Patty Schwartz is one of those fans who have bought in completely. The Cheektowaga resident with the Sabres flag flying outside her front door has watched the team with unwavering optimism since Terry Pegula took over in February.
"I call it Pegulaville," Schwartz said Wednesday, "and I say anything is possible in Pegulaville -- and it is because he delivered the tickets to me today."
Indeed, Schwartz's die-hard belief that anything can happen was proved when the owner walked onto Schwartz's front porch to personally hand over her season tickets. Pegula made the visit with his wife, Kim, daughter, Jessie, and team President Ted Black on a day when upwards of 25 families and businesses received extra-special deliveries for the 2011-12 season.
"I've been nervous since about noon. Now I'm going a little crazy," said Schwartz, who like the other recipients was advised in advance by the Sabres to be home or in the office for VIP treatment. "I was very happy because [Pegula] was my choice. I wanted to see him more than a player because I'm just so excited about everything he's done with the team. It's just perfect because I've wanted to meet him and his family, Jessie and Kim, too."
The idea of having team members personally deliver ducats has grown in recent years. The Pittsburgh Penguins played mailman this week for the fifth straight season.
"We talked about this back in January before we even bought the team, when we were going through our Pegula playbook," Black said. "This is a good one."
The ticket-delivery caravan departed First Niagara Center just after 1 p.m. in five groups. Eight players -- Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Nathan Gerbe -- split into teams of two and climbed into four limos for their visits throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario. Pegula drove his own vehicle to his five stops, loading the family and Black into a GMC Denali.
"It's a lot of fun, especially having Jessie here," Pegula said. "It's good people, and it's good to have fans that support the team like they do. It's really cool."
The fans who got to visit with Pegula obviously agreed. The owner's first stop was the West Seneca home of Barb Hummell, who has been a season-ticket holder of Buffalo hockey teams for more than 60 years. She is entering her 41st season with the Sabres after watching their predecessors, the Bisons, for 20 years.
Hummell, who has Sabres stickers on the front door of her house and back bumper of her car, introduced Pegula to her dog, Sabre.
"You don't want to know the name of our dog: Sidney, as in Crosby," said Pegula, who lived in Pennsylvania with Penguin-fan daughters who named the family pet after the team's star player.
Hummell quickly proved her status as a Buffalo fan, asking Pegula if Wednesday's report of a contract extension for defenseman Tyler Myers was true. That turned into a popular topic.
"And I thought the big news today was Tyler Myers signing an extension. It's great stuff," Pete Brady, who was in his Amherst law office with partner Alan Schaefer when Pegula and the gang stopped by, said of the visit. "Everybody's excited about the coming season. You've done so much to create enthusiasm."
Added Schaefer: "We had four seats for a while, and there were some times in those years where you'd tell people, 'Hey, I got seats for the game,' and they'd say, 'Nah, I'm going somewhere.' Not anymore. I've got people calling me asking, 'You still got seats?' "
He does. Every time he sits in them, he can say the owner delivered the tickets for them.