Kelly is Bills' Falls guy

Hall of Famer Jim Kelly spoke at a kickoff party for the Bills in Toronto on Wednesday. (Sun...

Hall of Famer Jim Kelly spoke at a kickoff party for the Bills in Toronto on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Ernest Doroszuk)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, like many former Buffalo Bills, would hate to see the NFL franchise move permanently to Toronto.

But how about moving closer to Toronto, instead?

Kelly, has come up with the idea of one day having a new stadium built in Niagara Falls, N.Y., making it much more convenient for Canadian fans who wish to attend games.

"I think it would make sense," said Kelly, who joined ex-Bills Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker and Oakville native Steve Christie at a well-attended kickoff rally at Dundas Square last night.

"I've done my homework. By putting a stadium there, it would be 45 minutes closer for Canadians coming to games than it is to go to Orchard Park right now."

Great concept. Maybe they could change the team name to the Niagara Bills.

"No way," Kelly said. "Buffalo Bills. It ain't going to change."

Kelly is at the forefront of those attempting to keep the team in western New York. At the same time, he realizes that once owner Ralph Wilson passes away, the franchise will be put up for auction and will go to the highest bidder.

"As long as I'm involved, the team will stay where it is," Kelly said. "But the bottom line is, it will come down to the power of the bank account. Whoever the next owner of the team is will have control.

"I will say this. I've already been contacted by a number of people who said they would pay anything to keep the team in Buffalo."

Given the recent air of gloom and doom lingering over tonight's Bills-Pittsburgh Steelers exhibition contest at the Rogers Centre concerning a perceived lack of interest and inflated ticket prices, the rally last night was a rousing success, with hundreds of enthusiastic fans attending.

With the 7:30 kickoff creeping closer, here are some more views and news surrounding the opener of the eight-game "Bills in Toronto series."

DUCAT DEBACLE

The roots of the recent negative publicity concerning this event can be traced back to the introductory news conference earlier this year.

At that time, Bills owner Ralph Wilson and communications magnate Ted Rogers came off as a pair of octogenarian money bags who cared little about what most fans could afford.

This translated to the ballooning ticket prices. Consider that the top ducat for tonight's exhibition game is in the neighbourhood of $575 a pop. Meanwhile a season ticket for a lower bowl seat between the 20 yard lines at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season is only $500 US.

Maybe that explains why observers estimate thousands of freebie tickets have been handed out in order to "paper" the stadium, or make it appear full.

And while it is commendable that Rogers has delivered tickets to deserving commodities such as the Hospital for Sick Children and The United Way, imagine how you would feel if you shelled out $800 for a pair, only to hear the guy sitting next to you say he paid nothing.

When prices first were announced, the sales pitch was that you had to purchase all eight games in the series, which includes five regular season and three pre-season matchups over the next five years. At one point, it was alleged that there were 180,000 names on the waiting list.

If that is the case, why can fans suddenly buy single-game tickets for tonight?

Keep in mind this is only an exhibition game. The real litmus test will come for the regular season matchup against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 7.

NO HOME EDGE?

Bills officials are keeping a keen eye on the Rogers Centre playing surface, an unfamiliar field for a Buffalo team that will be playing in a stadium that will become its second home.

"We've spent time talking about it and researching it," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "Our people have walked it and feel fairly comfortable with it."

It hasn't become an issue. Yet. But if someone shreds a knee ligament on the field tonight, you can bet it will.

Meanwhile, the Bills, while reaping the benefits of the $78 million shelled out by Rogers to bring the eight games to Toronto, are getting screwed by having to play the warm- weather Dolphins as part of that package. Instead of toiling in the frosty elements of Orchard Park in front of the pro-Bills crowd, the Dolphins will welcome the domed climate with thousands of Miami fans in attendance.

QUICK KICKS

It should be an interesting scene on Front St., at about 5:30 p.m. On one hand, the Budweister tailgate party will be in full swing. At the same time, the anti-NFL protest is scheduled to take place nearby ... Bills defensive end Corey Mace, a native of Port Moody, B.C., is sympathetic to the CFL fans who don't want the NFL in Canada. "As Canadians, we are passionate about our sports, whether it be NFL or hockey" Mace said. "I can understand how they feel. At the same time, we just want to come up here and put on a good show." ... Bills wideout Lee Evans said he is getting "closer" to an agreement on a new multi-year deal with the team.


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