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Mike Schopp's Blog

Mixed feelings about Tom

 I may be a little bit like Tom Golisano -- without all the zeroes anyway. I tend to start things and then not finish them. House projects, card sets I set out to collect, whatever. I get bored easily.

Did Golisano get bored with the Sabres around three years ago, and thus abandon them for other pursuits? You might want to blame him for that, if it's true. But before you go too far, ask yourself -- didn't you get bored with them too?

Golisano, and moreso the hands-on Larry Quinn, did great things for the Sabres. It's more than just "rescuing" them from bankruptcy and possible relocation in 2003, as many have credited them for. Heck, there was a great business deal in that for them. I'm talking about the ways they made the team fun and interesting again.

During the 2004-05 lockout, the Sabres were at the forefront of experimenting with new ideas. They held a minor-league game in their building on blue ice. They fiddled with bigger, bowed nets. Quinn seemed to recognize what many of us had about the NHL, that it had become lacking for excitement.

The Sabres went out and became known for excitement. Fast, run-and-gun teams that were, as an announcer once said, "scary good". Ultimately, the Stanley Cup still went to teams that applied more old-fashioned principles -- being rugged like Carolina and Anaheim were won out over the Sabres' skill. But it was a blast to watch them, and fans could always take pride in not only how good the Sabres were, but how they played the game.

Quinn also brought us the Winter Classic, which quickly has become the NHL's premier event. There are lots of great sports owners -- owners who have won championships -- that never would have had that kind of vision.

Still, as Golisano and Quinn exit today, I'm left wanting. Rolling in ticket and merchandise money, the Sabres failed to seize on a rare championship opportunity and instead prioritized their bottom line. With this franchise, it seems that this is always the way.

Maybe not anymore. What I want most from new owner Terry Pegula is a new mentality for the Sabres, and a new level of professionalism. It was nice to have them rejuvenated, as they were under Golisano. Now, I want them to win.

I also want them to operate like a major-league sports franchise. Send your announcers to road games, rather than borrow other teams' intermission feeds. Spell your players' names right on your jerseys. Show some respect for your fans' hockey intellect, by including "OT" or "SO" on out-of-town scoreboard finals, or by not finding it necessary to announce Sabres legend Danny Gare to your crowd as an "NHL broadcast personality" (gag me), just to name two of many examples.

The Sabres have long lacked a certain touch, one that I hope a proclaimed fan in Pegula will provide them. Golisano, for all his contributions, never had it. He didn't grow up loving hockey, and he didn't have a feel for the game or we fans, and it showed.

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : AnaheimCarolina
People : Danny GareTerry PegulaTom Golisano

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