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Sabres Tour Stop: One Big Road Trip Party

Team connects with fans across the country

Did you hear all those cheers in the crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum this past Saturday? When defenseman Tyler Myers connected on the lone shootout goal in the sixth shootout round to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, one watching on television might have thought that the game was being played here at home, judging by the crowd reaction. While Sabres fans always travel with the team and show up at just about every road venue, it always seems that down in Tampa, Buffalo fans just take over the place.

Recognizing the importance of the Sabres faithful not only here in Buffalo, but across the continent, earlier this month the team launched a new interactive community through their Web site called the “Buffalo Sabres Road Crew,” where out-of-town fans can meet up to talk about their favorite hockey team.

But there’s more. This past weekend, the Sabres launched the first of their “Tour Stop” parties, to invite out-of-town Sabres fans to meet up and have some fun while taking part in the team’s away game. On Friday, at Latitudes, a sports bistro directly across the street from the St. Pete Times Forum, over 150 blue-and-gold clad fans descended to enjoy food and drink Buffalo style, pick up some Aud memorabilia and merchandise, and meet and greet with some Sabres personalities.

“We’d call the event a success, considering that the marketing for the party was somewhat low key and muted,” reports Kevin Sylvester, Sabres game night host on MSG.

Sylvester acted as the emcee for the event, and was pleased to see not only local fans and WNY transplants living in the Tampa Bay area, but also at least a dozen Buffalo folks who made the trip down to see the game and take part in the Tour Stop party.

In addition to Sylvester, broadcast partners Harry Neale and Rick Jeanneret also took part in the festivities, and they were joined by general manager Darcy Regier, coach Lindy Ruff, and the entire coaching staff. “This was a great opportunity for fans to meet with the coach and have their pictures taken. Lindy was very gracious and obliged for any fan who asked for a photo,” said Sylvester.

Every team has its cadre of fans in other cities, and it often seems that Buffalo has more presence on the road than other visiting teams. We asked Sylvester, who now travels to every road game as part of the MSG broadcast crew, if that was true. Sylvester replied, “I have been told repeatedly by more than a few of my broadcast counterparts working for the other teams how impressed they are at the legions of Buffalo fans that show up to support the Sabres. I think it speaks well for our city and how terrific our fans really are.”

So where can one regularly find Sabres fans when the team takes to the road? “Tampa Bay for sure,” said Sylvester. Then there is Carolina, Washington, and Atlanta. Out west Phoenix and the two California teams always seems to bring out a big Buffalo contingent.”

The players on the ice certainly see and hear the fans and their cheers when they take to the ice. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that some of Buffalo’s most epic wins have happened right on Tampa Bay ice, where on any given Sabres game night there, one can expect to see at least one third of the crowd dressed in blue and gold. “Definitely the players feed off that energy with our fans up in the crowd supporting us,” said Jason Pominville. “We pick up the game off the crowd noise. It really helps,” added Drew Stafford, whose last second heroics in Tampa last Saturday sent the game into overtime and an eventual Sabres win.

While the next Tour Stop event has yet to be officially announced, Sylvester indicated that it will probably take place in Washington, DC, the night before Thanksgiving. “We’re hoping to build on this past weekend and get the word out to get an even larger crowd. And just so you know, the small admission fee and proceeds from sales of merchandise and memorabilia all go to benefit the Sabres Foundation.”

Down in Washington, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has on a couple occasions expressed his disdain for the Sabres fans who come into his building and make their presence felt whenever the Sabres play the Caps. So lo and behold! This year’s schedule comes out, and both road games in Washington take place immediately adjacent to major holidays—Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve—making it that much more difficult for road-trippers to make the trek.

Coincidence? Hmmm.

Taro Sez...

• Portland Pirates has Taro saying “Yo-Ho!” The farmhands come to town to play the Rochester Americans at HSBC Arena on Thursday, November 12 at 7PM. Fans buying a ticket to a select Sabres game will receive a free 100 level-III ticket to the Pirates game.

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