As the in-game host for the Buffalo Sabres, there is nowhere else I would rather spend 41 nights a year than at KeyBank Center with our team and our fans. I can't wait to get this season started. Here are some of the reasons I'm hyped, and why you should be too:
Here we go now
If you were in the building for last year's home opener against Ottawa and witnessed Jack Eichel's first goal as a Buffalo Sabre, you remember: That the collective realization that we had something special on our hands.
Video: OTT@BUF: Eichel fires first NHL goal past Anderson
And I'm not just talking about #15. When DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat" filled the arena for the first time as our official goal song, it turned the place into an instant party. This year, we're taking it a step further.
We invited DJ Kool to Buffalo to perform our goal song live at the pregame Party in the Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday. He's staying for the game, so let's make sure to show him how we celebrate when the best goal song in the NHL is on.
The first couple games of the season always feel like we're going back to school. This year, I can't wait to see so many familiar faces back at the rink. Dan Bylsma is settling into his second season manning the bench with his staff.
Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart were already developing strong chemistry late last year, and this year, the first-round picks are going to be roommates (I'm sensing a sequel to last year's "Beyond Blue and Gold" episode took us into Jack's room at Matt Moulson's house)!
Goaltender Robin Lehner has a new look, and thanks to those MMA-style workouts he was doing all summer, we can probably expect an even fiercer attitude from him in the net this season.
Ryan O'Reilly is entering his second season as a Sabre with a little extra swagger, thanks to that World Cup victory a couple weeks ago with Team Canada.
Adding to the excitement are new additions like Kyle Okposo and Dmitry Kulikov -- oh, and a new contract for Rasmus Ristolainen, which I am hoping also means the return of his very friendly childhood best friends who visited from Finland last year!
And what better way to top all that off than with a little Enzo Sauce? Tyler Ennis is now the team's longest tenured player, he's healthy, and rumor has it his famous sauce (Sorry, the ingredients are top secret) will soon be available to the masses. What more could you want?
My tickets. My status. My game day.
A couple years ago, "One Buffalo" was a just phrase. Now it's a way of life. With My One Buffalo, available within the Official Buffalo Sabres Mobile App this week, you can manage your tickets, upgrade your in-game experience, and get special discounts and offers all season.
You can also use My One Buffalo to check traffic conditions on the way to or from the game, remind yourself where you parked your car, and even find what's on the menu at the nearest concession stand!
Video: What's new at KeyBank Center
And when you walk into the arena for the first time this season, you'll probably say, "Whoa, it's really bright in here." Our new lighting system from Eaton's Ephesus Lighting is no joke. The company specializes in energy efficient lighting for sports and entertainment venues, and it will help you see the action on the ice even better.
Some of the other improvements we've made this offseason include free WiFi, and more Western New York-inspired menu items at the concession stands and in the suites. Our building even has a new name! Welcome to KeyBank Center.
Video: What's new on the KeyBank Center menu
The show within the show
Remember the bubble race on Fan Appreciation Night last season?
Well, the guys from Buffalo Bubble Soccer will be bringing their life-size inflatable bubbles back this season for more on-ice hilarity. But that's not all we have planned for pregame and intermission entertainment, so make sure you're in your seats with plenty of time before the start of each period.
If you're like me and love seeing the future pro hockey players of Western New York take the ice with the Timbits and Blue Cruisers in between periods, don't worry, they'll be back, too.
Taking a stand against cancer
Each fall, the entire Sabres organization and our fans come together to pay tribute to lives touched by cancer. Whether it was RJ and Jim Kelly appearing for their first time following their battles with the disease in 2014, or kids from Carly's Club at Roswell Park Cancer Institute appearing on the ice for the ceremonial puck drop in 2015, Hockey Fights Cancer night is always a memorable night to be in the arena.
This year, we will stand together along with Roswell Park Cancer Institute at our game against Minnesota on Thursday, Oct. 27 (it's our second home game of the season). Make sure you pick up your "I'm Fighting For" shirt at the Sabres store or get one as part of a special ticket package.
This guy just makes everything more fun. Working with Tooth again is honestly what I'm most excited about.
This season, he'll be up to his usual antics of shooting T-shirts into the crowd with his T-shirt gun, starting dance parties in the aisles, skating during intermission with the youth hockey players, and of course, posing for selfies.
He's also going to start a new tradition, where he visits a one young fan each night, and welcomes them to their first-ever Sabres game with a One Buffalo Cupcake from Baked Cupcakery. Tooth even teamed up with Marcus Foligno and Zach Bogosian to help demonstrate how to use the new mobile ticketing options at the gate this year!.
Video: Ticket Tutorial w/ Foligno and Bogosian
As a staple at every home game and lots of community events throughout the season, Tooth is one of the hardest working people at KeyBank Center. Make sure you give him a hug next time you see him!