It was around 11:45am as we headed into the Sabres store inside First Niagara Center today, and it was obvious to us that there were Sabres fans waiting in line outside prior to the 10am opening. Why? Because there were already hundreds of people standing in checkout lines with merchandise in hand.
Sabres Hats, Jerseys, and long and short sleeved t-shirts were just a few of the items flying off the shelves at 41% off, as long as you had a similar “slug” adorned item to “trade in” (the Sabres didn’t want your “slug” items, you got to keep those, too) somewhere on your person. The Sabres organization did a great job of stocking the racks and shelves with as much merchandise as possible, in anticipation of the throngs of fans willing to shell out some serious dough to show the love and support they have for their hockey team.
Men and women dressed in business attire (no doubt on a “coffee break” from work), moms, dads, kids and grandparents were among the diverse, and passionate, crowd. Once we got into the store, it was obvious to all that it was going to be a slow go of it. There were around 6 checkout lines with a good 50 or more fans waiting patiently in each one, and the lines fanned out almost to the back wall. Trying to find the item(s) you wanted was going to take some determination and a lot of “excuse me’s”, which I know I said at least 25 times. I came looking for a Sabres cap and a t-shirt, and left without the latter. It was just too much crowd for me to be able to look at the shirts, and make a good choice, without the option of going back a few times to make sure the shirt you had was the one you wanted. Oh, well.
A nice, and surprising touch to the festivities was the sight of Kim Pegula and Sabres president Ted Black bagging their customers’ items. We were in line and noticed Mr. Black in the next line over, acting as “Sabres bagger”, and doing so with a huge, beaming smile on his face. He looked like he was having the time of his life. I wanted to thank Mr. Black for all he and the Pegula family have done for this franchise in the short time they’ve been here. I said to my wife, “we should be one line over where Ted is”, when all of the sudden a door opened and Kim Pegula stepped forward towards the cashier in our line, and started doing the same as Ted. Various news outlets were getting in short interviews with the two, but it was clear that Kim and Ted just wanted to keep helping out the calm, yet obviously overwhelmed Sabres store employees, and ease the congestion in the store.
When we got to the checkout counter, I stepped forward and thanked Mrs. Pegula for all she has done, and would she please thank Terry for me, too. She said “We’re feeling it, believe me”, no doubt referring to the love and support Sabres fans have shown to her, the family and the team.
We’re feeling it, too, Kim. It’s called Sabres fever, and while it’s been spreading since 1970, with several peaks and valleys, it looks like it’s reached epidemic proportions.
If this team ever does win that Cup…good God, look out!
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