Where Don't NHL Players Want to Play? A Sabres Fan Rebuttal

Yesterday, Deadspin released an article about a poll conducted by ESPN’s Craig Custance. The poll asked 10 NHL agents to list the most common places that their clients put in their no-trade clauses. It may or may not come as a surprise to many, but coming in at third as most listed by NHL players in no-trade clauses was our great, beloved city of Buffalo.

The City of Buffalo (pictured above) was listed as #3 on a list of where NHL players do not want be traded to. In a world that immediately thinks of snow when they hear Buffalo , here is a picture of the skyline in the summer. Photo courtesy of Branches of Niagara Campground

The City of Buffalo (pictured above) was listed as #3 on a list of where NHL players do not want be traded to. In a world that immediately thinks of snow when they hear Buffalo , here is a picture of the skyline in the summer.

Photo courtesy of Branches of Niagara Campground

Looking at the top five cities, it’s obvious that they all share some common ground. As described by Barry Petchesky, the author of the Deadspin article, “these [cities] are all sleepy cities with bad weather and moribund competitive prospects.”

Bad weather? Yeah, I can agree with that after the historically terrible winter we have had this year. In fact, this month is presently the third coldest month of all months on record in Buffalo and the 20th coldest of all time. Cold weather is what Buffalo is known for and it’s something that you gradually learn to adapt to after a while. Without winter, there would be no summer in a Western New Yorker’s eyes and the bitter cold makes you appreciate the warmer weather come May.

Sleepy city? No. A visitor to the city of Buffalo only needs to take a look at what is happening down at Canalside to know that the city is quickly on the rise to becoming a happening place. Buffalo is becoming America’s hockey heaven and the culture and love of hockey surrounding the city is creating a community unlike any other. Other than maybe Detroit or Chicago, it’s hard to think of another U.S. city where I can lace ‘em up, warm up with a double-double at the honorary Tim Horton’s, and chat it up with people I don’t even know, about a game they are playing on the TV in the coffee shop.

Canalside (pictured above) is one of the first projects in the renaissance of downtown Buffalo. The rink is is one of the largest in the country and offers open skates. often for free, before every Sabres home game. Photo courtesy of Canalside Buffalo

Canalside (pictured above) is one of the first projects in the renaissance of downtown Buffalo. The rink is is one of the largest in the country and offers open skates. often for free, before every Sabres home game.

Photo courtesy of Canalside Buffalo

The hockey-loving community that is Buffalo is something that I would want to be apart of if I were a pro hockey player. That’s obviously my biased opinion, but what else is a guy to do when his city is on a list of places that no NHL players want to be traded to? I also find it quite interesting that they decided to do this poll the year before one of the greatest draft classes in NHL history. Especially with 3 of the 5 teams on the poll in the “McEichel” race.

Obviously I am not an NHL player making millions of dollars a year so my opinion doesn’t mean squat in comparison to the guys really making the money. If the game were still played for the pure love of the game and not the money, then this kind of poll would never even be conducted. Pro sports contracts are undoubtedly outrageous but if they didn’t exist then I wouldn’t be here voicing my opinions about another article. So to exercise my freedom of speech in the world of sports, I now present to you Nick Kiser’s Top 5 Cities with No Trade Clauses (If I were a NHL player).

5. Nashville, TN

Awesome hockey team this year and passionate fans as a result of the team’s success, but the one reason this team comes in at number 5 on my list is the music. Yes, Nashville is the “Birthplace of Country Music,” but would it be too hard to find a goal song that would amp me up when my team scores? Music is a keystone element of every hockey game. It’s what drives the emotions of the fans to get engaged and the players to play to the best of their ability.

If you don’t believe music has an impact on players, watch Vancouver players react to the playing of the Chicago Blackhawk’s goal song, “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis. It’s very comical but it proves how much of an impact one song, especially the goal song, can have on the players on the ice. When I first heard “I Like It, I Love It” by Tim McGraw as the Predator’s goal song I chuckled a little. The team scores and then this honky-tonk music comes on in the arena. Absolutely bizarre to a New Yorker, but maybe that’s what the fans like in Nashville. For me, I’ll take “Song 2” by Blur and “Gold on the Ceiling” by the Black Keys any day over some country song from the early 90s.  

4. Phoenix, Arizona

“You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to be out of the rain. In the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” –America

Seriously though. Is there even a market for hockey out in Phoenix? Coming in third to last on the list of attendance at home games, Phoenix is not the place where you’ll find the type of hockey fans that we have in Buffalo. Even with the season Buffalo is having this year, they still manage to bring in an average of 18,401 fans per game, good enough for 12th on the NHL attendance report. With First Niagara having a capacity of 18,690 people, the rink is short just 189 people of a sell out every night.

Sabres fans are always threatening to not follow the team because of how poorly they are playing. Even through the threats and complaints, we still manage to watch the games because the team is a symbol of the city. No matter the team’s success, there will always be a Sabres logo flying high on any given street throughout the city. That kind of atmosphere is most definitely not present out West in Phoenix. Granted the weather is beautiful, it’s a place where I would not feel valued as a hockey player in the community.

3. Sunrise, FL

Okay Florida, your weather is obviously a big pull factor for players when it comes to a trade. Most players pack their golf bags and head down your way every off season anyways, so why wouldn’t you want to experience a “real” winter before enjoying a scorching summer? Regardless of how you spin it, people who experience a real winter will always be envious of the Sunshine State so there is no arguing the weather.

What you can argue however is the perpetual decline of Florida Panthers fans. Back in December, Buffalo took on Florida at the BB&T Center. On the day of the game, Yahoo posted an article in which the Panthers management promised the crowd of the year due to the fact that “Sabres fans draw television views and are known to travel well” (way to go, Sabres fans). Florida’s average attendance at games is around 8,800 people. This number is just 51.9 percent of the building’s capacity and the numbers speak a great deal when Panthers games are played on television. Great weather, but minimal fan support lands this city on my list as number 3.

The BB&T Center during a Florida Panthers game back in November. Almost looks like there is more red seats than fans. Photo courtesy of Andy Gray/SI.com

The BB&T Center during a Florida Panthers game back in November. Almost looks like there is more red seats than fans.

Photo courtesy of Andy Gray/SI.com

2. Toronto, ON

Toronto is the only city on the original list that made it to my list for the sole reason that the Maple Leafs play there. When the Sabres are losing at least the fans still show their respect. Every now and then, you’ll see a new video of a Leafs fan throwing their jersey on the ice. Although I can’t find footage of the jersey throwing incident in Buffalo, a few of the Leafs fans took to throwing their jerseys on the ice at First Niagara Center when the Sabres rocked the Leafs 6-2 in November.

We can all agree that both teams are a wreck this year, one more intentional than the other, but throwing your jersey on the ice when your team is terrible? That’s just a classless move by the fans and something that I wouldn’t want to play for if I were a NHL player. Sure, Buffalo has their classic boos and Bronx cheers when the Sabres get their first shot of the period 10 minutes in, but not once have I ever seen a Sabres jersey thrown on the ice. Buying a jersey to support your team shows that you’re a fan of the team and the sport. Plus, I think the fans in Buffalo are smart enough not to waste their money on a jersey that they will throw on the ice. I wonder what the resale value of those jerseys are in Toronto, eh?

Comic speaks for itself. Courtesy of NHL.com

Comic speaks for itself.

Courtesy of NHL.com

1. Boston, MA

(Bruins fan #1) “Did yahh see that Bahhhst-inn Brooins game lahst night against Datroit?”

(Bruins fan #2) “Nahh”

(Bruins fan #1) “That Datsyuk guy is a wicked pissah the way he scores. The fans threw ahhhctapus on the ice too.”

Just think about it. You being a hockey player, most likely from Canada, listening to people speak in an accent that is very hard to comprehend at times. Sitting at a bar in Buffalo, it’s almost expected that you will hear a Canadian accent. Reach into your pocket and you’ll most likely pull out some Canadian change. As a player, wouldn’t you want to play somewhere you don’t stick out like a Sabres fan in the Air Canada Centre? A Canadian in Boston surely does not sound like it would be a good time.

I’d rather take the Buffalo-loyal, sit through 60 minutes of every game, regardless of the outcome crowd over the Boston accent speaking, Milan Lucic loving crowd.