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Sabres fans head back to Philadelphia Expecting harassment in Brotherly Love City

Sabres fan Darryl Carr is prepared to take one for Team Buffalo when he attends Game 7 tonight in Philadelphia.

Carr, who co-owns the Cobblestone bar, a popular post-game nightspot near HSBC Arena, is one of 10 friends flying today to the City of Brotherly Love -- although Carr said he experienced none of that at the Flyers' Wells Fargo Arena for Game 5.

"Those fans are unreal. It was brutal. I wore a Miller jersey, and I was chased around the arena by three Flyers fans and heckled. I'm sure it is going to happen again, and I'm still wearing the Miller jersey," he said.

Game 7 will determine if the Sabres' late-season push that propelled them into the playoffs will take them into the next round against the Washington Capital, or end abruptly -- along with Sabre mania -- on the Philadelphia ice.

A check with several travel agencies found no evidence of an increase in flight bookings to Philadelphia due to the game. But Shaun Seufert, a spokesman for the AAA of Western and Central New York, said Philadelphia is close enough for people to drive -- and a whole lot cheaper.

Driving a midsized sedan on a round trip from Buffalo to Philadelphia would cost about $197, compared with flying today for approximately $1,039 nonstop, or $400 if you took a flight to Baltimore and then a train into Philadelphia, Seufert said.

Tickets for the sold-out game were going for $120 to $3,000 Monday on the StubHub resale website, with most of the remaining tickets there and with other ticket brokers selling in the $200 to $400 range.

Carr paid "almost $200" for his and will fly in a private jet owned by a friend.

The 12-year season ticket holder has another reason to be rooting for the Sabres to win -- the business another Sabres playoff series would generate.

As the owner of a business next to the arena, the playoffs have been a gold mine for Carr.

"It's like two regular season games rolled into one," Carr said of the extra traffic that comes into the Cobblestone.

And a Sabres win tonight would mean that many more bottles of beer and trays of wings would be sold there and other nearby establishments to Sabres fans in the coming weeks.

The Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau doesn't keep figures on the economic impact of hockey games, but anecdotally, the games are a boon for area restaurants, hotels and Sabres merchandise outlets.

Carr plans to fly in a Cessna owned by friend Kevin Van Splunder, who has lived in Saudi Arabia as a corporate pilot for nearly eight years but still owns Sabres season tickets.

"I wish they would have won Sunday, but we'll win it [today]," said Van Splunder, who has to fly back to the Middle East on Wednesday.

He's looking forward to the game, but not the Philly fans. At Game 5 in Philadelphia, Van Splunder said, he saw a beer thrown and choice words hurled at a man wearing a Sabres jersey who was quietly waiting in line to use the restroom.

"I've gone to away games, but Philly is just really the most unwelcoming crowd I've ever experienced," Carr added. "There's some heckling in our arena, but nothing like that place."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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