By Kevin Oklobzija , Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
With the NHL in lockdown due to yet another labor stalemate, the Buffalo Sabres will give their fans American Hockey League action for at least one night.
The Sabres are moving one Rochester Americans home game: from Oct. 21 at Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester Community War Memorial to Oct. 23 at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo.
If the lockout extends well into December, one or more additional Amerk games could be moved to Buffalo. But Sabres president Ted Black said nothing else in October or November will be touched.
Black said he understands that many Amerk season-ticket holders may not like the switch, but added that every attempt will be made to make the switch as painless as possible.
Fans with tickets to the Oct. 21 game can exchange them for a 100-level seat in Buffalo. Fans who cannot, or chose not to, attend the game at First Niagara Center can exchange the Oct. 21 ticket for another Amerk ticket or a refund.
He said additional perks are in the works.
The Hamilton game was chosen based on a "hockey-first" reasoning, Black said.
It would have been the third game in three nights for the Amerks, with a 5:05 p.m. start time after a 7:05 p.m. game in Hershey, Pa., the previous night.
Moving it to Tuesday in Buffalo eliminates the three-in-three stretch, which is taxing on players and often leads to mediocre play in the third game.
The move also makes sense from a business and fan-experience standpoint. Sunday games during the NFL season have drawn poorly in Rochester for the past decade.
Also, the game was the third game of the weekend at the War Memorial. The Amerks are home to play Grand Rapids on Friday, Oct. 19, and then Rochester Institute of Technology will play Penn State the next night.
"We thought there would have been market fatigue with three straight games," Black said.
The Oct. 21 game also would have been the third straight night with games for Hamilton, so the Bulldogs weren't opposed to the switch, he said.
"Plus, there are a lot of Montreal Canadiens fans in the Niagara peninsula," he said.
Even if the NHL lockout would miraculously end before Oct. 23, the game will remain in Buffalo for the sake of logistics.
During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the Amerks played four games in Buffalo (one each in November, December, March and April) and averaged 15,160 fans.
The Amerks were already scheduled to play a road game in an NHL building: against Hamilton in the Bell Centre in Montreal on Feb. 22.
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle