Inside Enemy Territory: An NHL Team in Hamilton Will Hurt the Sabres


Before I really dig into this article, I’d like to clarify a couple things to the readers.

First, I know this article is incredibly late to the initial press release regarding this situation. There have not been many updates to the story, besides Jim Balsillie saying he is open to an auction for the team.

Second, I am aware that ESPN ran an article that had a nearly identical name in regard to this story. Two US senators from New York originally made this claim, and I am simply writing my own take on it.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.

I’ve written my first few Inside Enemy Territory columns on the Buffalo Bills. With the Sabres done, and the NFL season on the rise, I felt it was more appropriate to write about the Bills.

However, this notion that the Phoenix Coyotes might move to Hamilton, Ontario became troublesome to me, especially over the last few days.

You see, the city of Buffalo is not what it used to be. It is no longer has a strong economy, it’s population has been dwindling, and there just does not seem to be much hope for improvement.

In the last year or so, there have been talks that the Buffalo Bills might relocate to Toronto once the team’s ownership changes hands.

If you have ever had the pleasure of being in the great city of Buffalo, you would know how badly this city loves its sports teams. The entire population would be devastated if one of its two major professional sports teams was moved to a rival sports city.

The potential (and in my opinion, probable) move of the Coyotes to Hamilton would hurt the fanbase and revenue stream of the Buffalo Sabres. In fact, the team’s move might even affect the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hamilton is a mere 43.5 miles away from Toronto, and only 64.5 miles from Buffalo. There are plenty of “fans”, of the Maple Leafs and Sabres that would jump at the opportunity to root for a team in their hometown.

Critics of this school of thought are sure to say “real fans would not change allegiance because a team is closer to their home!” That could be incredibly true. However, teams not only need “true fans”, they also need casual fans to drive their income.

Casual fans are just as important as hardcore fans. You see, casual fans get to go to a few games a year. When they attend, they might buy a higher-priced ticket, buy lots of food and drinks, and maybe a souvenir or two.

Casual fans might also stay in the city late, hit up a bar, and spend the night in a hotel in the city since they might be too drunk to drive home.

It’s these little things that we tend to forget when thinking about fans attending a game. It drives up the city’s economy.

Before I get comments saying I’m crazy, I’d just like to add that I’m not arguing that a team in Hamilton would immediately tear apart the Sabres and drive them into bankruptcy.

The issue here is that it might hurt the Sabres in the long run. The city of Buffalo is a small-market city, there is no arguing that. They clearly do not have the resources like the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers to support a dent to their fanbase.

That’s not to say that Buffalo does not have a strong fanbase, because it does. Anyone who has ever watched hockey, especially the playoffs a few seasons ago, knows the passion that Sabres fans bring every night.

In a blue collar, economically troubled town like Buffalo, there are limitations to what people can spend. Going to a Sabres game is a luxury, and if anyone has ever taken a basic economics course, you cannot always spend your income on a luxury.

I’d also like to point out to readers that I would love another hockey team in Canada. Hockey is the sport of Canada, and each team has an amazing group of fans. I’d compare the support for an NHL team in Canada to soccer hooligans in Europe, only Canadians are much more civilized.

Gary Bettman has not been the greatest Commissioner in the history of the NHL, we all know that. Let’s just hope that he makes the right decision here for the sake of the Buffalo Sabres (and Toronto Maple Leafs), and prevents the Coyotes from moving to that region.

(Inside Enemy Territory is a Buffalo Sports Column written by Alec Szczerbinski. Follow the column on Twitter @InEnTerritory, or email any questions/comments to

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