BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres have been putting on a show on the ice. There first three games were at home at the KeyBank Center. The team won all three games.
“It’s exciting. So, we got to see if they can keep it up,” said Jacob Irlbacher as he headed into the arena on Tuesday.
This season, when not watching the team on the ice, it’s hard to miss the number of empty seats.
“It's tough. Never, never seen it like that,” said Ken Loncz, a Sabres season-ticket holder.
The home opener, 8,467 attended the game, in game 2: 7,872, in game 3: 7,376.
In the 2019-2020 season, the Sabres averaged over 17,000 fans per game. That’s according to ESPN.
What's causing the lack of attendance?
There’s more than one reason.
There’s a vaccine mandate. While everyone at KeyBank Center shows proof of vaccination, that hasn't stopped Buffalo Bills fans from packing Highmark Stadium on Sundays.
The border remains closed for Canadians. Canadians certainly cross the border for a more affordable option to watch NHL talent. And even when the border does open for Canadians in November, proof of a negative COVID-19 test to return to Canada could make day trips costly.
According to a report from Athletic: season tickets would be capped at 16,000 and the Sabres did not reach that number in the 2019-2020 season.
It’s no secret the team has struggled. The Sabres haven’t been in the playoffs since 2010-11 season. One season-ticket holder, heading to the game on Tuesday, nearly didn't renew this year.
“It's not as exciting as in 05-06,” said Loncz when he first became a season-ticket holder.
For some of the 7,376 who did attend on Tuesday, they hope a 3-0 start will excite fans to come back to the arena.
“If the Sabres keep doing well, I think people start coming,” said Christine Nielsen as she entered the arena.
7 Eyewitness News reached out to the Sabres for a comment on the low attendance and didn't immediately get a response.