If youre a Ranger fan who has lived in Upstate NY all of your life, like me, you may remember growing up watching the Rangers. Never having to worry about them being blacked out or missing a game. However, all of that has changed. In 2006, when Buffalo lost their network, Empire Sports Network, to a bankruptcy scandal, MSG signed the Buffalo Sabres to a contract, allowing them to be aired.
Great news if you’re a Sabre fan, and you would ultimately learn that this was bad news if you’re a Ranger fan. MSG has been broadcast in Upstate NY since its inception in 1969. Areas where there is Rangers and Sabres conflict today, like Utica and Albany, are and were predominantly Ranger markets due to this. Consider the geography as well. While some outsiders may think that the Sabres market is Upstate NY, its really Western NY. All of the Sabres advertisements are aimed toward the Western NY community. Albany is 4 hours from Buffalo, and 2 hours from NYC, yet as of 4 years ago, its in the "Sabres market" to the ire of many local Ranger fans. This is also the case in the Utica area as well. Theres a map providing the distance from Utica to NYC and Buffalo, that is outlines that Utica really is in fact, closer to NYC, by nearly 20 miles. Yet these areas, as a result of the NHL unilaterally taking control of everything in the league, changed the markets after the lockout and decided the Sabres need more fans, so lets take the Rangers off in Eastern Upstate NY and put the Sabres on. Sure, its an attempt to make new fans, which it has, but youre also impeding on an already established fanbase, the Rangers. The NHL has made many new enemies in light of this, especially now that in Upstate NY, Rangers and Sabres fans loathe one another over it.
"Utica is closer to Buffalo than NYC."
"Oh, really? Lets check it out and see then."
Wow, its really not! How about that!
There are many Ranger fans in the Utica and Albany area that do complain about the Sabres getting precedence over the Rangers (which seemingly happened overnight), and they are told to "get Center Ice." Really, NHL? Get Center Ice? Why should we have to pay for a team that we should otherwise be seeing on our regular cable? Just so you can make an extra buck? (or 180).
Their presence is so little, there are even people that live in these areas that think the Sabres are an expansion team.
The conflict is so profound, there was even an online petition to get the Sabres off of MSG last year, which has actually gained a couple hundred signatures from Utica, to Albany, to Saratoga and Binghamton, and even help from our downstate friends in NYC.
Its an atrocity. Lifelong, dedicated blueshirt fans that have grown up watching the Rangers, that in fact do live closer to NYC than Buffalo and should remain in the NY pro sports market, now either cannot watch their team or only get to watch a few games.
This isn’t Phoenix. This is Upstate New York. Its got decades of hockey history here. The people here are hockey fans and have been die hard hockey fans. There are already established fanbases set up throughout Upstate NY. The Buffalo Sabres have traditionally just been Western NY, and the Rangers have been NYC and Eastern Upstate. Its not rocket science Bettman. Its not rocket science Daly.
Theres even a fanbase map that shows where the Sabres majority is, and you can clearly see it dissipates once you get East of Syracuse (Utica and Albany). The strong yellow area in the middle is Utica, and Albany you can see has shades of Rangers and Bruins (although most in Albany would tell you that its mainly Rangers and Devils).
This map was just updated on August 29th, 2010, after nearly two years.
Im not sure what the NHL is trying to do here, but they don’t seem to be very knowledgeable of the subject either. To the point where even Rangers beat writer Larry Brooks of the NYPost caught wind of the issue last year and e-mailed NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Per Brooks’ article:
"The question, posed in e-mails from disgruntled fans in the Albany region (as opposed to the gruntled ones who never seem to write), is why the Rangers are blacked out on television when Sabres' games conflict even though the capitol region is in far closer proximity to Manhattan than Buffalo.
The answer, as provided in an e-mail by deputy commissioner Bill Daly is that the Albany region is a "shared territory" for the Sabres, Rangers, Devils and Islanders, and that the Sabres are given precedence, "because the Rangers' footprint has traditionally pushed north and east (not north and west) and the Sabres' out-of-market territory has historically been New York State outside of the metropolitan area."
If, then, you're a Rangers fan whose footprints are north and east of the city, you likely are making them on a beach off the Atlantic Ocean. But you might be able to watch the games."
You can see here where Brooks even points out Daly’s geographical deficiency, considering the area he is talking about is the Atlantic Ocean, or really, New England.
If youre from Upstate NY, you will already know what all of this is about, and if youre not, hopefully now you can realize the bigotry that’s going on here. Or maybe you’re just sick at the thought of seeing all this Sabres memorabilia starting to crop up around your area wondering, "when did this happen" or "why now?" after 40 years.
Eastern Upstate NY is a Rangers market, and has been for over 40 years since MSG’s inception as a network, when they played the Minnesota North Stars in their first television broadcast October 15th, 1969.
Even Poughkeepsie is now part of the "Sabres market" when its nearly 6 hours from Buffalo and 1 hour from NYC.
Should the Sabres just arbitrarily get precedence over the Rangers in virtually all of Upstate NY? Should areas closer to NYC than Buffalo like Albany be an overnight Sabre market? What do you think? Hopefully I can raise some awareness to this issue, and if you are from any of these areas in Upstate NY, say something and join the cause. You know exactly what I am talking about.