Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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February 18, 2012

Blackout was 'tough' on Sabres fans

When the Madison Square Garden (MSG) network went dark for Time Warner Cable subscribers for 48 days, Dave Morotchie of Lockport and several other Buffalo Sabres fans weren’t happy at all.

“I would have switched to satellite dish in a heartbeat if I could,” Morotchie said, as he met with friends at Pat’s Place on Walnut Street. But because he lives at Urban Park Towers at 77 Main St., Morotchie must remain a Time Warner Cable subscriber. “We’re not allowed to have a dish on the window,” he said with a laugh. “I love watching the Sabres and I’m glad they’re back.”

The standoff, originally over what the cable TV provider would pay for carrying the network, ended Friday at the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and prompted by the increasing popularity of New York Knicks basketball star Jeremy Lin. New Yorkers were missing Lin and, locally, Lockportians were missing the Sabres.

Terri McDonald of Chestnut Street said she missed watching the Sabres while waiting for MSG and Time Warner Cable to come to an agreement.

“We lost a big portion of the season,” McDonald stated. “It was tough for Sabres fans. We shouldn’t have to have season tickets to see all the games.”

Mike Branch of Lockport said he’s “glad it happened now.” He said if the Sabres have any playoff hopes for this year, the fans will come back again to support the team. “People will get back into it,” Branch said. “Deep down, we knew the deal would come through. Buffalo is a hockey town. It had to happen.”

Many people did switch from Time Warner Cable to the dish, according to Jill Voelker, a bartender at Pat’s Place. “Even my son switched because he couldn’t see the games,” Voelker said. “I think Time Warner Cable lost a lot of customers and had to come through with a deal to get it to stop, to get people to stay with them.”

Some people didn’t miss the Sabres games at all.

“We have Direct TV,” said Chris Knapp, a bartender at Lock 34, the former Taboo on Main Street. “We have been really busy for all the hockey games. We didn’t miss any of them.”

Gonzo’s Bar on Main Street switched to Direct TV as a result of the Sabres blackout, said bartender Amanda Schillinger. “Everyone comes here to see them,” Schillinger said. “The patrons were very happy when we made the games available again.”

Ashlee Shea, a waitress at Applebee’s of Lockport, said it was “great news” that MSG and Time Warner had come to an agreement, though not many customers had inquired with her about the availability of Sabres games at the restaurant. “It wasn’t as big a topic of conversation here as you might think.”

For 2 million Time Warner Cable customers, the games are, finally, back on.

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