What’s the best way to cap off a season in which you failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, fired your head coach and traded away your captain? How about angering an already disgruntled fanbase. That’s exactly what the Buffalo Sabres did with moves that collectively illustrate what not to do when managing PR for a professional sports team.
Thank You, Fans!!!
Coinciding with their home finale, the Buffalo Sabres held a fan appreciation day. What’s the best way to celebrate, you ask? Why not try sending your fans a timely letter stating that you’ll be increasing the cost of tickets next season? Said letter was dropped in the mailboxes the same day as the big celebration of the devoted Blue and Gold supporters. Hooray!!! Nothing says thank you like a four-percent increase in ticket prices.
Oh, but that’s not all. The fanfare would continue once the notice was given a read. Such an initiative wouldn’t be justified without some sort of rationale. Don’t worry. The Sabres brass had just the explanation. The new CBA. Yes. That CBA. The one where owners get seven percent more of league wide revenue. Couple that with the fact that the salary cap shrinks by $6 million next season, and you have a hell of an argument for the hike at the box office. And lets not forget the stellar product on the ice. The fans of been so fortunate to only see the playoffs — in a league where more than half of the teams qualify — in two of the last six seasons. Sure, why not pay a little more for such mediocrity. As Larry Brooks of the New York Post so eloquently put it, “the scale of audacity just doesn’t register any higher.”
We Are all Martyrs?
How could the Buffalo Sabres possible followup such a well-thought letter to its season ticket holders? By having management conduct a Class-A press conference and verbally spare with the local media. In case you missed the debauchery, below you will find a recap.
While there is quite a lot to take away from this presser –including the ticket price increase — one thing that really stuck out was the comments GM Darcy Regier made in regards to fans needing to be patient during the rebuild/retool/reconstruction/whatever else you’d like to call the major project that lies infront of the team as they try to produce a winning product. “I’d like to think that people will give up some suffering in order to win the Stanley Cup,” Regier said. “I’m willing to do it. I believe our fan base is willing to do it.”
Last time I checked, sports were meant to be a form of escapism from the daily rigors of everyday life; not another burden to pile on to your failing marriage, unsuccessful career and disconnected children. Now, we’re expected to essentially die for the cause as if rooting for the Buffalo Sabres is some sort of religious crusade. Right. These comments coming right after the devout followers of the Church of Terry Pegula decided to raise the price of indulgences. If anything, Sabres fans would contest that they’ve already suffered enough, waiting over 40 years for a Stanley Cup.
If the start to the Sabres offseason is any indication, we should be in for a wild ride this offseason.