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Sabres Stimulus Package

Rebates offered to shore up season ticket base

Coming to your mailbox, all the charts, pricing, rebate offers, and details for playoff tickets, season and window pricing, and what we can expect to pay to keep our seats for the 2009-10 season.

The bad news? Season ticket prices are going up five percent across the board next year. The ticket range, which started at $20 for nosebleeds to $80 for the priciest club seats, go to $21-$84. Be aware that this pricing matrix is still below pre-lockout prices from 2003-04.

But the Sabres also announced their playoff pricing. One might need an astrological chart, a slide rule, a protractor, and a copy of the Koran to help decipher it all, but in the details comes an intriguing offer: Sign up by March 20 to renew your season tickets and buy playoff tickets, and for each playoff game played you will receive a “rebate” which will be credited to your 2009-10 invoice. The deeper the team goes into the playoffs, and the more home games that are played, the more rebates the season ticket holder will collect.

Should the Sabres actually get to round three, it is conceivable that next year’s season tickets will cost less than this year’s.

So what’s behind all this jazz and gimmickry? Sabres public relations director Mike Gilbert explains: “The only way for the Sabres to remain financially viable is to participate in the league’s revenue sharing program, and to do that the team must meet minimum revenue thresholds. Our season ticket base is the lifeblood of this team, and certainly we would like to commit our best customers and get them signed up as soon as we can.”

The Sabres have suffered a bit of downturn in attendance this year. Back-to-back “platinum” games against Montreal and Toronto earlier this month fell well short of sellouts. “We might have overreached on our pricing for those games,” Gilbert said. “But back in summer we weren’t dealing with a bad economy and a falling Canadian dollar, both of which have impacted some sales. Moving forward, we have numerous games down to single seats, and demand remains strong for the rest of our schedule. Variable pricing is a very fluid process and we will learn from it and adjust accordingly.”

Look over the myriad charts and numbers of ticket pricing, and one thing stands out. Season ticket ownership with the Buffalo Sabres is still a screaming bargain, given the backdrop of escalating salaries and rising caps. $56 to sit in 100 level seats, 18 rows off the ice, for a Stanley Cup finals game? And get an $11 rebate to boot? That deal is a definite no-brainer. Now if only the Sabres would make it that far!

TARO SEZ: “WE CALL IT SOUR GRAPES”

■ We often enjoy Don Cherry’s shtick on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner, but what he said on a recent show was absolutely outrageous. Commenting on Thomas Vanek’s freak injury to his jaw, and with the footage playing, Cherry talked about the previous Sabres/Toronto game, saying, “Vanek‘s got three goals, there’s seven minutes to go, you got him on there for the fourth. This is no good. What are you trying to do, run up the score? And you know what I said? I said the hockey gods will get you, and guess what happened? The hockey gods took care. That’s what you get when you run up the score on a weaker club with a rookie goaltender.”

If Vanek had scored his hat trick on Nashville or Phoenix, instead of Cherry’s beloved Leafs, you think this would have been mentioned? For the record, Ron McLean looked horrified as Cherry gloated over an injury to one of the league’s elite players.

■ Spotted in the press box last Friday: Bandits superstar John Tavares, who was in the building to show off the team’s new third jersey and man the t-shirt cannon. Tavares was in the box with his wife and his two toddlers, proudly showing his kids the large prints of some of the Bandits’ great moments. “This organization has been so good to me over the years,” said Tavares. “I wanted to show my kids that their dad is a proud athlete and a part of this team. It was nice just happening by these murals. I had no idea they were up here.”

■ Two degrees of separation: After last Friday’s emotional San Jose game, we headed over to Benchwarmers, the new sports bar on Mississippi Street. The atmosphere was jovial, fans in a great mood after witnessing one of the wildest games in that venue’s history.

Before leaving, we happened to run into a friend of ours from our season ticket group in section 113. We’ve been going to games with Brian Wielinski through the years. Brian and his father, Bill, are good friends and active in Cheektowaga Democratic political circles.

But we never knew that Bill Wielinski had a brother, Douglas, who lived in Clarence Center on Long Road. Shocked and stunned, we gave Brian our condolences and our sympathies as best we could. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the entire Wielinski family, and everyone affected by the tragedy of flight 3407.

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