Itinerant Fan

KeyBank Center

In Buffalo, a place known largely for how cold it gets there, it’s no surprise that hockey is big. The NHL’s Sabres are an institution there, and on game nights their home rink, KeyBank Center, is the place to be.

The arena has gone by several names over the years thanks to corporate takeovers, switching to KeyBank from First Niagara Center prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. And though it might never live up to its predecessor, the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (known to locals as simply “The Aud”), in terms of sentimental value, it remains a top-notch venue for watching puck and a great place to visit for out-of-town hockey fans as well.

Besides, watching a Sabres game at KeyBank is a nice window into how Buffalo fans take in their sports, as they’re some of the more passionate fans you’ll find around the NHL.

  •   The Approach

    Located in a district of downtown Buffalo called Canalside, KeyBank Center is difficult to miss. It is indeed located next to a body of water — the Buffalo River, namely, with the eastern edge of Lake Erie not far away — and two major thoroughfares, the Niagara Thruway (Interstate 190) and the Buffalo Skyway, run right by the arena. You can find detailed driving directions here.

    Once there, there’s plenty of parking around. Your primary choices are the lots east of the arena, both north and south of Perry Street, as well as the garage of the Harborcenter complex just north of the building. Rates begin at $10 for these lots; for more info, click here.

    Buffalo’s downtown and most of its major hotels are on the north side of I-190, opposite the arena, and even if it’s chilly outside, walking to the arena is a fairly pleasant stroll. Washington Street offers you a straight shot to the venue, and you’ll have the added benefit of walking right by the city’s Triple-A baseball stadium in the process.

  •   The Build-Up

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    Canalside is one of the more happening districts in Buffalo, with outdoor activities taking place for much of the year. During the winter, not surprisingly, there’s a public ice skating rink, as well as periodic festivals with live music, games and more. 

    Even when those things aren’t available, though, there are plenty of restaurants and bars around that cater to the hockey fan. Try the Harborcenter or Illinois Street, Mississippi Street or Michigan Avenue just east of the arena for a number of choices. That favorite Buffalo treat, the buffalo wing, is widely available. Perhaps owing to its proximity to Canada, so is poutine, and there’s a Tim Hortons branch at the Harborcenter.

    If it’s your first visit to the Buffalo region, you’ll probably want to work a trip to Niagara Falls into your itinerary. The falls are about 20 miles north of downtown Buffalo via I-190 and are certainly worth a visit prior to the game.

  •   The Ambiance

    Most fans enter KeyBank Center through the plaza facing Perry Street, known as the Pavilion which is huge (understandably, seeing as folks are likely looking to get inside as quickly as possible to get out of the cold). It’s also here that you’ll find the Sabres team store. From there, you can ascend stairs or an escalator to get to the main concourse.


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    But if you can stand being outside for a time, walk around the perimeter of the arena a bit and check out the Sabres’ Alumni Plaza just east of the main entrance, which features a sculpture tribute to the team’s famed “French Connection” line of Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin.  

    Inside you’ll find plenty of tributes to the Sabres’ past and Buffalo history, making the arena worth walking around and exploring. The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame is located within the Pavilion and remains open during Sabres games. Also be sure to check out the “Pour Man’s Aud Club,” a bar containing artifacts from the old Memorial Auditorium. 

    The arena recently revamped its concessions offerings, adding new items such as a “beef on weck” burger (“weck” being short for kummelweck bread, a popular item in the Buffalo area), ramen noodles and street tacos. Buffalo wings, of course, are available, as well as other regional favorites as fried bologna sandwiches and Perry’s ice cream.

The Particulars

Home Teams
Buffalo Sabres

Address
1 Seymour H. Knox III Plaza
Buffalo, NY 14203

Year Opened
1996

Capacity
19,070

Upcoming Events
All times local
Vancouver Canucks at Buffalo Sabres
Friday, October 20, 2017
7:00 pm
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Detroit Red Wings at Buffalo Sabres
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
7:30 pm
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Tim McGraw with Faith Hill
Thursday, October 26, 2017
7:00 pm
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San Jose Sharks at Buffalo Sabres
Saturday, October 28, 2017
1:00 pm
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Imagine Dragons with Grouplove and K. Flay
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
7:30 pm
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