Dear Terry & Kim Pegula:
Thank you for the unforgettable afternoon on Saturday.
As a Christmas gift, we took our 8-year-old nephew, Wyatt, to your “house” to watch the Sabres-Canucks game at KeyBank Center — the first Sabres' game in person for my wife and I in several years, but a very first for the rambunctious little man.
From the time we first pulled into the adjacent ramp to park our car to the time we pulled out, we were overwhelmed with the hospitality of your staff, from the kind lady standing outside in the rain directing us with a flashlight, to the guys standing by the door manning the metal detectors, to Kelly at the Sabres Shop to the tech guy who fixed Kelly's computer and gave us a discount as a “thank you” for waiting patiently, to the game itself, which was a 6-3 loss but never disappointed us.
It was quite a thrill for Wyatt, a third grader at Lockport's Anna Merritt Elementary School. He shows an interest in all new things, like most kids.
However, this wasn't his first trip around the block, he stated proudly to several members of your staff. He'd been to the Arena a couple of times before to see Ice Capades and Jurassic Park.
When we took him to the pro shop, we wanted to buy him a Sabres' shirt, but he was crazy about the mini hockey sticks, thought the Sabres' finger was the coolest and eyed the pucks with fascination.
We never had to tell him to take his new hat off for the Canadian and American national anthems because as soon as the P.A. Announcer made that announcement, I watched him take his hat off and place it over his heart. This truly wasn't his first time around the block and we couldn't have been prouder.
For three full periods, when he wasn't snacking on nachos or ice cream, he was waving that Sabres flag around earnestly and joined in on every “Let's go, Buffalo” chant, which we all know echoes around the arena periodically, non-stop. I've never seen a happier young person, sitting there wearing his Sabres hat and hoodie sweater, waving his Sabres flag, poking Tricia and I with his new, super-sized Sabres finger, watching a great hockey game.
When the Sabres opened the scoring — in a thunderous, explosion of noise that only a home team's NHL goal can bring — Wyatt jumped out his chair with his hands over his ears and started jumping up and down, screaming.
The Canucks quickly tied the game and eventually went on to win, but the overall experience easily out-weighed the outcome of the game.
Most importantly, it was an experience the little man will never forget and something he looks forward to doing again sometime soon.
We know it's impossible for the two of you to be standing at every entrance of your home to welcome each fan individually to each game or to assist them in some way trying to make their experience a positive one.
You do what all owners do: you try to hire the best people you can and you hope and pray they are as kind and sincere and hospitable to every guest as you would be if it was you standing there in their place.
Let me assure you that the two of you were at every corner we turned on Saturday afternoon, greeting us with a huge smile, making us feel safe and welcome.
My thought before the game was to gauge how good the day was by Wyatt's reaction to it.
And based on that simple, bottom-line measurement, we had the time of our lives.
Follow veteran US&J sports reporter and editor John D'Onofrio at @JohnD'Onofrio7.