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Sabres exploring minor-league options other than Rochester

Located just an hour apart, Buffalo and Rochester have one of the most ideal parent/farm team situations in pro sports.

For now.

Amid rumblings the Sabres are looking to move their minor-league hockey team out of Rochester, ownership released a statement Wednesday. It didn't deny they have looked at other cities but did reaffirm a commitment to Rochester.

"Pegula Sports and Entertainment has been engaged in discussions with the hopes of reaching a long-term agreement for the Rochester Americans to compete in an improved facility that meets necessary arena standards," Pegula Sports and Entertainment said. "PSE is exploring all options for the Amerks organization with its primary preference to have the franchise remain a driver in the Rochester community as an anchor in the emerging downtown corridor."

The Sabres have said for several years that Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial is not suitable for hosting even a preseason NHL game. They moved this year’s scheduled exhibition to Pegula Ice Arena on the Penn State campus.

The state has given Rochester money to improve its arena.

“Being the largest tenant, we would like to have more control and active discussion in how the dollars that come in are appropriated,” Russ Brandon, president of PSE, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in June. “We’re going to need some changes down the road to ensure viability.

“There’s exciting plans for the downtown corridor in Rochester, and we want to be a part of it. The arena can be a real beacon for downtown, and right now it’s far from that.”

The Sabres and Amerks have a long history. Rochester housed Buffalo’s minor-league team from 1979 to 2008. After a three-year affiliation with Portland, Maine, the Sabres reunited with Rochester in 2011.

The American Hockey League has had numerous city swaps in recent years, so the Sabres could find an available city, including Albany, if they chose to leave Rochester.

HarborCenter may even be an option, though it doesn’t seem like an attractive one. Buffalo’s 16,000 season-ticket holders had tickets to last week’s visit by the Amerks, but only 2,000 chose to use them. San Jose is home to an NHL and AHL team, and the minor-leaguers rank 21st out of 30 in average attendance.

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