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Salvatore saves Bills fans from TV blackout <br> Ticket buy ensures sellout of home finale

Restaurateur Russell J. Salvatore is stirring the pot of holiday generosity.

And Buffalo Bills fans are sure to eat it up.

When the 77-year-old Salvatore learned that the football team's final home game of the season might not be televised Sunday because the Thursday afternoon ticket sellout deadline would be missed, he made a last-minute purchase of 7,000 to 8,000 tickets.

"The timing couldn't be better. It's Christmas. It's the last game of the season. What a way to go," he said.

Usually, it's a major local corporation, not an individual, that will buy the unsold football tickets to dodge the dreaded blackout. Three games this season failed to sell out and, as a result, were not aired on television.

But thanks to Salvatore, at 1 p.m. Sunday, Western New Yorkers will be able to watch the Bills and the New England Patriots on WIVB-TV, Channel 4, from the comfort of their homes or local gathering places.

In some cases, fans who weren't planning on attending the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park will now get to go courtesy of Salvatore, who declined to say how much he spent on the tickets.

Salvatore has asked team officials to distribute the tickets he purchased to members of the military and charitable organizations involved with young people.

Viewing his gesture as a Christmas present to the Buffalo Niagara region, Salvatore said that it already has provided a great return: "I feel good inside. I love doing it, and this comes from the heart."

The team said in a statement, "The Buffalo Bills are very appreciative of the loyalty and support from Bills fans this season. We especially thank Russell J. Salvatore of Russell's Steaks, Chops & More for his generosity by purchasing the remaining tickets to our game against the Patriots, which has enabled the game to be televised locally this Sunday."

Salvatore is the founder of Salvatore's Italian Gardens and operator of Russell's Steaks, Chops & More and Salvatore's Grand Hotel in Lancaster.

The hospitality impresario offered a suggestion to fans who will now be watching the game on TV:

"Cuddle up and be nice and warm. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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