game experience, arena improvements and even what food items they wanted to see at the concession stands.


As the Sabres climbed the standings, the good feelings in Western New York reached a peak with “Fan Appreciation Night” as the team celebrated by inviting every alumnus from the past 40 seasons to make an appearance.  Both Pegula and Black stressed that they wanted to involve alumni more with the fans in the future.  I was lucky enough to have such an experience last night. 


The Sabres have been reaching out to fans more with social media this season.  The Sabres run fan photo contests on Facebook and even accept song requests through Twitter.  Prior to the 3/12 contest vs Montreal, the Sabres offered fans the chance to meet former player and TSN analyst Brad May.  I sent a tweet and didn’t expect much in return.  Imagine my surprise when I received a message back informing me to meet by account services one hour before the game.


Meeting Brad May meant a lot to me personally as I was a fan of his growing up.  As a little kid, his “May Day” goal made huge a huge impression on me as much as his aggressive attitude and crazy fights.  My first year of hockey, I even chose #27 because of Brad May.  After being escorted through the bowels of First Niagara Center, a group of about 30 of us were corralled into an open area near the visitor’s locker room.  We saw up-and-coming defenseman PK Subban of Montreal warming up just  prior to May’s arrival.


I can’t say enough about Brad May’s interaction with the fans.  May accommodated everyone’s request for autographs and pictures while making small talk and hearing everyone’s stories.  You can just tell when people are being genuine and he could not have been happier to be there.  I relayed my story of picking #27 and how I tried kissing my stick for luck (as May did before his goal) to no avail.  Brad May laughed and told me that he signed my hat with #27 especially for me because of my story.  I got a picture with him and I thought that was the end of my VIP Sabres experience.


Anybody that knows me and my love of the Buffalo Sabres is aware that I believe Doug Allen is the best anthem singer in the league.  He has a great voice, gets through the anthems quick and I cannot get enough of “The Point” after he’s done.  I was in disbelief when before being led up the elevator back to the 100 level, who should walk in the side entrance but Mr. Doug Allen!  Beside myself with excitement, I was able to nab a picture and even an autograph qucikly.  Again, I can’t say enough about how nice Doug Allen was to everyone.  Here is a regular guy just doing his job, and he seemed taken aback that many people love him and what he does.


I want to thank the Sabres for going above and beyond with their fans and allowing people like myself the chance to meet someone they watched growing up.  I love the interaction from the organization and its players with their fan base this year.  It says a lot about how much this community embraces the team and how the team is going out of its way to embrace us back.  I attended my first Sabres game before I was even a year old and my whole life has been interwoven with Sabres hockey.  Now with most of my Sabres bucket list crossed off, the only things to do now are to throw a cap onto the ice for a hat trick, meet Terry Pegula and celebrate a Stanley Cup win!!!

 

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Winter Classic Experience Won’t Be Topped

by vipseats January 3, 2012 22:49

By Alex Szczesny, Marking Director

Every New Years, instead of looking ahead towards the future and to new possibilities, I find myself looking backwards.  See, each year on January 1st (or in this case, the 2nd) I sit down to watch the NHL Winter Classic.  I love watching the annual outdoor game and I find myself jealous of the people in the crowd.

On January 1st 2008, the first Winter Classic was held at Ralph Wilson Stadium in our own backyard.  The experience was easily among the best I have ever had.  I think what made it so special, was the novelty of the game itself.  The weeks leading up to it, nobody knew what to expect or even how everything would look.  Each Winter Classic has added an alumni game, or an AHL or NCAA game.  Now, the parking lots are filled with corporate sponsors and fancy private and VIP tailgating sections or multiple stages of entertainment.  The Winter Classic has evolved into such a polished and well-planned event, it’s the highlight of the NHL calendar. 

                This is not to say that the current games have “sold-out,”  but sometimes you just need to get into some trouble on your own and veer from the beaten path.  For the inaugural Winter Classic, a group of about 15-20 guys in about 5 or 6 cars left for the stadium around 8:30am.  We arrived in Orchard Park bright and early and started to set up our tailgating gear, but the weather was not cooperating.  The wind was blowing snow sideways and in an instant, I thought I would be in for 3 hours of misery.  In true Buffalo fashion, here I was freezing my butt off (with an adult beverage or two) determined to make the most of the day.  After a few minutes in doubt, the hockey gods answered our call and the weather broke and produced a cool, yet snow free morning.  Instead of any NHL sponsored pavilion or entertainment (as I mentioned, the first one had very little planned), we partied like it was like a late season Bills game.  It was just cold drinks, colder weather and my very best friends. 

                When I got to my seat, I was flanked by my best friend and my dad and we were in the upper level near the net the Sabres defended in the 1st period.  It bothers me that the NHL keeps having the Winter Classic in baseball stadiums.  I understand that they’re easier to use and there are no worries about scheduling conflicts with late season or playoff football, but a ballpark just doesn’t work for the fans.  Fans are too far away in a baseball stadium and the rink is built all the way out in shallow center field.  The seats closer to the rink are in the endzones and the seats closer to center ice are behind home plate and farther away.  It seems like there is no “perfect” spot.

                The game had a rough start as the Penguins scored in the first minute and I thought we could be in for a long afternoon.  The rest of the first was played to a stalemate and by now the weather was starting to bother me.  After being outdoors since 9am, it doesn’t matter how many layers you have on, it will get cold.  It turns out all I needed to warm me up was a Brian Campbell goal to tie the game in the 2nd!  Much like the first goal (and both in the shootout), it took place right in front of me.  It was in the second period that this event truly became unforgettable to all involved.  The snow started to fall in Western New York and produced a great snow globe effect to everyone watching at home.  The wind died down and everything looked so pretty.  It’s something I will remember forever.

                There was no scoring the rest of the game, or in overtime, though the Sabres had many great chances.  It was from here that history would be written as Sidney Crosby would score in the shootout and win the game for Pittsburgh.  It was the most ideal ending for the league of course as its biggest star scores the game winner, but the hype around Crosby has turned him into public enemy number 1 in many NHL cities, including Buffalo.                

                Ending aside, nothing more could be asked of the event.  The NHL’s second ever outdoor game (first in the US) looked great on TV and it was exciting down to the last shot.  The 71,000 plus hockey fans were loud the whole game and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t have a fabulous time.  This is why with each New Year, I find myself wanting to relive that same afternoon over and over.  I have been to the Stanley Cup Finals, NCAA Frozen Four and numerous other football, baseball and lacrosse games and I can easily place the Winter Classic in my Top 3 Event Experiences.  If you are a hockey fan, or at the very least interested in those marquee events on the sports calendar, you NEED to catch the next Winter Classic live and cross it off your bucket list.

A picture from my seats on that snowy afternoon in 2008.

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