It's not that often Buffalo gets cast in a favorable light, but Ryan Miller's exploits at the Olympics have given us a little bit of a glow. Prompted in part by a question my teenage daughter asked me yesterday during the game, I started thinking of how we might somehow capitalize in a way that matters - - like jobs.
Her question: Why does Ryan Miller play for Buffalo. Couldn't he play for the best team or a team in a bigger city?
My answer: Ryan Miller plays for Buffalo because he wants to play for Buffalo. (Well, that and the $6.25 million he earns per season.)
Hmmm. Sounds like the makings or a marketing slogan.
"Ryan Miller set up shop in Buffalo. Maybe you should, too."
Or something like that. You get the idea.
And here's the kicker -- in just 10 months, the hockey world, and potentially a bunch of government and business bigwigs, are coming to Buffalo for the World Junior Championships.
HSBC Arena and Dwyer Rink at Niagara University will host 31 games from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. We're talking attendance in the range of 320,000. WNY will be invaded by boatloads of Canadians and thousands of Europeans.
Teams from ten nations will be involved. The United States, Canada, Russia, German, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia, etc. China isn't part of the crew -- yet -- but they want in, and presumably will have some boots on the ground.
Me, I don't want Ryan Miller showing people around. I'd rather have him focused on winning us a Stanley Cup.
But boy, he sure could be a terrific poster child, and for a guy as involved in the community as he is, maybe he'd be willing to lend his name and fame to the cause, along with a his mug shot -- with or without the playoff beard.
The potential of the Worlds, as they're known, isn't lost on Larry Quinn, the Sabres managing partner, who was instrumental in bringing the tournament here.
"It's an opportunity for the area to introduce itself in a meaningful way to nine significant free-market nations," he said.
It sure beats yet another mention on the Weather Channel for snow.
Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, the region's main economic development marketing organization, has been considering the opportunities.
It looks like the focus will be using the tournament as a lure to attract executives of companies in industry clusters the region has identified as our best bests -- solar power, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, etc. -- and then pitch them on the region while they're here.
Whatever has been done to this point, it might be a good idea to redouble the effort and figure out a way to incorporate a guy who is now one of the most famous, admired hockey players in the world.
There are no silver bullets, but the tournament presents an unusual opportunity, especially when you factor in the Ryan Miller dynamic. We need to think big and be bold.
Like playing for Olympic gold, the opportunity doesn't come around very often.