BUFFALO, N.Y. – It’s not every day Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek turns up on your doorstep to personally deliver season tickets.
Or anything for that matter.
That’s what happened around Buffalo on Wednesday, when the new-look Sabres, under new owner Terry Pegula, had their star players drive around town as glorified ticket couriers. And yes, Pegula joined in on the fun and made a few disbursements as well.
“It’s good to have fans support the team like they do, and they’re good people,” Pegula said. “It’s really cool.”
Ask Patty Schwartz about coolness, and she’ll point her finger right back at Pegula himself, who drove his own vehicle and stopped at five different locations to pass out the ducats. Schwartz left work early to make sure she was home after the Sabres told her someone from the organization was going to bring her tickets to her in person, and she was thrilled to find the humble owner at her front door with the goodies.
“I was very happy because he was my choice,” she said outside her house in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga. “I wanted to see him more than the players.”
Pegula’s first visit of the day was to Barb Hummell’s residence, where at first, the 40-year season-ticket holder wasn’t exactly sure who the strange man with the jeans, sneakers, and a Sabres golf shirt was standing on her porch. But with her trusty dog that is aptly named “Sabre” by her side, she quickly became aware this wasn’t some slick salesman trying to sell her a vacuum.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I expected just some person to come with my ticket.”
Hummell even put her reporter’s cap on and flat-out asked the owner if he was going to sign defenceman Tyler Myers to a contract extension.
“Tyler,” he said with a grin, “isn’t going anywhere.”
A handful of NHL teams have done this ticket brigade over the years, including the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars, but it was the first time the Sabres have jumped on board. Five limousines carrying eight players—Miller, Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Nathan Gerbe, and newcomers Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino—made more than 20 stops in Western New York and Southern Ontario.
It’s all part of the Sabres objective to revive their brand and continue turning Buffalo into Hockeytown Western New York, or “Pegulaville” as the team’s fans have started to refer to it.
“We talked about doing this back in January, even before we bought the team,” Sabres president Ted Black said. “We put it in the Pegula playbook.”
Pegula is the Pennsylvania billionaire who made his fortune in drilling for natural gas, and who’s now in the process of putting his money where his passion is: Hockey. The Sabres are currently the highest-spending team in the league.
“They’re getting good players now,” Hummell said, “instead of getting rid of them all.”
With those new players and new attitude, Schwartz isn’t betting against her favourite team to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their existence.
“I say that anything’s possible in Pegulaville, and it is,” she said of the franchise that began in 1970. “I mean, he delivered the tickets to me today.”
And a championship, she hopes, next June.