Buffalo Sabres’ forward, Kyle Okposo with a perfect shot Thursday night beats Antti Niemi with a minute left in the game and the Sabres go on to beat the Montreal Canadiens. Rick Jeanneret then throws in a mention of next game being Saturday night in Columbus and something just clicks with me; I should make the trip to next game. An exhilarating win and the best start to a season since 2011-12 is making me think that this is the perfect time to take a semi-spontaneous trip to Columbus. I had no plans for the weekend and it’s just a 5-hour drive. Almost 12-years ago, I made the same voyage with my dad, back when the Sabres were the best team in the league, and I’ve been meaning to go back for a long time. Now seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I grabbed a buddy, grabbed some reasonably priced tickets and started our drive to the happiest place on Earth… Columbus, Ohio!
Almost 6 hours later, (we had to stop in Ohio because I forgot to get my oil changed before we left, and it was not “instant” in any way, shape, or form; although plus side I had my first “Chick-fil-A” – very overrated) we made it to our incredibly convenient hotel; just a three-minute walk to the arena. The whole Arena District was nice, with a few hotels on the way, cobblestone roads, and the Blue Jackets practice arena and Nationwide Arena were front and center with their photos of their superstar talent painted right onto the building. We had gotten to that area early and had time to kill so we picked one of a few choices of bars to stop into and made friends with some Canadian fans at “The Three-Legged Mare.”
Once we passed through security and the ticket takers to get into Nationwide Arena, I was very impressed from the start. I am now the proud owner of a Columbus Blue Jackets t-shirt that they were giving away with for free on a random Saturday in October. The corridors had room for people to walk around in without bumping bodies everywhere you go, even with their own marching band! Our seats were in the corner where the Sabres shoot in the first and third period and where we were specifically located, we had a television above our heads to see up close all that they were showing on the jumbotron; not really needed since we could see the jumbotron fine, but it’s the thought that counts.
We sat next to an older couple who lived in Columbus but were Buffalo Sabres fans. They were excited to show us photos of them at multiple events over the years that included Sabres players. They were even more excited when in the first minute of the game, the Sabres scored the first goal of the game to take the lead. I’ve never seen an older man THAT pumped up. Later, Columbus tied the game and while I knew it was coming, it’s still loud… they have a cannon that goes off whenever the Blue Jackets score. The game was very back and forth, with a lot of chances and goals, but unfortunately the Sabres lost in overtime. Disappointing, but still an exciting game and that’s all I was hoping for.
During the 2nd intermission, was a perfect example of how awesome and loyal the people from Buffalo are. With so many displaced Sabres fans all over the country, there’s a Twitter account to try and connect everyone at the games and it’s not limited to people who just live there. Every single away game now, someone at the game oversees figuring out where in the arena to meet and have people round up fans for a group photo via this Twitter account. We made sure we were in the photo:
After the game, we made sure to check out the local area even more extensively. “OH Pizza and Brew” had some good pizza that we got close to 10pm. From there, we made our way back closer to the arena and were looking inside to see where we saw anyone in Sabres attire. “R Bar Arena” was chosen, and I highly recommend it, a good local sports bar with a fun crowd of people that we finished the night with. Want a fun Buffalo connection story? Our bartender was a Williamsville North grad, who is my newest friend, and they happen to know a good buddy of mine. It’s a small world after all.
We came, we saw, we made new friends, but alas every great trip must come to an end and our one-night outing left us leaving the next day around noon to come home. I can’t speak for much outside the Arena District area, but from the few blocks we explored downtown, this is a trip I’d make again. In fact, I want to plan out another trip, hopefully being able to attract the friends that couldn’t leave last minute for a road trip. The goal is to make it to as many NHL arenas as possible, if not every single one at some point in my life, although I said the same thing in 2007 and so far, I haven’t been to any other cities for a game.
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