In what could be viewed as another feather in Buffalo’s hockey helmet, the Buffalo Sabres announced on Monday that they have been successful in their bid to bring the NHL Scouting Combine, which serves as the league’s primary camp for draft prospects, to the new HarborCenter.
The combine will be held in the Queen City for two years, starting in 2015.
The Sabres first pitched the NHL in 2012 about bringing the combine to Buffalo, according to the league’s Vice President for Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.
“When I discussed this with my boss Gary Bettman, he said you better open it up to all 30 national Hockey league teams,” Campbell said during an afternoon news conference at First Niagara Center. Campbell also revealed that about a half dozen NHL teams expressed interest in hosting the event. “A few remained in the running in the end but still Buffalo was heads and toes above everyone else,” Campbell said.
Buffalo was able to lure the combine away from its traditional home in suburban Toronto.
We are told cost savings to the league to hold it in Buffalo was one big factor, the other was HarborCenter…the Sabres’ yet to be completed $147 million hotel, retail, and complex.
“HarborCenter was built with events like the Combine in mind,” said John Koelmel, HarborCenter’s president. “Our intent was to provide a world-class facility for hockey that attracts the sport’s best events. The NHL Combine continues to grow every year and we’re confident that HarborCenter and all of its amenities will only add to the experience for the league and all of the participating prospects.”
And while HarborCenter will afford prospects the opportunity to actually skate while showing off their skills, something—perhaps incredibly—they never did at the combine before, they probably won’t do that here either.
“Seventy-five percent of our scouts don’t want to see a player skate in this combine,” said Campbell. “They see them skate all winter long. Interviews are important, testing is important and so at this point in time we’re not going to include the skating element like you see in the NFL combine where you see the 40 yard dash, etc.”
In addition, the team announced that the Sabres and NHL will partner with local healthcare provider Kaleida Health to provide all the testing and medical services needed to evaluate the athletes at the combine.
There are typically–between the prospects, the team representatives watching them, the staff needed to pull it off, and the media–about 425 attendees to a combine.
As it lasts for 5 days, and presuming each would spend about $1,000 dollars during their visit here, the economic impact could be significant. But seemingly more important, to those involved, it’s an opportunity to garner some free publicity (hopefully good) for the region.
“We will do everything that we can in our community to make sure that the experience of everyone involved in the NHL combine is a world class experience,” said Mayor Byron Brown.
With this on the heels of other announcements that both the Women’s U-18 world championship, and the World Sledge hockey championships will be coming to Buffalo next year, it could lead one to wonder what could be next.
As to the NHL Draft, Sabres President Ted Black remarked, “that’s something we’re obviously interested in, we’ve submitted a bid for that .” Black also made no secret that the team would like to attract the NHL All Star game to First Niagara Center.
“I’d like to just because it hasn’t been here since 1979. Gilbert Perreault played in it…and having that kind of stage to promote our city and our brand is very important,” Black said.
Perhaps the most exciting news for hockey fans, is that the Sabres and the NHL are considering making the combine a more public event…where fans… and not just media and hockey personnel, would be invited to attend.