BUFFALO?- It's finally here.
For Buffalo Bills fans, playoffs are that second season when good teams are still playing and your team is not.
For Buffalo Sabres fans, it's that thing which has eluded you since the 2007 season.
Thursday afternoon, Sabres fans made up for lost time. Fans started packing into the plaza next to the arena at 4:30 p.m. Known as Party in the Plaza, it may be the biggest and best block party in Western New York. A live band played leading up to the game and thousands were outside, donning the colors of the Northeast Division champions.
One fan sat outside HSBC Arena with a sign reading, "Att: Mayor B. Brown. Get the key back from T.0. - what did he do? It belongs to Ryan Miller!!!!"
As Jay Sutter from West Seneca points out, the Bills don't give fans much to root for late in the season.
"It's definitely a good feeling to be back in the playoffs," he said. "The city of Buffalo is a big city for hockey. The Bills don't show us much so the Sabres is where our hearts are. It's good to be back in the playoffs."
With temperatures reaching 70 in downtown Buffalo on Thursday, what better way to watch the first playoff game in the Queen City since 2007?
"I can't afford not to get outside," Nick Todaro of Buffalo said. "I am standing out here tonight because of the atmosphere. We haven't had a (Stanley) Cup run in three years. Look at the weather. I'm here because of the weather, the atmosphere, the people, the craziness. It's hockey in Buffalo."
And hockey in Buffalo is good.
When the game started and fans packed the arena to capacity, the party in the plaza continued. Over 2,000 stood outside of the arena and watched the game on a movie-sized television screen and watched the Sabres take the opening game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals over the Bruins, 2-1.
Party in the Plaza will take place during every home Sabres' playoff game and the party kicks off two hours before faceoff. The event is held rain or shine as it is under a 40 foot by 120-foot tent.
While Western New Yorkers love their Bills, don't be mistaken, this is a hockey town.
As Todara noted, "Winter is a lot longer here without playoffs."
But the spring will surely be one to remember.