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The Sabres Observer

Will Team-Sponsored Radio Work In Buffalo?

Sabres Advantageously Using Media, Both New And Old

At the risk of dating myself, I can still remember the anger I felt as a youngster when then-Sabres GM Scotty Bowman traded fan favorites Jim Schoenfeld and Danny Gare to Detroit.  It was a monster 7-player deal that brought a feisty 21-year-old forward named Mike Foligno to Buffalo.

“Schony” and “Tickets” were beloved in this town.  What was the revered coaching legend whom the Knox brothers had lured from Les Habitants thinking?  I was so upset that I literally wanted to ask him myself.  I attacked the yellow pages (OK to laugh here if you’re under 25) and hurriedly started searching.  Geez, is it under ‘B’ for Buffalo or Bowman? Or is it ‘S’ for Sabres or Scotty? 

My amused father stopped me and said, “You can’t just call and talk to him, David.  He’s on the inside.  Only the important TV and newspaper people get to speak to someone famous like him.”

Fast forward many years later, to this past Monday to be exact, and I’m having beer and pizza with the current president of the Buffalo Sabres as we’re rapping about the direction of the club.  I’m picking his brain about the upcoming draft.  He’s breaking team news to me that even the important TV and newspaper people haven’t been told.  The sports world is a much different place.

That’s a portion of what occurred at the Sabres New Media Summit, where Ted Black and a group of team employees held a roundtable meeting with 16 hand-selected bloggers, right in the team’s locker room, to discuss everything from the lack of adequate depth at forward to the lack of adequate time between the arena warning bell and the end of intermission.

But the major announcement of the night came right at the top.  With Entercom Communications vice president and general manager Greg Ried at his side, Black revealed that a new Sabres radio show would soon be airing on WGR-550 for 2 hours each weekday.

The interesting and eye-raising detail of this undertaking is that the show will be produced and hosted by the Sabres rather than the radio station.

I will admit that I’m not a big fan of team-sponsored media, but it’s not my place to tell fans what they should want.  Just keep in mind, Buffalo, what you’re getting.  You’ll never hear the host suggest that Lindy Ruff should be fired.  There will be nary a word about what an epic failure the Ville Leino signing was for Darcy Regier and Terry Pegula.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m ready to say goodbye to All-Lebron Radio as much as the next Buffalo listener. And I commend the Sabres for once again catering to their fans.  But taking the fluffed, cliché filled big picture into consideration, I have to ask:  Is this the Sabres show that you really want?

I’m a fan of Mike Robitaille and really enjoy his TV work, but I have to admit that I’m in the minority who thinks his radio show is not very compelling.  Imagine how great he would sound if the filter that prevents him from being overly critical of management were turned off.  I’d say it’s a safe bet that Sabres Hockey Hotline is basically going to be two hours a day of Roby Radio.

I do think this new show, which will feature Kevin Sylvester as host, is going to fare pretty well simply because biased homer radio is becoming much more accepted in the sports talk realm nowadays.  Such tolerance is a byproduct of the rise to prominence of the casual fan, the weekender who is just as interested in a night out with a cold beer and some blooper reel/kiss cam-infested game presentation as he or she is in the result on the ice.

Perhaps I’m just too old school.  To me, radio is much more interesting when there is lively debate/conflict, accountability, and no holds barred discussion, or at least as much as is possible with something as trivial in the grand scheme of life as hockey. 

I can’t help but notice the correlation between the new radio show and the New Media Summit.  One was used to announce the other, both are cleverly structured public relations maneuvers, and both are signs of the times.  Indeed, the sports world is a much different place.

As I was stepping out of the room Monday, being careful not to Sully the logo on the way out, I took pause as I strolled past the locker of Marcus Foligno, who turns 21 this summer.

The moment served as a reminder of how misguided my anger was on that fateful day as a kid.  The young winger’s dad turned out to be a damn good player and a fan favorite in his own right.  It’s a shame I didn’t get the chance to have beer and pizza with the man who traded for him so I could say thanks.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]