Steve Donner Interview – Part I (Intro)

January 12, 2015 - By
Steve Donner Interview – Part I (Intro)

“They were the love of my life.”

In 1994, the Buffalo Sabres needed to divest money losing entities like the Rochester Americans – to be scuttled or sold – in order to finance and build the Marine Midland Arena, now known as the First Niagara Center.

Steve Donner had already made it known to close friend and former boss Seymour Knox as well as Gerry Meehan that owning the Amerks would be a dream come true. While he enjoyed his time as VP with the Tampa Bay Lightning, his wife missed WNY and he really had a strong desire to test his own philosophies on a franchise he owned. While a deal was going to take a little time, Donner took a chance and returned to Rochester to be President of the Amerks (with an option to buy) where he worked as marketing director in the early 80’s. So on a Wednesday night, watching a lackluster performance in front of a nearly-empty arena, then-Sabres President, Doug Moss said, “Are you SURE you want to buy this team?

With that, the Cinderella story of the 1995-1996 Calder Cup Championship team was born, and the growing development-only philosophy of the previous 2 [...]Read More

Amerks Clean Up At The Home Opener

October 11, 2014 - By

If you missed the 2014-15 Home Opener you missed one of the strongest starts to the season in recent history. The Amerks steamrolled the Flames with a 6-1 victory in a game that had a little bit of everything.

The game started evenly matched and the first period ended scoreless. Goals from Schaller (RCH) and Agostino (ADK) had the 2nd period heading for a tie but the Amerks answered the Flames’ increased aggression with goals. Grigorenko and Ruhwedel stuffed in a pair giving the Amerks a 3-1 lead heading into the 3rd. Just 3 minutes into the third Ellis used his NHL experience to bury his own rebound. Ellis’ persistence put the Amerks up 4-1. Half-way through the 3rd Armia was pulled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. He then scored with toe-drag, impossibly patient shot from the goal line (video below). Varone rounded out the 3rd with a late goal. Amerks 6-1.

The real story of the night was a secondary altercation between the Amerks Carrier and Flames Trevor Gillies. Gillies not only jumped Carrier but smashed his face into the ice when Carrier tried to protect himself from the onslaught (video [...]Read More

Here’s Why I Think The 2013-14 Season Was A Success

May 10, 2014 - By

Unlike Eric I’m a relatively green Amerks fan. While Eric has admirably supported the team for more than 3 decades I’ve spent less than a decade as a fan. I discovered the Amerks after moving to Rochester for college and I only became a season ticket holder in 2011. My interest in the team coincided with the discovery of accounting discrepancies involving then team owner Steve Donner. Countless changes resulted. An awkward dual affiliation with the Florida Panthers was signed along side the existing Buffalo Sabres affiliation. This dual affiliation coupled with continued financial woes resulted in the loss of the Buffalo Sabres affiliation. The Amerks were sold. The new owner, Curt Styres, bailed the team out of its financial situation and negotiated with the city of Rochester to keep the team in Rochester. The future looked brighter…for a moment. The lack of a local affiliation and the turmoil in ownership eroded the fan base. Moral among everyone–fans, players, and staff–was at an all time low. Even for a newer fan like myself the change in attitude was evident everywhere…from the parking garage to the arena. The eroding fan base led to an increase in promotions. So [...]Read More

Neither a Failure Nor Success

May 5, 2014 - By
Neither a Failure Nor Success

The cold hard fact is that in hockey, success is achieved only by playoff series victories.

This season featured a lot of nice moments:

– A great summer of vet signings
– A new GM who knows how to win
– An amazing Frozen Frontier event
– A visit to The Spengler Cup
– A great run to get into the playoffs
– A fun series against Chicago

But it’s not enough. The bottom line is that for the 10th season in a row the Amerks did not win a playoff series.

Why? There are several reasons to discuss:

– Injuries to veterans Bagnall, Tardif and Zigomanis hurt big time in the series against Chicago.
– Lots of injuries and recalls throughout the season hurt seeding and the chance to get momentum against a lesser foe.
– It was 5 game series rather than 7.
– The choke in game 1.
– The lost battles throughout game 5.
– The over-officious October penalty calling didn’t favor a team like the Amerks vs. a team like Chicago.

None of these really matter in the end. 10 seasons without a [...]Read More

It All Comes Down To One Shot

April 16, 2014 - By
It All Comes Down To One Shot

@DonStevensAmerk: “He shoots, he scores! And the Amerks take the lead!” After a season of heartbreak and injuries, the Amerks playoff chances come down to one shot and this one moment.

Back in October I never would have pegged the Amerks as a playoff contender. They had an atrocious start to the season. Coupled with the management unrest in Buffalo it seemed like the 2013-2014 season was a destined for bust. Fast forward a couple of months and it seemed like the Amerks were a freight train with one scheduled stop. The playoffs. Unfortunately an inconceivable turn of events in Buffalo left the Amerks roster decimated. Countless injuries, difficult trades, and players that called it quits left the Amerks beaten and battered. One of the strongest defenses in the AHL became one of the weakest. The Amerks top scorers were recalled to the Sabres while the remaining forwards struggled to keep games within reach for the Amerks. The Amerks entered a losing streak and their playoff chances slipped away. Then, out of the blue, the remaining Amerks stepped up when it counted. A few HUGE wins and few stars aligning leave the Amerks just one point [...]Read More

Amerks vs. Griffins at FNC — Sabres Front Office Failures: No Seat For You!

February 9, 2014 - By

If you’re an Amerks season ticket holder that made the trip out to the First Niagara Center for last night’s game versus the Grand Rapids Griffins you’re probably a little bitter this morning. Besides losing the game 5-1 after a completely uninspired 3 periods of hockey, you might not have seen very much of the game. The majority of Amerks season ticket holders were dumped in 300 level seats down near the ends. To add insult to injury the lower seats were more than half empty (the pic above is from halfway through the first period). While loyal Amerks fans suffered with poor sight lines and nosebleeds up near the roof, the seats they deserved sat empty. I considered whether or not to write about the seating situation–technically the tickets Amerks season ticket holders received were complimentary–but any hesitation I had was removed after listening to Rob Sanderson’s post game radio show. Why? Even with only 4 to 5 thousand actual bodies in seats, many of the fans with 300 level tickets that attempted to move down to better seats were turned away by ushers. You have 300 level tickets. No seat for you! So [...]Read More

Video: Frozen Frontier Shootout (Amerks vs. Monsters)

December 14, 2013 - By

If you missed last night’s game at Frozen Frontier, you missed a magical event. It was cold. It was snowy. It was the perfect setting for a winter classic. The Amerks almost etched out a 4-3 win but the Monsters managed to tie it all up with 1/10th of a second remaining in the 3rd period. After an uneventful overtime period the game was decided in a shootout. Ultimately the Amerks prevailed and won Frozen Frontier!

Eric Bourgeois adds “Major kudos need to be given to the Amerk front office for collaborating with several partners to organize and make this game possible. The amazing atmosphere of this game is a shining moment for this storied franchise – and ideally will spark the team on and off the ice. A sincere thank you to all involved”.

About The Author
Chris Schiffner is a New Yorker turned Rochestarian who loves the Amerks, is passionate about the success and development of Downtown Rochester, and celebrates all things local. He maintains a blog at You can find him on Twitter at @ChrisSchiffner.

#FrozenFrontier – Everything You Need To Know

December 13, 2013 - By

We’ve been waiting for this day since it was announced back in August. Tonight the Rochester Americans take on the Lake Erie Monsters in Rochester’s first outdoor professional hockey game! Here’s everything you need to know for tonight’s game.

  • Gates open at 5pm with parking lots opening at 4:30pm. Parking is available in the Kodak lots surrounding Frontier Field for $10. Tailgating is prohibited.
  • Bathroom facilities at Frontier Field are not winterized and are closed. Porta-Potties have been provided instead.
  • Concessions will be open. Here’s the full menu.
  • Pre-game entertainment is being provided by Labatt in the Blue Zone tent. There will be a band playing pre-game and during intermissions and there should be copiuous amounts of alcohol flowing. Just remember–Porta-Potties!
  • At the time of writing this post the game is officially sold-out. There are, however, limited quantities of standing room tickets available. Standing room tickets are $20.
  • Crowd Favorites Baylee Morrison (National Anthem) and Fred Costello (Organist) will be filling their ceremonial roles.
  • Game start is scheduled for 7pm.
  • EXPECT SNOW!!! Predictions are calling for anywhere between [...]Read More

Kryptonite Neutralized – Amerks Take Marlies 4-1

October 19, 2013 - By

Toronto who? We might be unimportant this side of the border and we’ve had our share of difficulty against Toronto in the past, but the Amerks showed the Marlies we can play at their level. Just 9 seconds into the first period, before half the fans even had a chance to settle into their seats, Catenacci stuffed one home with a sensational setup from Ellis and Hutchings. Catenacci’s goal set the tone for the evening. Second period aside, Toronto was playing catch-up all night. Was the first goal a fluke? Luke Adam answered that question at 9:46 when he blazed a shot past Toronto goalie Garrett Sparks for a gorgeous top corner goal. Adam’s game has dramatically improved this season. He looks more confident. He’s taking shots. More importantly he’s scoring. Adam leads the Amerks in both goals (4) and shots on goal (19). Friday night’s first period easily represented the Amerks best period of the season. They played commanding hockey and dominated the tough-to-beat Marlies.

More second period woes
The second period was thoroughly uninspired. A different Amerks team took to the ice. They sat back on their heels. They let the Marlies have (and [...]Read More

The Amerks Have A Lot To Prove This Weekend

October 16, 2013 - By
The Amerks Have A Lot To Prove This Weekend

If you haven’t been to an Amerks game in a few years, you certainly got smacked with a dose of reality at the 2013-14 home opener. The same team that won it all in ’96 and went to the finals in ’99 and ’00, lost 8 to 1 in a completely one sided match versus the Grand Rapids Griffins. Even worse, the Griffins hardly broke a sweat. We knew the Griffins would be a tough team to beat–after-all, they won the Calder Cup in 2012-13. We just didn’t know they would be THAT tough. Just a week later the Amerks looked dramatically better and earned a decisive 4-1 victory against the Utica Comets. Then on Saturday night the Syracuse Crunch mopped the ice with the Rochester Americans winning 5-1. The worst part is, the game wasn’t nearly that close. One look at the second period stats is enough. The Amerks had only a single shot on goal. Nope, that isn’t a typo. They had ONE shot on goal during an entire 20 minutes of play. They also took a ridiculous number of penalties. Saturday night’s second period was one of the worst periods of hockey the Amerks have played in [...]Read More

Veteran core coming together

August 13, 2013 - By

The Amerks core is built, and it appears to be quite strong. Not only are these guys very talented, but many could be a C or A on any team at this level.

Center: Matt Ellis

Center: Mike Zigomanis

LW: Jamie Tardif

W: Colton Gillies

D: Drew Bagnall

D: Alex Sulzer

With a featured Outdoor Event and an entry into the Spengler Cup – a very strong team is mandatory this season.

Most importantly – a core like this could help the Amerks end their playoff series win drought of 9 seasons.

And the Banners Weep

May 2, 2013 - By
And the Banners Weep

– No Playoff wins in 3 seasons (since the..GASP..Florida years)

– No Playoff series wins in 8 seasons

– No Playoff run in 9 seasons

– No Cup Appearance in 13 seasons

– No Cup in 17 years