High Fructose Hockey

by Ryan

Let me tell you a little something about my writing process: I stay up really, really late and write something just before I pass out. When I get stuck I go searching for photos that tangibly relate to what I’m talking about, or (more recently) just give up.

Obviously in my professional writing career I have to do things with a much different process. I definitely don’t pick the pictures and my deadline is much stricter than my own point of exhaustion. Perhaps I’m evolving, but that writing makes my old habits much harder to maintain.

Still, sometimes finding that perfect picture is all you need to keep things rolling. The last thing I wrote here was something I really liked once it was finished, but it was the carbonated diagram I attached to the post that really got me thinking.

A few tweets with Kate got things rolling a bit further and here we are, 3:52 in the morning and I’m typing away on a little netbook about some extended metaphor no one cares about.

(Sidenote: I need a new laptop.)

(Second sidenote: I need a new sleep schedule.)

The two major press conferences the Sabres have held this season were remarkably interesting in very different ways. The first was Golisano’s farewell, which I thought would provide little theatre but turned out to be the most hilarious 75 minutes of 2011 thus far. Golisano took big shots as he walked out the door and the media shot back until the Rolls Royce drove him back to the airport. Good times had by all.

Pegula’s welcome to Buffalo will go down in history as the day he cried at the appearance of a Sabres great, which in turn made hundreds of Sabres fans to cry in the comfort of their own homes. Much less funny and a lot more exciting, but entertaining nonetheless.

From an ontological standpoint, however, that day was all about Ted Black. While Terry Pegula said all the right things and gave the quotes that get played during commercials, Black said all the things that, in the long run, really matter. Pegula’s thoughts were all about the fans, and rightfully so. But Black’s “clarion call” was for a much different crowd.

Black’s message was simple: Buffalo is going to be a hockey destination for players. Things are going to be different. Buffalo will morph into something greater, the place people want to play and can make things really happen.

The cosmetic changes the team has seen over the last six weeks is just a small example of what is being promised, but it’s enough to see where things are headed. The Sabres want to become one of the classic franchises in hockey, when for far too long the last two ownership groups seem to be chasing the wrong things.

Classic. That’s the word that sticks with me when the Sabres visit Montreal or New York. The reverence people have for the Bell Centre is something special the Sabres are dying to replicate in Buffalo. That excitement, the momentum. It’s a powerful thing that makes people want to play there and ads enormity to every single home game.

It’s not easy to compete with and even tougher to replicate. The Montreal Canadians may not have a Stanley Cup in almost two decades, but they are Coca-Cola. The franchise is a model worth admiring, from fan support to ownership determined to give everything they possibly can to the players.

Most important of all, there is a real sense of history with that team. That’s something the Sabres have already done a good job with, but when you think about this team over the last decade they’ve been all over the place. Like plenty of teams in the NHL they’ve been following the Pepsi model.

New logos, new colors and all kinds of weirdness with Michael Jackson’s head catching fire. It was a heady time full of bankruptcy and arena football owners, and I’d rather not talk about it much further. Two things bother me about the Pepsi approach: much of it looks like pandering and none of it has really worked here.

The Sabres don’t need to be Pepsi because it’s trying too hard. Then you get Crystal Pepsi and awful uniforms and all kinds of crazy concoctions that leave a bad taste in your mouth. Even Coke can fall victim to over-thinking, but the Classic works for a reason.

You know, marketing.

The Sabres will use what was said at that press conference to get fans excited and turn a few heads around the league, but they’re never going to be Coke Classic. That aspiration is important, but it’s pretty clear they’re shooting for a close second that may work just as well in the end.

Hell, be Coke Zero. That stuff is delicious and probably better for you in the long run as long as you don’t get a medical drip going. The point is that the Sabres don’t have to be anything they are not. The team has history, they have good fan support and they can create something special here all on their own.

Right now the team is probably somewhere between Diet Pepsi and Coke with Lemon, but the formula is changing. Either way, it’s a good time to be holding a fountain cup in Buffalo.


  1. This is a really neat post, Ryan. I feel pretty intelligent that I knew what you were talking about within this because I’m currently taking Marketing and we talked about all of the changes Pepsi made but Coca-Cola (for the most part) stuck with the classic design. As a huge fan of this team, I am also hoping that they can change to more of a ‘Coke’ root and get away from this ‘Pepsi’ trend they have been using for the past decade or so.

  2. Kyle Schlaich

    Awesome article dude! I forwarded it to a few friends and family… Great closing line!

  3. Douglas

    Haha, I absolutely agree with you. How funny and Ironic is it though, that Buffalo Hockey before the Sabres were the Bisons AHL Franchise, founded by the owners of Pepsi of Buffalo.