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Sabres set to spend two days saying hello to Southern Ontario

Sabres management, players and alumni plan ride across the border together to reconnect with the team’s fans in Canada.

The Sabres estimate about 10 percent of their season ticket-holders live in Southern Ontario, but visits to The True North have dwindled through the years. The Sabres haven’t held training camp in St. Catharines, Ont., since 2003, and increased border-crossing regulations can make short visits difficult.

“Engaging Southern Ontario, the Niagara Frontier is really, really important to us for the future of the Buffalo Sabres,” team President Ted Black said today by telephone. “In years past we went there to try and sell tickets. Here, we just want to sell ourselves on enlisting new fans and connecting with the fans that maybe haven’t seen us over there physically for a while.”

Black will join forward Ville Leino, team Hall of Famer Danny Gare, retired defenseman Jay McKee, broadcaster Harry Neale and others for several stops in Fort Erie and St. Catharines on Thursday and Friday.

The tour starts at 8 a.m. Thursday with the group serving coffee at the Tim Horton’s location at 1167 Garrison Road in Fort Erie. There will also be visits to two schools and meetings with the Greater Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce and St. Catharines business association today. On Friday, the Sabres will stop at Brock University, a hospital in St. Catharines and conduct an on-ice clinic in the Garden City.

In other news:

*Sabres mini-packs went on sale today despite the uncertainty of any games being played. Fans can create a ticket package of five to 40 games and receive a 10 percent discount off box office prices. Other benefits include no service charge and the ability to buy playoff tickets before they go on sale to the general public. Mini-packs can be purchased at Sabres.com.

*The Sabres are installing new seats in the retractable seating sections between 109 and 113. They also plan to remodel the Sabres Store this month.

---John Vogl

Luongo reportedly sees daylight in Sunshine State; NHLPA catches up with Sabres' Ott

There's uncertainty as to when the NHL season will start, but one thing that's 100 percent sure is a healthy Cory Schneider will be in the crease for the Vancouver Canucks when it does. Roberto Luongo knows that better than anyone, which is why the Canucks' backup goalie said today the Florida Panthers would be a better team for him.

"[Florida] makes sense for myself, for my career and my family,'' Luongo told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "That being said, there's obvious other options as well. This is a preferred location for obvious reasons, but I'm not shutting the door on other possibilities if it comes up.''

The Canucks' former franchise goalie, who is 33, has 10 years left on his contract with a salary cap hit of $5.33 million.

"Obviously, I want to start. That's a given,'' Luongo, who played for the Panthers from 2000 to 2006 and has an offseason home in Florida, told the Sun Sentinel. "You're dealt different situations in life. You've got to handle them the right way. I don't know what's going to happen this year. The only thing I could do is work hard and have a positive atittude. At the end of the day, I'm sure everything is going to work out.''

Elsewhere around the NHL:

*Sabres forward Steve Ott recently had a chat with the NHL Players' Association and detailed his love of boating. He also praised his new organization.

"You look at the young talent they have in Buffalo and you have plenty of reason to be very optimistic," Ott said on NHLPA.com. "You get a real sense, from top to bottom, that they are serious about winning."

*The Colorado Avalanche made a historic announcement today, naming 19-year-old forward Gabriel Landeskog the youngest captain ever in the NHL.

---John Vogl

Back to work, but probably not back to an NHL arena anytime soon

Hey there, y'all. Hope all is well. A summer of love and leisure is over, and it's back to work -- but what kind of work is anyone's guess. Coverage of proceedings on the ice is unlikely.

NHL training camps are set to open in 11 days or so, but I'd put the odds of that happening at about 5 percent or so. The collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15, and a lockout looms.

I watched from afar (meaning the flight home from my honeymoon in Maui) as the owners and players prepared for yet another labor battle. Things took a turn for the worse Friday when the sides broke off negotiations without scheduling new talks.

"Talks are recessed. We will not be discussing these issues again unless or until there is word from the NHL that they are ready to continue," said Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players' Association.

Said Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner, in an e-mail to the Associated Press: "It's going to be tough to get something done in time to open camps unless or until the union changes its position and indicated a willingness to move off of its current proposal, which it was clearly not prepared to do."

In a nutshell, the league says it is paying too much money to the players, who earn 57 percent of the revenue. The players say the main problem is the owners' refusal to create a meaningful revenue sharing program to help the eight to 10 teams that are struggling as the league rolled to record revenues of $3.1 billion last season.

The NHLPA said it will remain in New York, the league's headquarters, for the next two weeks in case the NHL wants to talk. The union also has an executive board meeting scheduled for Sept. 12-13.

The league doesn't see much point in talking at the moment.

"Somebody needs to be in a position to offer or say something new," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We're not in a position to go back and offer more and negotiate against ourselves."

All in all, there are few encouraging signs as the clock ticks toward what was supposed to be the beginning of hockey season.

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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