HAMILTON, Ont. (WIVB) – The Buffalo Sabers have been named as the home team for Sunday of the 2022 Heritage Classic. But make no mistake, Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton was largely filled with Toronto Maple Leafs fans .
Hamilton is roughly equidistant between Buffalo and Toronto (Tim Hortons Field is 63 miles from KeyBank Center and 70 miles from Scotiabank Arena). It’s no surprise that Leafs fans dominate southern Ontario. They certainly dominated the stadium on Sunday. Most of the 26,119 people in attendance wore Maple Leafs logos.
But you might also find plenty of Sabers fans. And they all have their own story as to why this is the case.
“My dad is a Leafs fan,” said Clinton, Ont., resident Jordan Pepper. “He pushed me every day from day one. So I decided I couldn’t be a (fan of a Canadian team) at all. So I chose Buffalo.
Pepper went to the Heritage Classic with Leafs fan Olivia Schefter. Despite shared allegiances, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Both were positive ahead of the game their respective team would win. Of course, only one of them turned out to be right.
The Sabers ended up beating Toronto 5-2 thanks to two goals each from Peyton Krebs and Vinnie Hinostroza.
Former Sabers goaltender Grant Fuhr made a fan of Jamie Michaud, who also attended the game.
“He played for Toronto a long time ago. He went to Buffalo. I kind of stayed with Buffalo,” Michaud said. “I liked them.”
Then there are twins Marco and Sandro Nunziato. They live in Barrie, Ontario.
“The first time I saw Gilbert Perreault play, I fell in love with the Sabers and I’ve been a Sabers fan ever since,” Marco said.
The Nunziato brothers celebrate their birthday this week. They say their wives sent them to the Heritage Classic as a gift.
It’s been difficult for many Sabers fans living in Canada to see them play in person throughout the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why many of those fans jumped at the chance to see the team play in Hamilton.
“Exactly. That was one of the reasons,” Marco said. “And this is my team. This is my heart. I live and die by the sword.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning journalist who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.