After more than four months of legal wrangling and some nine months since they last laced their skates up, the Buffalo Sabres are once again prepared to take the ice.
Team officials know, though, the quest to get back in the NHL playoffs is hardly the only work to be done in the weeks and months ahead.
Fans have stuck with the Sabres through the nearly 120 days of labor talks between the NHL and its labor union, it seems. Coming into the 2012-13 season, the team saw 50 season ticket cancelations with a waiting list of 3,000. During the lockout, he said 30 people canceled season ticket accounts.
"Sometimes, in many ways, fans' patience can be tested to the limit and sometimes broken, and we hope that hasn't happened here in Buffalo. The relationship we have with our fans is the most important thing we have in our business … we are sorry."
The league's Board of Governors will begin the ratification process of the proposed 10-year CBA on Wednesday, with player ratification coming after that. Black said a lot remains up in the air pending that process, but the first Sabres home game of the abbreviated 2013 season would likely be Sunday, Jan. 20. Training camp will likely open some time between Saturday, Jan. 12, and Monday, Jan. 14, Regier said.
Ticket prices will remain what they were entering this season, he said. The team will still employ variable pricing with value, bronze, silver and gold games, but which games will be designated what color (and subsequent price) depends on what the final schedule looks like, he said.
The team knows how important fans are, in many ways – nearly 35 percent of the Sabres' revenue comes just from ticket sales, Black said. So repairing the damage done by a second work stoppage this century will be at the forefront throughout this abbreviated campaign:
"If you piss off your fans to the point they're not going to buy tickets, you're going to shoot yourself in the foot. We're blessed we have a very strong relationship with our fans, and we hope to maintain that."
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