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“Lots of awkward cheering,” said John Bona III, owner of the suburban Buffalo restaurant. “The lottery thing is pretty big here in the Buffalo area. We play the games of other teams near the bottom, too.”
The Sabres are currently last in the NHL, guaranteeing them at least the second overall pick in the 2015 Draft and giving them the best odds to get the first. The prizes at the end: Once-in-a-lifetime prospect Connor McDavid and instant franchise savior Jack Eichel. The Sabres aren’t sure which one they’ll end up with if they finish at the bottom ... which gave Bona a devious idea for a new drink promotion.
A customer asked if the Ale House was going to create a Connor McDavid drink special for St. Patrick’s Day. Bona liked the idea, and commissioned his “mad scientists behind the bar” to come up with a green beverage.
Then he decided perhaps they’d create two drinks: a green drink with orange vodka, named for McDavid, honoring his No. 97 in the price; and a red drink with cherry vodka, honoring Eichel, with his No. 9 in the price.
Since the Sabres are unsure which player they’ll get a chance to draft, Bona decided his customers should experience their own mystery: “Why don’t we put a disclaimer on this and have bartenders choose which drink you receive?”
So there’s an 80-percent chance that if you order the McDavid, you’ll get an Eichel instead, at the bartender’s discretion. “I didn’t go out and buy a [lottery] wheel. But that was a thought,” admitted Bona.
Genius … but not the first time Bona’s bar has gotten major publicity for a sports-related promotion.
There was the Super Bowl ad. There were the bans on Jon Bon Jovi and Jerry Jones for their designs on relocating the Bills. And you might best remember Bona’s bar from its ban on Canadian beer during the Sochi Olympic semifinal between the U.S. and Canada.
“We were serving Labatt at the time and I remember (Canada) slipping one past our boy Ryan Miller. So I thought I’d be on the superstitious side and shut the taps off for the game,” Bona said at the time.
As for McDavid and Eichel, Bona admits to being conflicted. His bar has offered half-priced items during Sabres games “until they win the Stanley Cup,” so he has an active rooting interest in seeing them win. But he’s fully prepared to see more fans cheering on losses for the Sabres this week, and they take on fellow basement dweller Arizona in two games.
“I’m not sure if we’ll see jerseys inside out or what,” he said.
As for which drink he prefers?
“They’re both good. They’re suitable for everyone,” he said. “My preference is the McDavid. But I ordered it three times only got it once.”
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