Bringing Down the Hammer

by Ryan

In this pivotal Stanley Cup Finals, the cool thing to do is parade out television ratings and say how awesome/pitiful your hometown is. Good thing for Buffalo, we watch hockey like it’s our only hope for salvation in the never ending struggle to live.

However, television ratings are a pretty big load of garbage. Not to get all Wes Mantooth on you, but Nielson Ratings are based on a shoddy system that doesn’t take into account televisions with multiple sets, use accurate sample sizes, or rely on consistent data collection. (Sorry, but anything with the word “diary” in it just doesn’t sound like “data” to me.

Now while I’m not saying television ratings are useless, they are at the very best an informal guesstimate as to what people are watching. It is indeed pretty fun to say that the NHL “beat” the NBA at something this year, what use are imaginary numbers used to figure out which beer ad to run in the grand scheme of league operations?

What matters is the almighty dollar; and that is what the NHL, a business, should be basing its operations on. So, when you see an article like this, you just have to wonder what it matters who watched NBC on Wednesday.

I could give you an elongated response on the state of the league and the results expansion have given us, but you probably don’t come here for that. Mirtle has a nice post on it and some great viewpoints in the comments that are worth reading through. However, what should be addressed here is what this would mean for Buffalo and its hockey team.

The Sabres made money this year, and ticket prices are going up. Still, we have some of the cheapest tickets in the league, and ran at +95% capacity this year. However, if you think we are out of the woods just yet, you haven’t been a hockey fan for very long. Success builds interest, and coming off one of the most exciting seasons in franchise history does wonders for ticket and merchandise sales. Even with all the positive signs we’ve seen in recent years, this team is nothing but a competitive nosedive away from being right back into jeopardy.

The question is, if a team suddenly seeks occupancy in Hamilton, should Sabres management fight it? Does the potential of a consistent revenue stream from Phoenix The Hammer enough to offset the potential of lost season ticket holders/gate revenue from Canadian fans? Winnipeg or Southern Ontario is the next logical place for hockey to go back to, so if the latter is chosen, what hope is there in fighting the move?

Right now it seems absurd to let a team walk into Hamilton and renovate Copps while the Sabres enjoy such success. However, this little run of popularity and positive revenue stream will run out, whether sooner or later. With the dollar continuing to go down, when does the league finally let a hockey team return to the Great White North?

It may not be best for Buffalo, but in the long run, the league may soon realize it is best for the magic word we don’t use often enough: viability.


  1. sabresfan88

    This is unrelated, but in that third link, the photo caption mentions “Jaroslav Harak.”

    What? Isn’t it Halak? I assumed it was a typo, but then I googled it and at least one other site (USA Today) has used Harak. Any idea?

  2. Ryan

    It’s Halak. The last time I was in Hamilton he was starting for the Bulldogs. When you use as many photos as I do, you kind of expect the captions to be messed up. Many times they re-issue a photo with a “caption correction” just becuase they mess it up so often.

    I’m surprised they let that Halak one slip so long. I know he’s only the backup, but the kid’s still thought to be a big deal…