BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Buried amidst all the excitement over the Buffalo Sabres' HarborCenter project is a simple fact: The complex, which will include two ice rinks and a hotel, will also be connected to First Niagara Center.
That's no secret. It's mentioned, but just mentioned, in most of the media coverage of the Sabres' project.
But during a press conference yesterday with owner Terry Pegula, and in a conversation I had afterward with team President Ted Black, I got the sense that the physical connection between the venues is vital to team officials.
Consider Pegula's words: "We will be the only National Hockey League team to have three arenas tied together - one being main arena."
Or the point Black made when I asked him if hosting Division I hockey - and Canisius College in particular - was a strong possibility for the HarborCenter.
"Absolutely," he said. "It'll be 1,800 seats. That is a little small for D-I, but sometimes you can fudge that a bit by playing some games in a bigger facility. Obviously, you won't even need to go outside into the elements to get to a 19,000-seat arena."
Truthfully, walking outdoors from the HarborCenter to First Niagara Center won't be a trek even in the worst of weather. It's literally across the street. But from a marketing and branding perspective, consider this: A state-of-the-art youth and amateur rink complex is connected to a world-class arena. And that world-class arena is linked to a facility that should become a hotbed for hockey players and families.
In the quest to land tournaments and league play, and of course to help a D-I program like Canisius recruit players and turn games into events, the three-rink linkage could prove integral.