Buffalo (2014)

After a successful trip to Detroit in 2013, the Blackhawks crew embarked on a journey to another second rate American city for Hawks at Sabres.

On Friday, March 7th, Kyle “Cornelison” Cornwell, Jerry “Not Related To” Castro and “Bad” Parker Cleveland made the misguided decision to drive overnight to Buffalo. Dan “High Sticking” Hyland, Matt “Blackhawks” Brice, Mike “Regin” Regan, Bob “Probert” Noetzel, Brian “Lil'” Noetzel, Danny “The Fanny” Schultz and Brian “Lil'” Schultz left Saturday morning for their 8 hour drive. As the rest of the crew was leaving Chicago, the early car was arriving in Buffalo.

Cornwell, Cleveland and Castro went to Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. They said it’s the 2nd worst NFL stadium, behind the Oakland Coliseum. After visiting, they went to the Hotel Lafayette and were able to check-in without an ID or their name on the reservation, but Cornwell did have to put down a credit card. Buffalonians easily trust people.

Castro calls the incoming Blackhawk fans, asking “did you get the nicest hotel in Buffalo?” And the hotel was too nice for this bunch. They had two suites with fireplaces, a full modern kitchen and five TVs.
Finally, most of the group arrived in Buffalo with Tony “O Chicago” Oral flying into Buffalo the next day. They went out on the town, going to a patriotic hipster bar called Founding Fathers. It was a perfect fit for these hockey hooligans.  After a couple hours, the crew went back to the hotel.

“Lil'” Schultz and Cornwell continued their night with two Buffalonian women, although the duo did not know each other before the trip.

Back at the hotel, the Chicagoans were trying to finish off the beer that Tony “O” sent with them. They were successful, but during the night the gas stove was accidentally turned on numerous times. The stove was a huge hazard, at the lightest touch it would turn on. Everyone avoided that part of the kitchen from then on.

“Lil'” Schultz and Cornwell came back without their women, dishing out many excuses to defend their failure. Castro disappeared for 5 hours, before showing up in his bed. The next morning, he had no idea where he had gone or what happen. There is a good chance he was sleeping the whole time, after they drove through the night before.

Cornwell, D. Schultz and Hyland stayed up until sunrise, bothering everyone who tried to sleep. They called Tony “O,” giving him the news that they would not pick him up at the airport. Also moronically telling him in a voicemail “we’ll pay for your cab,” Tony had audio evidence, showing us that we did in fact say we’d pay.

The next day, game day, the group all woke up slowly with a long day on the horizon. The plan: Niagara Falls, eat, drink, game. Cornwell and D. Schultz were not alive and chose not to visit Niagara.

When the crew pulled into Goat Island, a small island in between the three water falls at Niagara, the entire island was covered in ice from Niagara Fall’s mist. It looked amazing but was quite dangerous.
They made their way to the Horseshoe Falls, the most recognizable water fall.

It wasn’t the greatest view of the Horseshoe from Goat Island, so they started heading towards the American Falls. During the walk, the icy island forced some funny slips by anyone not wearing boots, including Regan slipping and tripping an old man on his way down. There must have been a dozen people who slipped on ice in one hour, two old guys fell, which wasn’t funny.

Last but not least, they viewed the half frozen American Falls, which was covered by a 17-story mountain of ice created by the mist from the falls. It was well worth the visit.

They returned to the hotel, where Tony “O” was waiting and Cornwell was drinking. The crew was finally at full strength. While everyone was getting food, Cornwell went back to the room and fell asleep hours before game time. For the second straight year, the group had to awkwardly wake up Cornwell.

It was time for the game, the Blackhawk fans had 12 tickets: 8 in the 300 level, 2 in the 100 level and 2 in the front row. They had a rotation between each period, so everyone could sit in a different area of the First Niagara Center.

The game opened with a goal from Buffalo’s own Patrick Kane at 16:48 in the 1st, it put Chicago up 1-0. After a tying goal by Buffalo, the home crowd went crazy but the goal was called off and the visiting fans cheered even louder.

It was 60 percent Chicago fans in the First Niagara Center that night.

The stadium was pretty nice, the exterior was nothing special and the concourse was similar to the United Center. The interior of the First Niagara Center looked like a modern Joe Louis Arena with less championship banners.

There wasn’t a bad seat in the house from the 300 level to the 100 level to the glass seats. Sitting on the glass is by far the best way to watch hockey. Some complain about sight lines but when the action is front of you, it is one of the greatest vantage points in sports.

While the group was changing seats throughout the game, no one was ever asked to see their tickets, ushers didn’t even check tickets for the glass seats. The stadium also offered 24 oz. cans of Coors Light at the game, that was a first.

Following a Jonathon Toews goal in the 3rd, Chicago went up for good. The Blackhawks beat the lowly Sabres 2-1. After the game, most of the crew went to the hotel because they had an early drive in the morning.
Castro, Cornwell, Oral, Parker and Bob went to a club. Bob and Parker were insulted at the door when they were told that they couldn’t wear their hockey sweaters in the club, they immediately left for the hotel. Castro, Cornwell and Oral all returned to the hotel at different times and by themselves.

By the end of Sunday night, we had lost all the TV remotes in the two rooms, leaving three TVs permanently on, at a blasting volume. So we left all the TVs unplugged. The hotel managers probably thought we were crazy.
Hyland would see another sunrise, Parker was the only other person up. Hyland, just about to go to bed, gets a call from Parker. “Can you drive me to the airport in the morning?” Parker asks Hyland. “Ah, yeah. Why?” Hyland replies. Cleveland just bought a plane ticket to visit his brother in Las Vegas, which was leaving in 4 hours.

So Parker was dropped off and we headed back to Chicago. Oral spent a total of 18 hours in Buffalo.

It was an extremely cheap trip for glass seats and a swanky hotel, spending under $2,000 on tickets and hotel for 11 people. The previous week, 8 of 11 of the Blackhawks bunch attended Penguins/Blackhawks at Soldier Field. Hyland, Regan and the Noetzel bros went to the game at Soldier and sat against the glass for Blackhawks at Sabres. It was an amazing week for a hockey fan.

All-in-all, another good trip in a decaying American city.