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Just view it As another Sabres season begins, we look at some prime venues for catching the games on TV

There are only 18,690 seats in HSBC Arena, and they're not making any more.

That's why so many Buffalo Sabres junkies find themselves searching for seats in an arena of their own choosing. Instead of worrying about timing their bathroom breaks to beat the crowd, many fans watch the contest in settings that, by comparison, are cozy cocoons of spectator comfort.

If you are best left alone to watch the Sabres skate -- shouting at the television loud enough to scare the dog -- going out might not be your best bet.

When the Sabres are winning, the upside of watching them in a crowd is obvious. Enthusiasm is more intoxicating than alcohol, it's a perfect opportunity to work on your high-five style, and happy people are prone to buying rounds of drinks.

Even when the Sabres are losing, there is some solace in a group. Almost always, someone will be taking it much harder than you, which may help. Also, knowing that co-sufferers also judged that last goal a softie tends to reassure fans who can't believe their eyes.

Don't think watching in a bar can match the comforts of home? Maybe snuggling down in one of the plush leather easy chairs of the Old Falls Sports Bar in Niagara Falls will change your attitude.

Don't think you can grab a bite without breaking the bank? Pull up a chair to chicken legs done Buffalo wing style for 50 cents each at Elmwood Avenue's Buffalo Wild Wings on Wednesdays. (Just watch out for the mango habanero sauce, which will send you looking for some icing of your own.)

Don't think it's worth it to go out? If you're packed into the Warehouse in Blasdell with a bucket of beers in front of you when the Sabres score and the place's industrial-scale sound system blasts the horn sound that echoes from the Sabres jumbotron, it might seem that all you're really missing, really, is the smoke from the scoreboard buffalo's snout.



Dave & Busters

Eastern Hills Mall, 4545 Transit Road, Williamsville (932-2515)

The cavernous space is meant for games, food and drink, so it's no wonder Dave & Busters is serious about their television quality.

"All our monitors are high-def, and we have a state-of-the-art audio-video package," said General Manager Todd Mann. "We get all the major channels, and both satellite networks -- but not cable," he said, with a laugh.

Capacity: 1,200

Number of televisions: 54

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes

Other amusements: Legion, including a NASCAR simulator and head-to-head trivia battle.

Gametime specials: $2.50 pints of Labatt's and Blue Light.

Food: Full menu, including pizza


Old Falls Sports Bar & Grill

Crowne Plaza, 300 Third St., Niagara Falls (285-3361)

This room, attached to the nicest non-casino hotel on the U.S. side of the falls, has gone for fan comfort in a big way.

In front of the theaterlike 12-foot projection screen are lines of cushy leather easy chairs, with cup holders. Fresh homemade potato chips, crispy kettle-style morsels, come with drinks on request.

Game nights bring drawings for Sabres tickets and a DJ to pump up the crowd during commercial breaks, said Richard Crogan, the Crowne Plaza's food and beverage director.

"We're not just for hotel guests," Crogan said. "We want everybody in the area to know that there's a great, fun environment in Niagara Falls to watch all the games."

Capacity: 200

Number of televisions: 17

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes

Other amusements: Pool table, dart machines

Gametime specials: 25-cent wings, 2-for-1 domestic draft beer.

Food: Full menu


Buffalo Wild Wings

2017 Elmwood Ave. (876-9464)

Other locations:

3035 Niagara Falls Boulevard, Amherst (691-5691)

5431 Transit Road, Williamsville (636-6211)

A cavernous space lined with televisions that doesn't seem as noisy as it should be, considering all the families with children the place seems to draw.

Maybe it's the video games and television distractions. Maybe it's the thrill of getting to decide between four types of chicken to be fried, and 12 sauces to grace the crispy comestibles. But there's usually not too many complaints from the junior members of the family unit when they take in a game here.

The Sabres games are "a huge draw for Buffalo Wild Wings," said General Manager Ann Paolini, "and it's going to always be on with sound."

Capacity: 150

Number of televisions: 37, including five 8-foot high-def

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes

Other amusements: Bubble hockey, skee ball, darts machine

Gametime specials: Happy hour is 4 p.m. to close, Monday through Friday, with 23-ounce Labatt's, Blue Light, Budweiser and Miller Lite, $3.75, $2.25 well drinks.

Food: Bar menu, specializing in chicken products



3090 Orchard Park Road, Orchard Park (674-7212)

This Orchard Park outpost sports much lovelier surroundings than the Amherst wing juggernaut that spawned it, offering a game room and television viewing from every inch of the place (including the bathroom because, to target hardcore fans, it seems you must have complete coverage).

"We try to make it pretty close to being at a Sabres game," said Phil Kinecki, one of the owners. "We've got the sound effects that are played at the arena, the horn, the 'woo-hoo' song," he said. "We try to make it feel like you're at the game, almost."

Capacity: 190

Number of televisions: 52, including widescreen projection unit

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes

Other amusements: Game room with bubble and air hockey

Gametime specials: Buckets of beer, five bottles for $10

Food: Wings for sure, weck and burgers



1459 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst (446-0007)

Amid a blizzard of sports memorabilia and televisions, the family-friendly room packs in fans for food and all sorts of sports.

"We get a lot of people for the Sabres, but also for pretty much hockey in general," said Manager Kevin Gilbert. Getting a steady stream of fans from the University at Buffalo -- including many fans of sports teams that are downstate and elsewhere -- broadens the mix, Gilbert said.

"We get a lot of UB kids for the college games, too," he said, referring to football. But don't be surprised to see a Rangers or Devils jersey in the place.

Capacity: 300

Number of televisions: 95

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes, in bar area

Other amusements: Pool tables, video games

Gametime specials: Happy hour 7 to 9 p.m., with deals on appetizers and beer specials

Food: Full menu, including popular chicken tenders


The Warehouse

4360 Milestrip Road, Blasdell (823-5000)

Formerly the Pizza Warehouse, the place still offers pizza but sets its sights on attracting sports fans.

Sister establishment to the Orchard Park Duff's, the game-night presentation is similar, said co-owner George Pittas. Arena sound effects and music keeps the crowd hopping during breaks in the action.

"We play the buzzer when they score," Pittas said. "It's a big party in here."

Capacity: 230

Number of televisions: 45, including 10-foot projection screen

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes

Other amusements: Air and bubble hockey, Bowlingo

Gametime specials: $10 for five bottles of beer

Food: Pizza, full menu


Buffalo Sports Garden

2945 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park (674-4113)

The room doesn't get packed quite as often as its brethren, unless it's playoff time. The focus is still on fans and the teams they love, making this a Southtowns favorite.

Sure, they serve families. But if there's some question where this place's heart lies, order the Bases Loaded Fries. It's a dangerously tasty Frisbee of waffle fries, bacon and cheddar cheese. Plus blue cheese dressing on the side, for dunking.

Capacity: 70

Number of televisions: 19, including a 72-incher

Biggest TV tuned to Sabres games? Yes

Game sound on? Yes

Other amusements: Bubble hockey, pool table, darts

Food: Pizza, full menu

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