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Sabres’ Ted Black talks hockey, HARBORcenter, in Hamburg

WIN THE CUP — Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black is pictured speaking to attendees at the Oct. 24 Hamburg Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Armor Inn Saloon. Photo by Jessie Owen.
The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the Armor Inn Saloon on Oct. 24 was highlighted by a visit from Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black, who spoke about the state of the Sabres franchise and gave an update about Buffalo’s HARBORcenter.

Black said that the best part of his job is meeting Sabres fans and hearing their stories. “I don’t know how things will end up on the ice, but I am really happy to be here,” he said.

The relatively new Buffalo resident said that he enjoys the tight-knit community in which he lives and said, “Buffalo is not a small town. It’s a big living room.”

Black encouraged the audience to do more to spread the word about Buffalo’s attractions. “We don’t tell the world enough, what a great place this is,” he said. “We don’t brag about ourselves enough. I see a new Buffalo rising.”

He spoke about the new HARBORcenter, a mixed-use hockey and entertainment facility proposed to be completed next fall. This structure will house National Hockey League ice rinks, a hotel, a restaurant, retail space and parking.

“This is the largest privately financed project in Buffalo history,” he said. “Think about that. It’s amazing.” Black also congratulated local business Hamburg Overhead Door for its upcoming work on the HARBORcenter.

He pointed out that Terry Pegula has owned the Sabres franchise for less than the equivalent of two full sports seasons and asked Sabres fans to be patient with the evolution of their hometown team. “You yearn for a change in the sports world and in the business world,” he said.

“We said, ‘We can do this,’ and we took a huge swing and we missed. We thought we could pay our way over the top,” he added.

Black said that the franchise has regrouped and is now in the process of building the draft. He added that, while none of the Sabres’ plans are sure-fire, “if you want to find success, you have to build through the draft.”

Black thanked the Sabres’ fans for their dedication and loyalty. “We became a joke in the league,” he said. “We were a bottom-feeding team and we have pulled out of that. We have to make trades and we have to peel off good players.”

Black said that his goal is to turn the Buffalo Sabres team around. “It’s always awkward when people ask if we’re trying to lose,” he said. “Of course we don’t want to lose; we want to win.

“We all make mistakes and learn from it,” he added. “In business, in sports, in life – you don’t find success with somebody who’s dispassionate and disengaged.”

Black promised that he is fully committed to the Buffalo Sabres franchise and has a plan in place to get the team back on track. “We want to see progress,” he said. “We are not going to hide under a rock; we won’t let these setbacks keep us from what we want to do. We have a strong commitment, from the ownership on down.”

The president said that the team wants to be successful for its fans and local community. “We have an obligation not to give up,” he said. “I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We appreciate the passion you have for us. We can’t do this without you. We can’t lose you and we’ll do everything we can to not disappoint you.”

Black remarked on the Buffalo community’s love of hockey. “The Buffalo market is different than Pittsburgh’s,” he said, alluding to his former affiliation. “Hockey is so much a part of the fabric of this community. There’s really no off season and I love that.”

An audience member asked if the Buffalo Sabres were planning a tribute for the first visit from former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff, who is now the head coach for the Dallas Stars.

While Black said that the Sabres did not do tributes for former players such as Chris Drury and Daniel Brière, he said, “If you are going to make an exception for someone, it’s Lindy. If you are going to call someone Mr. Sabre, it would be him.”

Black thanked the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce for inviting him to speak and added that he would like to return, at some point. “Meeting fans is my favorite part of my job,” he reiterated. “People are very nice to us and to me. We are going to get there.”

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