The "Road to the Winter Classic" acknowledges the Buffalo Sabres are, at best, a work in progress, so it's not surprising the premiere started by focusing on the New York Rangers. But fans of Jason Pominville, bowling and behind-the-scenes clips likely enjoyed the opening episode Wednesday night.
The four-part television documentary, which tracks the Sabres and Rangers as they head toward a New Year's Day game in Citi Field, began on NBCSN. It will continue for the next three Wednesdays.
The show opened with a look at the difference between the teams and cities, with New York laying claim as the "biggest stage in the world." The cameras followed the Rangers' Jimmy Vesey, Brady Skjei and Kevin Hayes as they rode the subway in full gear on their way to an outdoor practice.
After shifting back to Buffalo, the talk was of the hole in the franchise's résumé – its lack of a Stanley Cup. Coach Phil Housley spoke of wanting to win one and introduced viewers to Jack Eichel.
"He has the skill to become one of the elite players in the game," Housley says of Eichel, who gave the team an end-of-practice pep talk.
Transit Lanes, Roswell Park and the Sabres' foundation got airtime as the cameras filmed Buffalo's annual Bowl-A-Rama. There was a comical look at Kyle Okposo's lack of bowling ability.
After an extended look at Kevin Shattenkirk living out his dream of playing for his hometown team, the defenseman helped the Rangers beat New Jersey. There was a chance to see and hear Lindy Ruff, who is an assistant coach in New York.
The cameras then headed to the home of Buffalo's Jason Pominville. It was easily the highlight of the 23-minute show for Sabres fans. He and his wife played hockey and did gymnastics with their children. Pominville talked of getting sticks signed for his son.
The series also profiled New York's Rick Nash before taking in the Sabres' visit to St. Louis last weekend. After a quiet interview with Eichel, the show had highlights of Buffalo's 3-2 overtime loss. Viewers went inside the dressing room for pep talks by Josh Gorges and Housley.
Narrated by Emmy- and Tony-nominated actor Bill Camp, the "Road to the Winter Classic" is providing enough Buffalo material to keep Sabres fans watching.
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There will be no shortage of Winter Classic material this month. NHL Network will present "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside." It will offer a look back at the 2008 game between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins in the Bills' stadium.
The documentary will air on NHL Network at 8 p.m. Wednesday. There will be a special screening in (716) Food and Sport at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The film will feature interviews with Sabres participants Ryan Miller, Brian Campbell, Pominville and Ruff. Narrated by actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, there will also be interviews with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and NBC announcers Mike "Doc" Emrick and Bob Costas.
The game in Orchard Park proved that outdoor games would work and set the precedent for 21 stadium games for the NHL.
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Thousands of tickets to Sabres games have been going to waste. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County and Community Beer Works want to change that.
The nonprofit organization and the Buffalo brewery are asking fans who aren't interested in the games to donate their tickets rather than let them sit on the shelf. The tickets will be given to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program so children and their mentors can attend the games.
Fans are asked to bring printed tickets to Community Beer Works at 15 Lafayette Ave. from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday. In exchange for every pair of tickets, fans will receive a receipt for their tax-deductible donation and a free pint of Frank American Pale Ale.
Fans who use virtual tickets through the One Buffalo app can also donate by forwarding them to firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting Community Beer Works on Twitter (@communitybeer) or Facebook (Facebook.com/communitybeerworks/).
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The Rochester Americans went to the Big Easy for a big hire.
The Amerks have announced Rob Minter will serve as the team's vice president of business operations. He will oversee the day-to-day business activities of the Sabres' minor-league club.
Minter arrives in Rochester after three years as the director of premium seating for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. He organized and managed a staff that focused on the sale and retention of premium products for both franchises.
“I’m tremendously excited to join such a longstanding and historic organization like the Rochester Americans,” Minter said. “I look forward to getting to know our loyal season-ticket holders, corporate partners and the great hockey fans we have in the city of Rochester.”
The Virginia native has also worked in the American Hockey League for the Lake Erie Monsters, overseeing their ticket operations.
The Amerks' position opened in October after the organization let go of Rob Kopacz. He had been the vice president of business operations since July 2011.