In a hockey season shortened to 48 games because of a lockout, the Buffalo Sabres opened the season Sunday with a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, which sent a lot of happy fans into bars and restaurants for the first time this season.
The game was a sellout, with many showing up hours before face-off and meeting some of the players and owner Terry Pegula. Many stopped in the Sabres store to buy some souvenirs of their team.
Eric from Lockport was among the cheering crowd leaving the arena after the game and saying it should be a good year.
"That is a great start to the season. They seemed to play pretty well. They had a few lapses, but looked pretty good," Eric said.
The weather outside was chilly and windy, making many rush outside and then run to their cars and nearby bars after the final horn. It has been a bad winter for many bars and restaurants in parts of the city because the lockout had turned fans into couch potatoes instead of customers.
Tim McDog, who runs a food stand at Washington and South Park, was happy to see his regulars again.
"They're back and it's so great to see everyone. We did have a lot of 'hellos' from our regular season ticket holders and people that we know that usually come by. It was so good to see them," McDog said.
In Pearl Street Grill, Bailey Humiston was at the door as the crowds poured in after the game.
"Before, after, we have a big crowd during the game, as well," said Humiston. "Very rowdy, very excited. We like it a lot. We like the energy."
The Sabres travel to Toronto for a game tonight against the Maple Leafs, a traditional grudge match rivalry.