BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sabres fans are watching as the clock ticks closer and closer to Saturday night's 11:59 deadline. The NHL's players and owners must reach a deal by then or there will be a lockout.
"We saw what happened seven years ago when they came out of that lockout, the league wasn't as popular as it is now, and this could set them back quite a bit," Andy Lashua said.
Andrew Peters had just finished his first full season as a Sabre when the hockey league shut down for the 2004-2005 season.
"Personally looking back on it, it was frustrating," Peters said.
He said he sympathizes particularly with the young players in the league whose careers could be altered by a lockout.
"Regardless of how much money's there, it's a lifelong dream to play in the NHL and to have a year taken away from you isn't the most pleasant thing," he said. "But at the same time you hope it stands for something. You hope you're doing it for a purpose."
As a hockey fan, Peters said he hopes it doesn't happen.
"I would love nothing more than to wake up Sunday morning and here that there's a deal done but I don't think that's going to happen," he said. "I think there's a lot of issues on the table right now that need to be addressed."
Talks remain stalled over revenue sharing and salaries. As a former player, Peters thought the owners need to come up with a better offer.
"Without the players, you don't have a league. You can go and get everyone from the American League and bring them up but people know that the best hockey is not being played," he said.
Fans were pessimistic about the likelihood the season will start on time if it starts at all, but most say their support won't waver.
"Here in Buffalo what do we have? We have the Bills and we have the Sabres," Ian Donnelly said. "I'm a longtime hockey fan. I'll appreciate them when they come back."