Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 12, 2007

SABRES: Rain doesn't fizzle fanatics' spirits before Game 1

BUFFALO — If an ice storm deemed one of the area’s woolliest didn’t keep fans from HSBC Arena last October, why would a little rain do so before Thursday’s opening night of the National Hockey League playoffs?

It didn’t.

In fact, the inclement weather didn’t even find its way into the conversation between Grand Island’s Geoff Federspiel and his father, Jim. The duo spent the early evening at the Party at the Plaza, held just outside Game 1 between the Sabres and the New York Islanders.

And here’s the kicker — they didn’t have tickets.

“We’re going to watch it on the big screen right here,” said Geoff, 14, in a spiked snowboarding hat while pointing at a Jumbotron added for this year’s parties. “We never even talked about not coming. And we’ll be back here on Saturday doing the same thing.”

Keith Marshall, 33, of North Tonawanda arrived in the parking lot across from HSBC at 4:30 p.m., then stood in the cold beside his Ford Ranger. Marshall’s truck had phrases like “Sabres on the war path,” and “These guys are good, scary good,” scribbled on its side. And it wasn’t just his vehicle he marked up — his face was painted yellow and blue.

“I love the Sabres and we’re going to take it all this year. We came so close, we’ve got to do it this time.”

Jim Federspiel, a Niagara Falls native, said he hasn’t seen fanaticism like this since the 1970s, when the Sabres made their first run to the Stanley Cup finals.

“It’s been a long time, that’s for sure,” he said.

While Strictly Hip, a Tragically Hip cover band, rocked the stage at the plaza, fans stood in a steady rain in temperatures that plummeted below 40 degrees.

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