Frank Hora grew up a Buffalo Sabres season ticket holder. The games gave his dad a bit of a rest after long days as a volunteer fire fighter and helping Hora's mother take care of Frank and his six siblings.
The Cheektowaga native was at the Ottawa brawl game and saw Chris Drury's late game heroics against the Rangers during the 2007 playoff run in person. His favorite players were Brian Campbell and Jay McKee, but he loved Drury and Danny Briere too.
Saturday afternoon's scrimmage at HarborCenter will be a bit of a change for the 20-year-old. Now he'll be one of the Sabres people pay to see.
"I looked up and saw where my season tickets were," Hora said. "Now I'm down on the floor and in the locker room."
Hora, a 6-foot-2 defenseman with the Kitchener Rangers, scored one goal and 16 points in 57 OHL games last season. The former Jr. Sabre was invited to participate in the Sabres' development camp last week.
"I was thrilled," Hora said. "I called my dad and brothers right away. I was as happy as I can be.
"I'm trying to get noticed ... I'm just trying to make sure I'm standing out as much as I can and working as hard as I can."
He's far from the only local player at camp. Draft picks Justin Bailey and Austin Osmanski have been well-followed players since they were drafted, but for local invites like Hora and goalie Steve Racine, there's a bit more emotion. They didn't know they would be here.
"Coming to the camp with the Buffalo Sabres, it's amazing," Hora said. "A lot of kids dream of it, and I'm actually doing it."
This season Hora gets to live out another dream when he plays for one of his childhood heroes. McKee was named the Rangers' bench boss in May, his first head coaching job. Hora is excited to learn a thing or two from the former player he admired for his bravery blocking shots.
"He likes to share a lot of memories with us," Hora said. "We always ask him questions about playing pro. It's pretty amazing how he gets to share his experiences with us and teach us along the way."
Hora plans on heading back to Kitchener to play for McKee for one final season as an overage player. Then he'll start turning his focus toward going pro. He's happy that he's already in the mix with NHL teams, as he also skated with the Columbus Blue Jackets last month in addition to his time with the Sabres.
"A lot of hard work is paying off," Hora said. "I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."