NHL Game Experience: Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo


Dominick Scarpino, Staff Writer

On March 4, I had the opportunity to go to my first NHL game, which was between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank center in Buffalo. This is how I got to be a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and my experience at my first game.

Growing up, I never really got into any sports. I never had anyone in my family who had any interest in them. That changed when my step-father became an influential person in my life. My first exposure to sports in any tangible way was watching Super Bowl 50 when my step-father was rooting for his home town team, the Carolina Panthers, to win. After that, my exposure was just basically watching the Super Bowl every year. That all changed when COVID hit, specifically when the NHL announced that they would be restarting play and the Stanley Cup playoffs would go on. Having nothing better to do, I sat down and watched the Lightning’s amazing playoff run that ended with them beating the Dallas Stars in six games to win the Stanley Cup. I wasn’t sold on this whole hockey thing yet. Life went on and the next year, the Lightning were back in the playoffs and could win back-to-back Stanley Cups. I watched all the playoffs again, this time with more understanding, and watched the Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens in five games to lift the Cup for the second straight time. Still, I only watched playoff hockey so I didn’t consider myself a true fan. Life went on again and the Lightning made the playoffs yet again. This time was different. This time, I learned and remembered the players. I could remember the rules. I was finally sold on hockey and became a proper fan. Unfortunately, the Lighting would be denied the three Stanley Cups in a row by the Colorado Avalanche, who beat the Lightning in six games to win the Cup for themselves.

Even though the Lightning had lost, I remained a fan and that is how I ended up at my first game. Now, time for the review.

Overall Atmosphere

The atmosphere of the game was absolutely amazing. Even though I was rooting for the away team, there was absolutely no issue with any Buffalo fan being rude to my step-father and I. That was the main thing we were worried about going in to this game to root for a team that had been to three straight championships and won two of them. You could feel the energy coursing through the entire arena. It probably also helped that the Sabres were wearing their “Legion of Doom” jerseys, which the team was 11-0 going into the game while wearing those jerseys. As a person who was actively rooting for the Sabres to lose, even I have to admit that those jerseys are amazing.


The inside of the arena looked and felt somewhat modern. The seats were the main issue that both my step-dad and I mentioned. The seats were older and looked like they needed some quality attention by someone with money. All other parts of the concourse was perfectly fine and honestly better than we had expected. Moving outside, there was plenty of parking within about a 2 to 5 minute walking radius from the entrance to the stadium.


You can’t talk about a sporting event without talking about the fans of the teams. There was about a 60-40 split of fans which favored Buffalo. There were more Tampa fans than either of us were expecting. Like I mentioned above, the Buffalo fans were indifferent to us and that was probably the best case scenario. The Buffalo fans were really energetic and were chanting, cheering, booing the refs. Basically, the Buffalo home crowd was doing its job very, very well. The Tampa fans that were there basically only cheered when Tampa scored, which is to be expected for an away game so far away from Tampa.

The Game

The actual game was very fun to watch. It was an intense first period full of rushes, near goals, missed penalties, and everything else that makes a great game to watch. The first period ended 1-1. The second period was great, if you’re a Buffalo fan. That ended 5-1 favoring Buffalo and that’s all I’m going to say about that. The third period saw the top players Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos benched for the entire third period. That didn’t stop the Lightning from gaining serious momentum and almost making a comeback with the final score being 5-3 Buffalo.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the Sabres managed to win 5-3, I still had a very fun time at the game. It is an experience that I will be remembering for a lifetime. I highly recommend watching hockey in person. Like any other sport, it is just better to watch in person. Nothing really else to add because it’s just the truth. I really enjoyed my experience and look forward to my next!