There are usually a good number of fans who find their way to HarborCenter in the summer months to watch the prospects in the Buffalo Sabres system go through drills and learn the ropes of life in professional hockey.
But it really hasn't been like this before.
An hour before the team was to take the ice Wednesday for the first session of development camp, the rink was already half full.
By the time they took the ice, about 1,800 people were crowded into the rink, eagerly awaiting one player – Rasmus Dahlin.
"There hasn't been a crowd to cheer for me when I score a goal in training so that was different," Dahlin said. "That was fun."
The Dahlin Era has been ushered in for a week with pomp and circumstance. First there was the draft in Dallas where the Sabres made him the overall No. 1 pick.
Then began the Buffalo goodwill tour, including Tuesday where he went around Buffalo to visit a number of the team's corporate sponsors with another former first round draft pick, Sabres legend Gilbert Perreault. ("He's a funny guy and of course a legend," Dahlin said of Perreault.)
But Wednesday was the day Dahlin was anxious to get to. The day he could relax. The day when it finally was all about hockey.
"Today, finally I get on the ice with all the guys," Dahlin said. "I get to the real hockey ... to get back to the hockey thoughts and back on the ice."
The crowd loved every move Dahlin made, reacting to nearly every move, every pass, every shot on goal. It may have been the most engaged a group of Sabres fans have been in the actual on-ice happenings of the team for some time.
"It was great," said Philip Nyberg of the fan support. "I think Rasmus had a lot to do with it, he’s a great kid. He’s a really good player. It was great for us. I really enjoyed it."
Brendan Guhle was equally impressed with the fans on the first day of development camp.
"I think every one I've come to we get good fans but this year it was packed," Guhle said. "It was cool to see and hopefully it will continue throughout the week."
Guhle is part of the rising young stars in the Sabres system. The defenseman played his first full professional season last year and is ready to help Dahlin, a fellow blueliner, find his way through this first on-ice experience with the Sabres.
"I just let him know who everyone is and if he has any questions he can ask me," Guhle said. "He seems calm and poised. He looks like he's having fun out there. That's what I think is important."
Guhle and Dahlin are roommates for the week and the pair have chatted more than just hockey.
"He's real humble and real relaxed," Guhle said. "We watched 'America's Got Talent' last night and he said they have that in Sweden."
Relaxed is good, even as the players are working on drills and skills on the ice. Sabres management is not evaluating players. No one wins a job in June and the goals, while pretty and fun and bringing a fresh hope to the fan base, don't count.
A relaxed Dahlin having fun at his first pro camp in North America is exactly where the Sabres want his mindset.
"We're not too concerned with how strong their play is in June and July," Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley said. "It's an educational week. It's a development week. It’s really a chance for us to get to know our players, spend time with them, see what we want to focus on during the year with them."
But Dahlin is already making quite an impression.
"Just how he shifts back and forth from one side to the other side and stop and go laterally. Unbelievable," said Chris Taylor, the head coach of the Rochester Americans who is leading development camp. "His stride. His passing is crisp, like an NHL player. Receiving passing. You see a lot today of pucks bouncing off people's sticks. It didn't bounce off his stick. Just he's one of those guys that you can tell.
"His composure. His willingness. His love for the game. Just everything on the ice. He's a special person."