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Sabres fans quickly get into spirit of season with party outside arena

One might say that planning an outdoor party in mid-October is the equivalent of skating on thin ice, but the weather was almost balmy Friday for the Sabres' season opener celebration in HSBC Arena Plaza.

Fans, creating a sea of blue, gold and white, cascaded down Washington Street toward the festivities on South Park Avenue, where an oldies band regaled the crowd.

Among the revelers were brother and sister Ted and Amy Brown of Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood. Ted was not only dressed in Sabres colors, but had his face painted to match. Both he and Amy are big Sabres fans, and while they're not season ticket-holders, they do plan to attend several home games this season. Having an outdoor party to kick off the season was a bonus, they both said.

"I love this. I like seeing a whole bunch of Sabres fans getting together and having a lot of fun," Ted Brown said.

His sister signed on to that sentiment.

"I just enjoy the whole scene of it, people getting together for one cause. I think it's great," she said.

Scott Badaszewski and his pal, Anthony Sterlace, both of South Buffalo, also liked the idea, which the Sabres first employed near the end of the 2006 season when the Sabres made the playoffs. The presence of security was noticeable in the plaza.

"I think it's a good idea because you go to Bills games and they have a tailgate party," Badaszewski said.

"It's kind of an uncontrolled atmosphere. This is more controlled. You know, people come out and try to have a good time before the game and get pumped up for the game," he added.

Sterlace agreed that the outdoor party was a great icebreaker for fans arriving for the game.

"It's easy to get hyped up for the Sabres every year. I love this atmosphere, starting off the year outdoors with an outdoor party. Buffalo does it great in the summertime, so they need to take advantage of weather while the weather is still great," Sterlace said.

A smattering of red, white and blue was easily discernible in the huge swirl of Sabres' colors, marking the presence of rival Montreal Canadiens fans who showed up for the game.

Robert Eisner of Toronto, clad in his Canadiens jersey, said he was not at all intimidated by the overwhelming presence of fans for the home team and he and his wife, Peggy, grooved to the oldies in HSBC Plaza.

"They're all good people," he said of the Sabres fans.

"It doesn't bother me, as long as they're sober," he added, laughing.

Andy Finley Jr. of Amherst was one of the few African-American fans observed in the crowd. He said he has been a Sabres fan for about a decade. He came wearing the requisite blue, gold and white jersey and goalie Ryan Miller's number 30, and looking to score a ticket for Friday night's game.

"I've been blessed enough in the past that people come up and say, hey, you want an extra ticket and boom, you know? Not that I'm looking for that. I'm willing to pay 20 or 30 bucks, if need be," Finley said.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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