xml:space="preserve">

I walked into a bar in Fells Point Saturday night and an amazing thing was going on.

There was a hockey game on television and people were actually paying attention.  Yeah, here in Baltimore, people were watching hockey.  And not just watching, but riveted, and cheering and moaning.  Attention fixed on all nine TVs.

Advertisement

This was Fletcher's, at the corner of Bond and Aliceanna, a gathering place for Buffalo ex-patriots who, on this and every occasion the Buffalo Sabres and Bills play, assemble to  drink Genesee and Labatt beer, gnaw on (what else) Buffalo wings and cheer for their heroes. When I was there, I estimated 80 to 100 people, all wearing Sabres blue and gold, such as Kim Perkins (left), a nurse, and Molly Clauss (right), a teacher. The place is owned by ex-Buffalo native Bryan Burkert (left), who, along with pal Rocco DiPietro (right), have supervised this calling together of the western New York state clan.  Unfortunately for the Fletcher's crowd, the Sabres are down 2-0 to Ottawa in their NHL playoff series.

Interestingly, for the people who go to Fletcher's, the experience they share seems to go beyond the typical "ex-pats congregate in local sports bar" circumstance, say like Midwest snowbirds in Phoenix or Florida hanging out in a Chicago Bears saloon.  This crowd is between 21 and 45, and most said they'd rather be back in Buffalo but many were forced to leave because of hard economic times back home.  As a result, the educated young adult population of the Buffalo region is spread across the country.

A Sun colleague accurately described it as the "Buffalo diaspora."

"This is about more than sports," said the 39-year-old DiPietro, who owns Il Scalino's deli in Little Italy. "You want the Sabres to win for your parents and your grandparents back in Buffalo where there's not a lot (economically) going on.  We'd all rather be home enjoying this but we're glad to be able to come together here. When you look at it, though, it's almost like we're in exile."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement