Niagara Gazette

Sports

December 15, 2005

Sabres win games and fans

he Hall of Fame coach from Buffalo’s other major sports team was known for the phrase “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”

The more than 16,000 fans on hand at the HSBC Arena for Wednesday’s Dallas Stars at Buffalo Sabres game would have been hard pressed to come up with a location other than the arena.

Wednesday’s event — and it was an event, not just a game — was something special. From former President Bill Clinton, to Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, to the Buffalo Philharmonic Brass, to the game itself, this was a special night.

The fans are sensing that there’s something special about this year’s version of the Sabres. This is a team Western New York fans can fall in love with: A hard-working group of players who put the team’s success above their individual success.

There are no Sabres among the scoring leaders. Goalie Martin Biron has won 11 straight starts, but his numbers aren’t gaudy. Still, this team finds a way to win games, and is now winning over sports fans disgusted by what’s going on with that other team.

“This team believes in each other,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “They trust in each other.”

And now, fans are starting to believe in them. There were more than 2,000 walk-up tickets sold for Wednesday’s game. The NHL lockout soured a lot of people on hockey and the Sabres, but the entire Sabres organization is doing its best to win back the community.

The Sabres’ next home game is at 5 p.m. Saturday, when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at HSBC Arena. That other team is at home at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Where would you rather be? I know my choice, and it’s not Orchard Park.

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