A Necessary Replay

by Ryan

Depending on what “school” you belong to, this is the best or worst thing to happen to HSBC Arena in a long time.

For those of you not aware of what all the cool kids have been buying recently, come October 5th you will be staring at something similar to this. Hopefully they won’t have to clean it that often once it’s up there.

While the old school fans among us (myself included) may see this is a step backwards, you really cannot argue against the beauty that is the HD revolution. Sure, those noise meters are pointless, and no one should have to be told when to make noise, but have you seen a replay at the Ralph recently? Seeing JP’s preseason bomb to Evans again on the big board got almost as big a roar as the actual play.

Heck, take a look at this picture from the tunnel end zone. That’s from a cell phone on the other side of the stadium. Imagine if there was actually something of worth on that screen? Crisp is an understatment.

Still, an even bigger jumbotron hanging from the rafters of HSBC may make us even more mush-brained as fans. Even with the sweet, sweet HD screen at Ralph Wilson Stadium, there are no commands to cheer. For the most part, football stadiums leave it up to fans to sense when it is important to make noise.

The same cannot be said for arena sports, which seem to assume it’s patrons have no sense of “the moment.” (Some exceptions are the Bell Centre in Montreal(Habs) and Oracle Arena in Oakland(Warriors), who are blessed with very devout and smart fans)

My first game in the Sabres new digs happened to be during that awkward phase it experienced during it’s inaugural season. The jumbotron consisted of one usable video screen propped at the top of the 100 level; the only thing hanging above the ice were suddenly useless speakers.

It was an interesting time to say the least. While the building certainly looked strange and somewhat lacking, there was something very wholesome and vintage about the experience. No trace of computer generated confetti to celebrate a score, just a spotlight and horn. Gone were the images of uncomfortable people waiving or pointing at themselves on screen, and no sign of an in game host anywhere. Even though you knew something else was supposed to be there, it felt just right.

On Friday the Sabres will hold their first practice of training camp. Once again there will be an empty space above the ice, and the Arena will no doubt flash back to thoughts of middle school dances and clothes that never quite seem to fit right.

Soon enough it will look normal again. Big, flashy boards with picturesque replays and block letters screaming for noise. Speakers blaring AC/DC with perfect pitch and tone. Call it a summer makeover, necessary to stay in with the cool arenas around the league.

Still, those who visit HSBC on Friday will get a chance to see an alternate take on the world of NHL hockey. No replays, no video monsters, and maybe even no advertisements on the boards. It will be a rare chance to see the very origins of hockey in the modern era. No commercials, no contract talks; just a group of men skating around the barn.

Hockey the way it was meant to be.