Eight minutes to agony
Sabres' fans erupt after tickets quickly sell out
Posted: Wednesday June 02, 1999 02:48 PM
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- More than 1,000 Buffalo Sabres fans who camped out all night in the rain for tickets to the Stanley Cup finals erupted Tuesday morning upon learning tickets for all games were gone in eight minutes.
"Hell no, we won't go!" fans shouted outside Marine Midland Arena after learning shortly after 9 a.m. that tickets were gone.
Two fans picked up a metal barricade and rammed it into a locked glass door as arena employees and security officers waited nervously for police to arrive.
A burst of rain dispersed much of the crowd after a few tense moments, but others parked themselves on lawn chairs outside the arena, where they insisted they would stay.
"I just wanted a seat. I didn't care [what level]," said Rob Blaser of Hamburg, who arrived at the arena at 9 p.m. Monday while the Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs were still playing their fifth and final game of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Sabres won 4-2, eliminating Toronto 4 games to 1.
The Sabres have not been to the finals since 1975. The chance to see the long-awaited return brought Adam Becker of Buffalo and his sister, Amanda, to the arena about 7:10 p.m. Monday.
"It was pretty cold after a while," Becker said. He and others expressed outrage over Sabres flyers which indicated they could still purchase playoff tickets for this year with a nonrefundable $500 deposit toward the purchase of season tickets for next year.
"It's just a marketing scheme so they're guaranteed to sell out next year," Becker said.
Ron Bertovich, the Sabres' executive vice president of administration, said the team had reserved 200 to 300 tickets for that purpose. Season ticket holders are guaranteed a chance to purchase playoff tickets.
"If you commit now for a season ticket for next year... you can enjoy that benefit immediately," Bertovich said.
Bertovich said 14,000 tickets for each game of the finals were purchased in advance by season ticket holders and fans who purchased 10-packs of tickets for the regular season.
About 2,000 other tickets went to the NHL, competing teams and ownership, and 300 more were lost to an auxiliary press box, he said. That left about 2,000 tickets per game for the general public, available at the box office and through Tops supermarkets, an Internet site, and by phone.
About 590 tickets sold in the first minute, Bertovich said.
"We wanted to put tickets in as many people's hands as possible," he said. "There was a small quantity for the level of interest."
Scott Schappert of Hamburg was one of a group of newly graduated St. Francis High School students willing to wait all night to spend his graduation money on tickets.
"They knew we weren't going to get tickets and they let us stay here overnight," he said, disappointed and wet from the rain. "There were 3,000 people here."
Mike Szpylman, 16, of Buffalo and his 20-year-old friend, Tony Failla, spent 14 hours in line, only to be shut out.
"I've been waiting my whole life to go to a Stanley Cup final," Szpylman said.
"I don't believe this," Failla said. "I want to die."
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