BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - It's just the beginning of a long hockey season, but it was a grand occasion Friday night at the newly renamed First Niagara Center, the capital of Pegulaville.
Though a win Friday night would have made it a perfect home opener for Sabres nation, because the new owners went out of their way to make it a warm welcome back, a lot of the fans aren't going home too disappointed.
Mark Szuniewiez said, "I think they have a little bit of jet lag and are still coming together as a team with all the new guys. So it's only one game, we'll be back."
"We're all excited, ready to go. This won't stop them," said Amber Swartwood.
Even before the puck dropped, fans were treated to some surprises. The arena was decked out with banners and balloons as they walked in, and many fans showed up two hours early.
Bob Murphy said, "It just brings the Buffalo sports spirit right out into it. Terry Pegula's brought it right back to Buffalo where it needs to be. It's great; we love it."
In every seat was an accordion, fan-shaped schedule that the team discovered last week in Germany. They had 18,000 made for the home opener.
Sabres president Ted Black explained, "What you do with it, you fold it up, sort of like an Oriental fan. But instead of doing this [waving air over your face], fans do this [slaps hand with schedule]."
But the fans made enough noise of their own inside the arena as they cheered on their team. And outside the arena, about 200 fans watched the game at the big screen during Party at the Plaza, despite the strong winds.
Trais Zielinski said, "I love it out here. It's just nice and wild. I came to all the playoff ones last year and I love it for the regular season. It's awesome."
A couple of other changes at the arena: cup holders in the restrooms for the convenience of the fans and a little touch of the theater. Two minutes before the puck drops, chimes sound over the PA system to let fans know to head to their seats.
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