(WGR Bulldog) You know what's funny to me? That one of the most consistent criticisms of the Golisano ownership group, and really of Larry Quinn specifically, was that he was just a land developer.
The flawed and ultimately failed Bass Pro project had Quinn's fingerprints all over it so it's easy enough to understand why that criticism was leveled as often as it was.
The funny part of this lies in the fact that Thursday morning I heard Sabres President Ted Black on WGR point to the massive investment Terry Pegula is making next door to the First Niagara Center as evidence of how committed Pegula is to Buffalo.
No argument that the Harbor Center, with its hotel and retail offerings as well as a pair of ice rinks is a tremendous looking project that as a city resident, I am extremely excited about. It of course represents a huge commitment to the city and I am grateful to Pegula for doing it.
The question that arises is what exactly does it mean to the Buffalo Sabres fortunes on the ice? I know that it generally feels like nothing ever gets done in Buffalo, but there was competition for the Webster Block. While I favored Pegula's plan because of the hockey rinks and the possibility of youth tournaments and college hockey being played downtown, another project would have been built there. It would have been nice, just without hockey rinks.
I guess having a hockey-centric development next door to the Sabres home increases the likelihood of it really feeling like "Hockey Heaven" down there. That's something, but what does it do for the team on the ice? Does it help lure free agents? Does it make it easier to keep your own players? I can't say no to either of those questions. Will it make them try harder? That's a little tougher to answer.
The bottom line here is that I think the Sabres are working on a slippery slope. As evidence to support how committed Pegula is to building a championship hockey team, they point to his investing in the development of a key parcel of land downtown.
I love the Harbor Center project and generally care more about things that are good for Buffalo, as opposed to only being good for the hockey team. I just think that while many fans are in revolt mode, it may not be the best idea to point to a hotel, restaurant and ice rinks as proof that the hockey team is on the right track.
You know how it feels to me?
"Hey, I know you're upset about this hockey team thing, but look, something shiny."