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Sabres fans party with gusto Mood of pregame carnival sets the stage for postgame reveling after Buffalo wins series

The sidewalks around HSBC Arena on Friday were teeming with revelers -- quite a few who needed little provocation to party -- just hours before the Sabres faced off against the New York Islanders.

It was the air of a street carnival, with fans ambling down Washington Street in bunches or three and four abreast, toward the HSBC Arena plaza where many would eventually settle for the night to watch the game on a large outdoor TV monitor.

"Step up and sing some karaoke," Chris Barr of Buffalo chanted at passers-by. "I hear a rumor that sports fans can't sing. I'm out to prove that wrong."

Despite his taunting, Barr wasn't getting many takers to try out his portable karaoke machine at first, but he pressed on -- not for the Sabres, per se, but because he had an audience.

"It's got nothing to do with the Sabres. It's got to do with a lot people being out here," Barr said.

A few yards away, near the HSBC Bank, sidewalk vendor Mike Carney was hawking his wares above the din.

"Hats. Air horns. Blinking glasses. Ten bucks," Carney yelled, his sales pitch punctuated by deafening horn blasts.

"Selling-wise and energy-wise, everyone here is hyped up," Carney said. "Everyone's looking toward the end of the series. It's gonna be good."

Past the hot dog vendors, those selling beer and closer to HSBC Arena, Adrian Guadalupe could have been indistinguishable from the rest of the throng in his requisite blue and yellow Sabres jersey.

Guadalupe has been a Sabres fan for about 15 years, about the time that he first moved to Buffalo from Puerto Rico.

"There's no hockey in Puerto Rico. It's too hot and tropical," he said.

Guadalupe had high expectations for a Sabres win Friday, totally unimpressed that the Islanders had won the Stanley Cup numerous times.

"The [Islanders] team this year is not the same that was the champion before," Guadalupe said. "They're relatively new and their coach is new to them. They do have a good coach, so that's why I think they've had a good run, even though they haven't won a lot of games."

As much as he loves the Sabres, Guadalupe said he was attracted to Friday's large outdoor celebration, which featured music by a local cover band in the plaza. "I like it a lot," Guadalupe said. "I'm used to a lot of party atmosphere. That's what the [Caribbean] islands are like. So I really relate to it."

It's not so tropical in St. Catharines, Ont., where Sabres fan Tim Luey is from, but he also related to the Mardi Gras atmosphere. "I grew up as a Buffalo fan. Buffalo's a way better town than Toronto. I love it here. Look at the fans here. You don't see this in Toronto before a playoff game. No, this is a party. Toronto is so business people, and no fun, like this," Luey said.

Jason Weitzel and Chis Hart of Amherst both wore goal-light helmets atop their heads, which definitely made them stand out. "It's to light the lamp when the Sabres score a goal," Hart said. They've been wearing them to games since November.

Melissa Montileone of Depew was among the many revelers who were not lucky enough to possess tickets to see the game in person.

"For those of us who can't afford tickets, this is the next best thing," she said, sipping a beverage at the curbside.

Back at the corner of Scott and Washington streets, karaoke man Barr finally found two willing warblers in Caitlyn Littlewood and Evelyn Mangold of Williamsville, both 10, who screeched out "Proud Mary," in-between giggles.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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