DALLAS – More than 40 million people visit Las Vegas every year. The Sabres are thrilled to be among them.
Buffalo has spent much of the season on the road, playing eight of its first 13 games away from home. The travels led to the following question for 16 players:
"What's your favorite road city?"
It was a tie at the top for Chicago and Las Vegas, which received three votes each. The hockey markets couldn't be any different. Chicago is an Original Six city that's hosted NHL games since 1926. Vegas is in its inaugural season.
All it took was one trip for the players to become fans. The Sabres played in Las Vegas on Oct. 15 and spent three nights in town.
"Anyone who doesn't vote for Vegas is lying," Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner said with a grin. "I'd never been there. It's a nice, clean, cool city. The rink was awesome. There was a lot of good entertainment in it. It was a really good atmosphere."
The nonstop energy on the Las Vegas Strip was nearly matched by the fans in T-Mobile Arena.
"It's just a fun city," right wing Seth Griffith said. "Just looking out the hotel window and seeing the Strip lit up, it's cool to be around. In the arena you've got bands playing and it's like Cirque du Soleil going on. It's just a fun atmosphere."
The same can be said about United Center in Chicago. The fans' deafening applause during the national anthem gives goosebumps to the players, who are surrounded by the noise. It only gets more exciting from there.
Here were the final poll results:
• Three votes: Chicago, Las Vegas.
• Two votes: Nashville, New York, Los Angeles.
• One vote: Boston, Dallas, Montreal, Phoenix.
Weather was a big factor, which is why five of the nine of the cities feature warm climates. Putting on short-sleeved shirts while people are shoveling snow in Buffalo is a solid perk of the job.
"It's always nice going south," said center Ryan O'Reilly, who voted for Nashville. "Nashville is pretty cool because of the music scene. There's always a good crowd, and it's an exciting place. There's a lot of culture there. It's an up-and-coming city, and it's become something huge. When I first got in the league, it was always cool watching it grow."
The intimate city setting helped sway O'Reilly, too. The arena is in the heart of downtown, which is seven blocks of bars, restaurants, honky tonks and hotels.
"It's not a bus ride to the game," O'Reilly said. "You walk across the street to the rink. There's great restaurants right there, and it's easy."
Los Angeles is at the opposite end of the spectrum. To accomplish anything, freeway rides are a necessity. That didn't stop the city from finishing in a tie for third place.
"What do I like about L.A.?" center Sam Reinhart said. "What's not to like about L.A.? It's warm. There's a lot to do. It's fun."
While fancy dinners, nights on the town and warm weather are great, nothing is more fun for the players than winning and performing well. That's why left wing Matt Moulson voted for Dallas.
"I always feel good in that building," said Moulson, who entered Saturday's game in Dallas with six goals and 11 points in eight games in American Airlines Center.
There's one problem for guys who voted for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix. The Sabres are done with the cities. The rest of the voters still have fun times ahead. There are 33 road games left.