For the first time this season, Buffalo Sabres fans will be allowed into the KeyBank Center for the March 20 game vs. the Boston Bruins. Tickets went on sale this week. Season-ticket holders were given first dibs on the seats, but it appears many of them took a pass.
The KeyBank Center’s capacity is 19,070, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, the State of New York only allows stadiums to sell seats at 10 percent capacity. In this case, that meant 1,907 seats were up for grabs to season pass holders. Yet, shortly after the March 12, 2:00 P.M. opening of the ticket sale, more than 1,000 tickets became available to the general public on the Sabres’ website.
So, for a franchise that as recently as 2016 had to limit the number of season-ticket holders to 16,000 to ensure the availability of individual game tickets for all fans, the Sabres could not find 1,900+ of them that wanted to buy tickets to watch the National Hockey League’s last-placed team.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised that season-ticket holders did not immediately snatch up the limited number of seats available in a frenzy of excitement. With the way this season is going, it’s no wonder the team is having a tough time getting people into the building — even if it is the first time they are allowed to watch their beloved Blue and Gold in a year. Fans watching the games from home this season are more likely to cancel their cable than they are to hop on the NFTA Metro’s Rapid Rail to KeyBank Center.
Sabres Game Attendance Requires Mandatory COVID Test
All fans attending Sabres games will need to produce a negative molecular PCR test — the so-called “gold standard” test for coronavirus detection — within 72 hours of the game. This protocol could also factor in the sluggish ticket sales among die-hard fans. The test itself costs about $64.
To help fans meet this requirement, the Sabres’ partnered with Quest Diagnostics’ consumer-initiated testing service, QuestDirect, to allow them to schedule their tests in advance of the March 20 game at multiple locations throughout Western New York.
After buying a ticket, QuestDirect emailed fans a link to a registration site that came with a code that allowed them to schedule the PCR test.
The Sabres also teamed up with another company that uses a Health Pass app for COVID-19 screening of fans. Fans who bought tickets needed to download the app and verify their identity before linking their COVID test results with the app, receiving a greenlight for a negative test and indicating their ability to attend the game.
“We’re doing this for our fans and to experience the journey together with them,” head coach Ralph Krueger said. “Without having interaction with them, it’s just a big piece missing in the puzzle. That’s something we look forward to seeing here on the 20th, back in the Keybank Center.”
The Athletic’s Sabres reporter John Vogl reported that shortly after the majority of season-ticket holders took a pass on the ability to see their team in action, about 1,051 seats remained available. By Vogl’s math, that meant approximately only 856 Sabres VIP fans took the team up on the first-dibs offer.
That is, of course, assuming that all 1,907 tickets were available to be sold and that the Sabres did not save some for players’ families, wives, girlfriends or other purposes.
According to some Twitter users cited by Vogl on his feed, Boston Bruins fans were happy to jump at the opportunity to snag up some of the tickets that the locals were eschewing.
Vogl described the whole scene as a “ticket bloodbath.” As of Friday evening, there were still some tickets available. So if you are in the Buffalo area and want to get to the game next weekend, it’s still possible. It could be one of your last chances to see many of the current Sabres.
I’m a freelance writer/carpenter and contributor to The Hockey Writers and NHLTradeRumors.Me I am @mikecarterlives on Twitter. I spent four years reporting for community newspapers in northern British Columbia. Then, I decided to try something new and came to Edmonton to help build a company with my brother. It seems no matter what I do, I always return to the keyboard to tell interesting stories. Hockey has always been a part of who I am.