Sabres hold Summit; Development Camp slated for July

The quiet view from the Sabres Summit. 
SabresProspects would like to thank the Buffalo Sabres organization and Mr. Ted Black for the opportunity to spend the first evening of the NHL offseason talking Sabres hockey in the 200 level of HSBC Arena. The two-plus hour "Sabres Summit" allowed members of the new media community to pose questions on topics ranging from gamenight presentation to scouting and development. For a man who hasn’t been a Buffalonian for very long, the progressive-minded Black certainly understands the importance of fan engagement in a hockey-crazy market.

Opinions vary on why the Sabres opted to engage the diverse crew of "bloggers". The reason is because you, the readers, are their fans. That commonality made them want to know what was on our minds.

Kevin Sylvester served as moderator for the event, sharing play-by-play stories and discussing his obvious admiration for the legendary Rick Jeanneret. He and Black worked well together while navigating the wide-open Q&A format.

One thing we learned relative to this space is that the Sabres annual Development Camp will again take place the first week of July at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University. Mark your calendars and get your summer fix.

For those that didn’t see the brief webcast on, one of the opening questions pertained to the expanded scouting and player development departments. The Sabres president was insightful on the topic.

"I think everything is on the table. It's a brave new world for Darcy. Terry famously said, the chains are off," Black explained. "Darcy impresses me because he's a very thorough and thoughtful person and I know he's looking at this as an opportunity he does not want to go into lightly."

And so the chase is on as Regier looks to add bodies both on and off the ice.

"The other thing is he's getting a ton of resumes," added Black. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity for him to be a talent scout as he's looking for talent scouts."

Much curiosity lays in exactly how many scouts will be added to the amateur and pro departments. Black makes it sound as if the structure is still being determined, but his reply was encouraging.

"In terms of an update, I know he's talked to a lot of people. We're in a budget process right now so I still don't even have a final number that he's going to go with. But he doesn't have a budget ceiling set. It's absolutely going to increase."

Black later addressed the topic of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, the Ontario Junior Hockey League club operated out of their corporate offices. Coached by former Sabres defenseman Grant Ledyard, the Jr. Sabres finished last season with a record of 17-30-1-2 in the competitive junior "A" league.

"The Jr. Sabres enjoy a great deal of support from the Buffalo Sabres and that will continue with our involvement with the other two rinks in town, and other things that we want to do," stated Black. "We've only been on the job for a little over 100 days. There's a lot more things we want to do. Certainly more kids playing hockey and having the opportunities to play hockey is right in our wheelhouse."

Sabres Director of Public Relations, Mike Gilbert added, “One of the reasons the whole Jr. Sabres thing came about was to try to keep the local talent in Buffalo and there are people out there spending $6, 7, 8,000 for a team. If you play for the Jr Sabres, you play for free."

The successful program has continued to gain regional traction, drawing 150 junior players to this spring's try out. Much how the Edmonton Oilers own the WHL's Oil Kings, there are no immediate plans for the Jr. Sabres to bolt the established NCAA feeder league for major-junior pastures. Regardless of who the team competes against, the Sabres are committed to supporting the junior presence.

With good things happening on that front, Black's ideas for youth hockey seem to be broader than merely supporting the Jr. "A" level.

"I'd like to have programs for kids that maybe don't have that skill level still have a place to play, compete and just have the joy of scoring that goal that won a game. I didn't have the opportunities growing up to play hockey", explained Black, who was raised in a smaller town where football and basketball were the primary options. "I'm really glad that my kids have played. I think it is important and I think they're off to obviously a better start than maybe other kids in a hockey hotbed."

Black later revealed that he would be attending the draft, as he’s interested to see the process and how things take shape. When a follow-up asked who the Sabres would be taking, he smartly deferred to Regier.

And just to show how far the Sabres community has come, not one mention was made of video scouting throughout the evening.

The Sabres staff should be commended for “reaching out” and acknowledging the time and effort that many put into promoting their brand. This is great news for fans everywhere, as more professional franchises are likely fall in line similarly in a stand-up manner.

Once again, thanks to the entire crew for making themselves accessible on a spring night when they all could have been golfing.

Special thanks to Chris Ryndak of The Goose's Roost for helping put this post together.
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