BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres continued their show of “One Buffalo” brotherhood with a scoreboard tribute to Bills player Damar Hamlin prior to Saturday night’s overtime victory.
The pregame “moment of celebration” drew a boisterous ovation from the capacity crowd of 19,070 at KeyBank Center. The third sellout in 19 home games this season marked the first time Buffalo has had consecutive sellouts in nearly four years.
“We’re the same community as the Bills and like we say, One Buffalo,” said Rasmus Dahlin, who factored on five of six goals, matching the Sabres record for points by a defenseman. “I’m very happy we could win on home ice and away ice after that stuff happened. It was kind of emotional going into this game, to see the jumbotron and stuff. But yeah, the fans were amazing. We love playing in this arena. This city is just amazing.”
The last time the Sabres had consecutive sellouts came during a three-game stretch from Feb. 15 to March 1, 2019. The 19,070 paid attendance figure was reached just once last season, on the night broadcaster Rick Jeanneret’s banner was raised to the rafters.
Saturday night’s sellout followed a full house on Dec. 30 in the Sabres first home game following a devastating blizzard that killed at least 44 people in Western New York. The arena was also sold out for the Sabres’ Nov. 12 home game against the Bruins.
Hamlin is on the long road to recovery after he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati on Monday night. He is now breathing on his own and briefly addressed the Bills team by video on Friday.
“Tonight you felt the passion, and our players did, from before the drop of the puck, even as the introductions were going and the anthems were going,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “So, really special night I think for anybody in the building to see the collective energy and passion for hockey.”
Fans throughout the crowd held up signs saying “DH3” with a heart in it or “Love For Damar” and were shown on the video board showing support for Hamlin. The pregame celebration saw the crowd, with many wearing Bills jerseys, rise to their feet, applauding and cheering for Hamlin.
“This is a great town, a great hockey town, great sports town,” said Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno, who was born in Buffalo and played six years here after getting drafted in 2009. “They care about their players and the players care about the fans. It’s not a shock to see how this community responded to the Hamlin situation. It’s a great sports town and people love supporting these guys. At the end of the day they want to see you work hard.”
The Sabres also paid tribute to Hamlin before Tuesday’s game in Washington wearing t-shirts saying “Love For 3” upon arrival at Capital One Arena.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.