The Buffalo Sabres opened their 2018-19 National Hockey League season with a disappointing home shutout loss to the rival Boston Bruins. But before witnessing the 4-0 defeat, fans - and family of Sabres players - celebrated the start of a new hockey season, and hope for improvement upon last season's last-place finish.
With a band playing on the arena plaza and the crowd surrounding the monument to The French Connection before the game, there was a walking history of the Sabres, the names on the backs of fan sweaters and the different designs of team jerseys, with Sabres Captain Jack Eichel's name dominating the crowd.
In the crowd, not wearing any identification or Sabres gear was Tom Mittelstadt, excited about seeing son Casey play his first opening game as a Sabre after all those years playing hockey since he first wore ice skates at the age of 4.
"This is kind of a different game tonight, though. Home opener, his first kind of year of pro hockey," Middlestadt said. "It's good. We're excited."
The Sabres enter the new season finishing their 2017-18 campaign dead last in the NHL. Through the league's draft lottery, they were able to secure the number one pick which resulted in Rasmus Dahlin, a young defenseman touted by scouts and pundits as having superstar potential.
Anthony Mussachio was there Thursday night as a season ticket holder, one who only saw 20 games in last year's bad season.
"Most of them were not very good," he said. "They should have been better on paper just like they are supposed to be better this year. Time will tell. I have high hopes."
There were also a few individuals bearing the other team's sweaters.
"I grew up watching (former Bruins coach) Don Cherry in Rochester, when he coached the Amerks and Rochester was the farm team of the Boston Bruins when I was a kid, so I'm giving away my age and then the Sabres came around," said Rochester-area resident Phil Damiani, who with his son attended the game wearing Boston jerseys. "I do root for both. I'll be rooting for a tie tonight."
Of course, there are no ties in NHL games. When necessary shootouts are held until there is a winner. And as for Damiani, he went home with at least half satisfaction.