Niagara Gazette — It didn’t take long for the fans at First Niagara Center to start chanting Sunday afternoon.
Before the players even took the ice, the crowd — a sellout of 19,070 — let roar a “Let’s Go Buffalo” at playoff hockey volume.
After a labor disagreement wiped out almost four months of National Hockey League play, it was questionable what kind of support the league would receive finally starting up. But not in this region, Head Coach Lindy Ruff said following the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday.
“Our fans have been awesome,” Ruff said. “As soon as we got rolling, I think they were the ones that pushed us to that next level.
“We really do have a city that starves for hockey. We’ve got fans that are passionate when you win and they’re passionate when we’re losing. I don’t know if I’d want to be in a different place.”
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was ready to get back on the ice and play some hockey. He was excited for the season to begin. But it wasn’t just for himself. Miller, who spent the majority of December and early January negotiating to end the work stoppage, wanted to entertain the fans as well.
He said their attitudes, especially in the Buffalo Niagara market, is about the love of hockey and he felt like the crowd stepped up Sunday.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been here for our fans,” Miller said. “For them to be patient and come back and sellout and be excited and cheer and be on our side felt good. I really didn’t worry about Buffalo fans so much. We’ve got good people here and they love hockey.”
Sunday’s contest had its moments of shakiness, especially coming off such an extended absence. The fans noticed it, as did the players.