First regular season game hosted by city

Updated: November 11, 2003, 5:59 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils will play the first NHL regular season game in Rochester on Wednesday.

The city hasn't hosted a regular season event from the four major sports leagues since the NBA's Buffalo Braves played two games there in 1971.

"It's going to be interesting playing a game in a different building," said Sabres' coach Lindy Ruff. "It's a great opportunity for our fans in Rochester to see an NHL game in their city. I'm interested in seeing how both teams react to it."

The game will be played in the Blue Cross Arena, which seats around 11,000 and is located in downtown Rochester, 70-miles east of Buffalo. The Sabres' AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, play their home games at the facility.

"It's exciting and it's a great opportunity," said Sabres' defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick, who hails from Rochester.

The game is a byproduct of both the city of Buffalo's fragile economy as well as new Sabres' owner B. Thomas Golisano's ties to the Rochester area. Golisano, who owns suburban Rochester-based Paychex, wants the Sabres to hop on board the regionalism train that already includes the Buffalo Bills and two western New York colleges.

The Bills have been holding their training camp since the summer of 2000 in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester, while Niagara University and St. Bonaventure will each play a men's college basketball game in Blue Cross Arena.

The Sabres also spent a week of their training camp this year in Rochester.

"It's still quite a distance but I think both cities realize how important the other one is as far as sports go," Fitzpatrick said.

"The reason we're doing it is we believe it's beneficial in a sense that you have to go broader and you have to spread out," Ruff said. "We're trying to reach out and find more fans."

Though the NBA had a game in Japan this season between Seattle and the L.A. Clippers and the Montreal Expos played a number of baseball games in San Juan, Puerto Rico this summer, Ruff doesn't think the NHL will get back into the pattern of playing neutral-site regular season games, which they experimented with for two consecutive seasons beginning in 1992.

"I think that went hand-in-hand when they were dabbling in expansion," Ruff said. "You'd play a neutral site game in different cities that always seemed to be marketed for an NHL team or rumored to be getting an NHL team."

Fitzpatrick won't be the only Rochester-area native playing in the game. New Jersey's Brian Gionta was born and raised just outside of Rochester's city limits in Greece.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press