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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
With the start of training camp now less a month away, I’m slowly starting to get back into hockey mode. Much of that is because my daughter’s travel team has had a few summer practices, and the chill of the rink has started to creep back into my veins. That’s a refreshing change from the paint fumes and dust that have permeated the air here at HSBC Arena throughout the summer during all the construction. My favorite part of the renovations so far? The blue and gold paint job on the walls inside the arena bowl.

While monitoring the questions and comments at our @Sabresdotcom Twitter feed, it’s become pretty apparent to me that many Sabres fans have a year round case of hockey fever. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Rather than use this space to talk hockey of the on-ice variety, I’ll get you up to speed with many of the offseason happenings that you’ve been asking about.

-If you need a hockey fix, the 10th annual Street HockeyFest takes place takes place this weekend on the streets surrounding HSBC Arena. What started out with 20 teams invading Chippewa St. in 2002, has now grown to almost 200 teams participating over two days. The tournament is open to boys and girls ages 5-17 at a cost of $125 per team. Each team will consist of up to five players and will be guaranteed at least three games in the all-day, rain or shine event. There will also be a tent sale on the HSBC Arena floor during day one of the tournament, featuring a wide array of unique new and used items from HSBC Arena.

-There’s still time to get your tickets for the SabreKidz Club Summer Picnic this Thursday at Coca-Cola Field. The event gets underway at 5:30 p.m. in the party tent area prior to the game between the Buffalo Bisons and Toledo Mud Hens. For more information on becoming a KidzClub member and attending the picnic, call (716) 855-4486.

-Many of you have been inquiring about PuckDrop festivities that have taken place at the arena on the first day of training camp. Because of arena availability issues on Saturday, September 17, that event and the adult street hockeyfest won’t be happening this year. We will however be hosting an open night practice during training camp, and have planned some special activities for the second home preseason game against Toronto on Saturday, September 24. More details on both events will be announced soon.

-Tickets for the two preseason games go on sale Monday, August 29 at 10 a.m. Individual game tickets for the 2011-12 regular season go on sale September 17 at 9 a.m. Don’t forget that mini packs are already on sale. Fans can save up to 10% or up to $24 per game if they purchase by this date. After Aug. 30, mini-pack holders will receive a $2 savings per ticket off window prices. Check for all your individual and mini-pack pricing options.

-Sabres prospects will be taking part in the 2011 Traverse City Rookie Tournament from September 9-14. Buffalo has been placed in the Howe Division along with Minnesota, Columbus and Detroit. (Buffalo’s roster will be announced closer to the camp.) They will face each team in their division once, with the tournament culminating in a day of playoff games on September 14. Buffalo’s games will not be televised.

-Finally, thanks to all of you that have been voting in our Plays of the Year feature at I have no say in the final outcome, but think that Tyler Ennis’ bottle-popper against Ottawa on March 13 should be the runaway winner. Watch it again and I’m sure you’ll agree.
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