By Tim Schmitt
When Larry Quinn found it necessary to reassure area hockey fans that a small dose of success didn’t mean the Buffalo Sabres were going Madison Avenue, he summoned greats from blue-and-gold lore.
Gilbert Perreault. Mike Foligno. Rick Martin. Darryl Shannon.
Need any more proof that the Sabres think tank was caught off-guard by the media backlash surrounding the Reebok-designed bodyless buffalo?
All it took was a quick flip of the four jerseys lined behind Quinn during Thursday’s impromptu press conference in which he released two key bits — that the original franchise uniforms will be brought back for 15 home games, and the despised new logo will be on the crest for the remaining 67 dates.
Among the hanging shirts was the No. 8 of Darryl Shannon, a journeyman defender who scored a dozen goals in four seasons as a Sabre.
“We literally could not find any more jerseys,” Quinn said. “We pulled one of these from my hockey bag. Another one came from Larry Playfair and the players association.”
The key to the organization’s statement — and Quinn repeated that he wasn’t worried about fan reaction to the recently leaked logo — was the recurring word “product” that kept popping into the conversation.
And the noticeable lack of product available to the public.
If Quinn and the Sabres weren’t worried about the nasty reaction the logo has drawn, they would have stayed the course and kicked off the preseason with Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville modeling revamped blue-and-gold through the halls of HSBC.
Instead, haste brought Darryl Shannon.
Quinn’s a natural with the media, and there were more cameras and reporters at HSBC on Thursday than at most November home games.
But a tinge of uneasiness crept into Quinn’s typically confident voice, a realization that the organization couldn’t lose the momentum from a season that was a marketer’s dream.
Remember, nothing the Sabres have done under Tom Golisano has been done without numbing calculation. In this case, after reading the 22,000-plus signatures on an angry local Web site, Quinn realized the group needed to double-check its math.
People were ticked, not just about the logo, but about their cries going unheard.
Buffalonians, Quinn admitted, aren’t known for embracing change. He expected the new logo to be met with disdain, especially since the team dropped hints about returning to the original jerseys full-time during ceremonies for Pat LaFontaine and Danny Gare.
But when the comments got vicious, even Quinn realized flexibility was necessary.
“This got to be an integrity issue,” he said. “People thought they were being lied to and we wanted to assure them that wasn’t the case. We knew we had to address it.”
Thursday’s announcement didn’t address the problem as much as it tried to hush it. I’m betting it’s going to take more than Darryl Shannon to appease the masses.
Contact group sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, Ext. 2266, or firstname.lastname@example.org