The NHL is still locked out, but you would never know it if you were in the First Niagara Center Friday night.
Buffalo's hockey-starved community poured into the arena to watch the Rochester Americans dispose of the Lake Erie Monsters. A reported 19,070 people crammed into their seats to watch an AHL matchup, creating the fourth largest indoor crowd for an AHL game. The crowd was plenty alive and vibrant, the type of crowd that usually shows up for a Sabres' matchup in the arena around the holidays.
One problem appeared to be with the staff of the arena, who seemed to be shorthanded when it came to ticket scanners. Many were late to their seats after being held up at the gate trying to get their tickets scanned.
Nonetheless, fans were excited, many were quoted as saying, "this is the only hockey we're getting, we might as well enjoy it." The fact that an AHL game sold out right after the holiday says a few things, and the NHL should listen closely:
- Fans want hockey, and they want it now. There's not many places in the area where a farm team could sellout their NHL team's arena.
- Despite the tactics by both sides, fans are dedicated to the game, but may not be much longer if this lockout continues any further.
- People in Buffalo would rather watch an AHL team from Rochester, than the Buffalo Bills. Granted, the Bills are done after this weekend, but 19,000 people may top the Bills' attendance this Sunday.
The night, although bitter-sweet, was a good one for Buffalo fans. They were able to see the highest level of hockey available for a very affordable price. Still, there was a feeling in the arena that fans were aching in the stands, silently wishing the NHL was on the ice instead.
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