Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011 NHL Premiere Series & Reaction From Mannheim

The Sabres step foot on European soil
as they land in Frankfurt, Germany.
(Paul Hamilton/WGR550)
The Buffalo Sabres are in full swing of their European trip as one of four NHL clubs to participate in the 2011 NHL Premiere Series.  The other three clubs are the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, two of which the Sabres will play in regular season action this coming weekend.  "Don't call it a vacation, it's a work trip for us", said head coach Lindy Ruff of the Sabres' overseas trip.  He is viewing it as a business trip, not an eight day vacation where the main objective would normally be to consume as much sauerkraut and beer as possible.  The Sabres do of course have games that count overseas and have no time to mess around.  The regular season opens this Friday, October 7th as the Sabres take on the Ducks in Helsinki, Finland.  Puck-drop is scheduled for 7:00pm local time (1:00pm EST).  The second of back-to-back games to open the regular season will see the Sabres and Kings travel to Berlin, Germany for an 8:00pm local time (1:00pm EST) face-off.  This game, at Berlin's O2 World Arena, will be the first-ever NHL regular season game to be played on German soil.

Yesterday, the Sabres concluded their preseason schedule with a match-up against Jochen Hecht's former club, the Adler Mannheim Eagles.  Adler is a member of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the highest ice hockey league in Germany.  The game was broadcast on the radio live by WGR 550.  I was thankfully able to listen because of the WGR 550 App which streams their feed live to your cell phone.  The broadcast was hilarious as Kevin Sylvester and Paul Hamilton had to share a single microphone for their play-by-play and color commentary.  Although they are no Rick & Jim or Rick & Harry, I thought the two were great together.  They even described the general appearance of the SAP Arena nicely, which made things easier for me to draw the picture of the arenas colorful face-off circles in my head.  As the goals poured in, I was left wishing I was there as I could hear the crowd chanting through the broadcast for the entire duration of the game.  It sounded like the World Cup minus a few vuvuzelas.

Behind eight goals by seven different Sabres, Buffalo was able to cruise to an 8-3 victory.  Scoring for the Sabres were Tyler Ennis with two, as well as his newest line-mates, Ville Leino and Brad Boyes each netting one.  Adam, Ehrhoff, Vanek and Pominville also scored a goal each.  Adam and Ehrhoff scored on the Sabres' very impressive power play, or √úberzahl-Tor for you German readers.  The goal-scores were backed by a solid performance from Jhonas Enroth who played all sixty minutes between the pipes giving up three goals on thirty shots.  I couldn't see any of Enroth's saves but he apparently made some great ones as Kevin Sylvester's screams justified.  Along with those saves, I would like to see video of Ennis' first goal as well as Ehrhoff's power play goal and Boyes' game-winner.  All three goals prompted Kevin Sylvester to jump through the roof just like he did for Enroth's saves.  For game stats, the only detailed box score I could come across, although in German, is located here.

Members of the Sabres salute the crowd at
 the SAP Arena in Mannheim Germany following their game.
(Bill Wippert)

SAP Arena had a special atmosphere as hundreds of Sabres fans were present alongside thousands of German fans for their rare opportunity to see the NHL in Germany.  Working as one, the fans led cheers and chants in support of both hockey clubs.  At the conclusion of the game, the cheers continued for both clubs as they made their salutes to the standing-room only section which was jam-packed as seen in the picture above.  The salute sure was something special and can be seen in this video taken and shared by a German Sabres fan.  Why aren't our crowds like that in the United States?  I could only imagine.

The Sabres flew to Helsinki Finland early this morning to prep for their regular season opener this Friday.  Immediately following the game, the team will take a one hour and forty minute flight to Berlin, expecting to arrive at the team hotel around 1:00am local time.  If you aren't in Europe for the games, will you be attending Pucktoberfest at the First Niagara Center?

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