The Buffalo Sabres have finally kicked off the NHL regular season with a 2-1 shootout win in front of their home crowd against the Montreal Canadians.
Now I consider myself a realistic fan, so I am not going to get all excited about how the Sabres are winning their division and winning the Cup. It is only one game, with 81 more to play. Yes, the win was nice—but let's not get carried away, Sabres fans.
I am not going to go into a crazy rant on how the Sabres will be unstoppable this year or even get into a game recap. I am just going to write about the experience of being at the home opener for the first game of the Sabres season, and everything that went with it.
On my drive down to the city, I flipped on WGR550 to listen to the pre-game show. I hear that there are a good number on Montreal fans in the building, so I’m thing to myself, “Okay. So there is a group or two and that’s it”. I pull into the parking ramp like I always do and start to walk into the HSBC, not thinking it will be anything like a Sabres-Maple Leafs game—you Buffalo fans now what I am talking about.
On the walk to the arena down Washington Street I finally start to notice what they were saying on the radio. There were Montreal fans everywhere. Buffalo and Montreal fans all heading to the same place—a party at HSBC!
Just stepping back into the arena for what seems like forever got me pumped. Fans squeezing into tight spaces, trying to get through the crowd to get their tickets scanned and find their way into their seats. Some “Habs” fans starting cheering “Let’s Go Habs!” That lasted for a good five seconds until they were drowned out by “booooo”s, and "Let’s Go Sabres" chants as the Buffalo fans countered. This is hockey season again!
Finally time for puck drop! The first period went by very quickly, as the fans started to get into it. I’ll be honest—the first 20 minutes looked like a practice between these two teams. You could tell it was the first game of the season.
The only regulation goals between these two teams came in the first period though as Montreal scored first, and Thomas Vanek for the Sabres tied it up a few minutes later. After the Vanek goal, the place was rocking again—as it was not only a battle between the two teams on the ice, but it was also a battle for the fans in the seats.
The rest of the game flew by, as the fans went back and forth. With two minutes left to play, the game did slow down—or at least it did to me. The fans stayed with it, though, and as the game moved to OT, each close chance was ended with the moans of the crowd and the chants of “SHOOT!
The game went into the shootout, where the hometown team was able to come up victorious. The battle on the ice was over—but the fans weren’t done yet. Us Buffalo fans had to take the classy route, and rub it in the Montreal fans’ faces that made the trip out there.
Walking out of the HSBC, the Sabres faithful rained down chants of “Let’s Go Buffalo!” to chase the Montreal fans out. Not only did we win on the ice, but we also kept the home-ice advantage and defended our house.
As were made our way back to the car, the horns were blasting in the street. The Sabres won another one on just another night in Buffalo, bringing fans together to celebrate for the beginning of another hockey season.
Sure, this game was a win for the Sabres. And yes, in the long run it is just two points in the standings.
But this game was not about whether Buffalo won or not. It is just nice to have hockey back in one of the greatest hockey cities in the entire league.
I can’t put it any better than Bob DiCesare did in the Buffalo News: “That’s part of the beauty of opening day. It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s that you’re finally on your way”.