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Fans celebrate the return of the Buffalo Sabres

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Hockey fans gathered in Alumni Plaza outside of First Niagara Center Thursday night. The Party in the Plaza preceded the return of the Buffalo Sabres for another season in the NHL.

With Nik and the Nice Guys egging on the crowd, the square was filled with recollections of Sabres past and present and some of the current players came out of a side door and signed autographs on everything from tickets to body parts and everyone was excited.

Retired Center Derek Smith says that locker room before the first game is electric.

"All you have in front of you is positive things," Smith said, recalling his days in the NHL, most of which were spent in Buffalo.

"Things don't go well later in the year, then....the dressing room isn't quite as much fun. Everybody has big hopes for this year, especially the players. They want to come out of the blocks good. So, the first game is pretty exciting."

For John Conway and son Daniel the whole atmosphere is exciting. They live in Marine Drive and have watched what's going on along the Waterfront and the construction of HarborCenter.

"We'll see what them guys can do, you know. We've got a lot of faith in Teddy Nolan and Terry Pegula and I hope they get it going on. We want to see that. you know. I'm sure everyone else does too," Conway said.

Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news
Buffalo Sabres forward Cody Hodgson signed autographs prior to the team's season-opening game.

Some visitors were just there for the party and others were there for the game, with a stop in the beer tent with the music on the way.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.