Friday, January 4, 2008

The "seekers" are back

It’s back to Buffalo. We seem to be here all the time. I have friends who have lived here before and I have friends who still live here. The community’s surrounding Buffalo are said to be absolutely beautiful. However most of what we see is the airport area and the downtown area where the rink is and believe me it is not picture postcard material. That being said the fans here love their team and I love to see passionate hockey fans. The town is still buzzing over the outdoor game on Tuesday against the Penguins. Even though the Sabres lost, you can’t find many people who didn’t think it was an outstanding event. Based on the U.S. TV ratings it was a huge success. There has not been a game shown on American TV which received ratings that high in 11 or 12 years.

The debate has now started about the future of these outdoor games. The one in Edmonton was wonderful and so was this one. There are now people who want to go with the idea that “if it works do it more”. I am not one of those people. The reason they work is because they are special. They are not special if they become a regular occurrence. Some people believe it should be done in the pre-season for competitive reasons. I don’t buy that either since 71 thousand people would not show up for a pre-season game and half the fun of these games is the snow and in September you won’t find any of that anywhere in the NHL. Another idea bouncing around out there is holding one in Las Vegas. Yes it is a prospective future NHL market, but an outdoor game there would be a bust I believe. Its not good PR to have the players suffer heat stroke and no matter how good the ice plant is, I cant see the ice being good enough so as not to have it become a safety issue for the players.

One last point from here in Buffalo is the autograph hounds. I have been doing this job for 15 years and I still can’t figure these guys out. The players call them “seekers” and they just don’t stop. The team hotels are not published or made public yet the “seekers” always seem to know where and when a team is arriving. They stand in the cold for hours and hours to get their signatures. Very few appear to be fans who just want their stuff signed by their favorite player. They seem to be getting stuff signed to be re-sold. I have no idea how much the items are worth once signed, but its hard to believe its enough money to justify the time they spend and the weather they endure to get that magic stroke of the sharpie on a picture or puck.

Steve Yzerman used to have a personal policy. He would not sign anything for kids if they were standing there during school hours. Some of the “seekers” employ kids to get autographs for them and that is a particular type of smarmy if you ask me. Steve also would often ask who the item should be signed to. For example “To Scotty, best wishes, Steve Yzerman”. That personalized item would then be worthless for re-sale but priceless to an actual Yzerman fan. I love that idea. The more actual fans get and the less the “seekers” get is fine by me.

See you at the rink.