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Sabres looking to change presale policy to reduce number of visiting fans

Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty

The Buffalo Sabres are exploring ways to give local supporters an advantage when buying tickets for their games.

A new experiment by the club will likely give preference to in-market fans based on their ZIP code, according to The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington.

"Obviously, last year, there were a handful of games where we saw the wrong color blue or the wrong color red coming into the building, depending on the jersey we were wearing," Sabres vice president of sales and service Frank Batres-Landaeta told Harrington. "It's something that we've been talking about and discussing and trying to figure out: How do we get tickets in the hands of Buffalo fans?"

The Sabres won't fully restrict people from other areas from purchasing tickets to Buffalo's KeyBank Center, but the team's goal is to put them behind locals in line.

"There will be a presale for Buffalo-area fans within our database to go in and purchase tickets before any other fans outside of our dedicated marketing area will get access," Batres-Landaeta said. "We're hopeful this experiment will work. It's part of the conversations with (Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams), and making sure we're having that dialogue is important."

Fans from cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Pittsburgh frequently flock to Buffalo because - particularly in the first two cases - getting tickets to the opponent's building is easier and cheaper.

Whether the Sabres' plan, which isn't official yet, will succeed remains to be seen. But it's often failed in other cities when teams try to keep visiting fans out during the playoffs.

"It's not going to work," Nick Giammusso, the Buffalo-based owner of ticket reseller VIP Tix, told The Toronto Star's Kevin McGran. "Season-ticket holders are used to selling their tickets to fans from southern Ontario. It's a big payday. It ends up helping them pay their season-ticket bill to the Sabres."

The Sabres' home record ranked 27th in the NHL last season at 17-20-4. However, they won 25 of their 41 road games. The home struggles included a 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 21, in which Toronto fans dominated the crowd and cheered wildly when their team exploded to an early 4-0 lead. Applause also overwhelmed the booing as the teams skated off for the first intermission.

Buffalo is expected to compete for a playoff spot this season with an emerging core led by Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens, and Owen Power.

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