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Video celebrates WNY-Sabres love story Local winter splendor is also highlighted

A youth hockey player's unexpected encounter with his beloved Buffalo Sabres, wrapped in evocative scenes of local winter splendor, will play out on the JumboTron at HSBC Arena tonight as the Sabres debut a new game-opening video.

The 2 1/2 -minute video, which also can be viewed at www.sabres.com starting at 5 p.m. today, draws on Buffalo's long-standing love affair with hockey and its NHL team.

Sabres Executive Producer Matt Gould said inspiration for the video, which will open all remaining regular season games, came from Sabres players.

"Paul Gaustad and a couple of the guys who have been around a few years commented that the younger players didn't grasp the depth of the community's relationship with the team," Gould said. "This video is all about that link."

The video "stars" Adam Batz, a 9-year-old Williamsville resident, who rises before sun-up headed for a game of shinny hockey with a bunch of his friends and their dads. Adam's parents, Cathy and Dan Batz, also have starring roles in a plot that starts off in Lackawanna's Bethlehem Park neighborhood, with key scenes at the Erie Basin Marina and HSBC Marina.

"It was pretty cool. I was really happy when I found out I was gonna do this," Adam said.

The Heim Elementary School pupil, who has been playing hockey since he was 3, reluctantly interrupted a game of street hockey Tuesday afternoon to speak to The Buffalo News about his acting debut.

Gould, who produced the Sabres' popular "Better Days" game-opening video, which featured Buffalo's Goo Goo Dolls and ran during the team's 2007 playoff run, said this time the video is "less music-focused."

" 'Better Days' was more like a montage; this one is driven by a true story line," said Gould, who was joined by Sabres production staffers Mark Blaszak and Drew Boeing on the project.

Ice fishermen, the Ohio Street lift bridge, the Buffalo skyline and waterfront, and Sabres game highlights all play supporting roles in the script written by Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn.

And the Goo Goo Dolls aren't left out. The band's single "Real," which was featured on the AT&T Team USA Soundtrack, a compilation of music by several artists to benefit the U.S. Olympic Team, is part of the soundtrack for the video.

Part of the original symphonic score from the movie "Miracle," about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, is also used.

Shooting for the video started two weeks ago, when the Buffalo area was blanketed in fresh snow, and concluded on Monday afternoon at the Erie Basin Marina, utilizing the outdoor hockey rink from last weekend's Labatt Pond Hockey tournament.

In addition to the Batz family, several local boys and their dads took part, along with Sabres Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Patrick Kaleta and Chris Butler.

The script originally included a feature role for Gaustad, who was sidelined by a shoulder injury. Thomas Vanek was selected to take Gaustad's place, only to be taken out of the picture by a fractured jaw.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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