I thought I had a chance to acquire tickets through a friend, a longtime Sabres season ticket holder. But he was only able to buy two additional tickets.
Once the pre-game hype started a couple of weeks ago, I felt myself caving in to the pressure to be part of hockey history in Buffalo. I justified it in the following terms: unless we someday build a domed stadium in Buffalo, the city will never host a Super Bowl, and because we do not have a major league baseball team, will will never be the site of the World Series nor an all-star game. Buffalo has been ignored as the site for the NHL All-Star Game since the game was played at Memorial Auditorium exactly 30 years ago this month.
The Winter Classic would be our reward.
I tested the waters of eBay, and found it to be a potential solution to the "Ice Bowl" ticket dilemma.
I was in the market for three seats, and knew better than to buy in the 100 level where views might be obstructed. I found what I was looking for in Section 224, at the tunnel end, facing the scoreboard. The bidding lasted almost three days, with me eventually coming out on top. Since I had already asked the sellers if they would accept cash, all that was left was to set up a meeting.
The "buy" could not have been more awkward. There I was in a Niagara Falls Boulevard coffee shop at 9 o'clock on a Friday night waiting for someone I had never met before. Neither of us knew what the other looked like, so I wore my Sabres hat and sat down facing the door.
Within a few minutes my "supplier" arrived and picked me out immediately. In a white No. 10 envelope were my three tickets. I had his payment in cash. We had a cup of coffee together and briefly discussed the ins and outs of buying merchandise on the Internet as well as the fate of the Sabres.
Whew - I was glad that was over.
As for my season ticket-holding friend from Hamburg, he bought four additional tickets through eBay and asked if I could pick them up from a business in Grand Island. I somehow agreed to go through another clandestine-looking swap.
My destination was a dimly lit business, behind a commercial building on Whitehaven Road. I met my "contact," but at first he did not recognize my name or know why I was even there. I reminded him about the tickets. "Oh, those," he said, as if the Winter Classic was the furthest thing from his mind.
I was very glad to have been at the game, despite the fact the Sabres lost in the shootout. The pre-game atmosphere was exciting, the likes of which could not be duplicated around the HSBC Arena. The cold was very tolerable, and the snow was less of a problem for the fans than the players.
Everyone in the Sabres organization and the NHL who worked on this project deserves a round of applause for making New Year's Day 2008 one to remember.
Just one thing. Could you come up with a more equitable means to sell tickets if the game is played here again? The people at the doughnut shop would appreciate it too.