At 2 p.m. on Friday, Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., home to the Buffalo Bills, was covered in snow. Mounds of white powder were piled high across the stadium, obscuring signs, burying seats and blocking the tunnels that lead from the locker rooms to the field.
But the Bills, set to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in the second round of the National Football League playoffs, had a plan.
They asked their fans for help shoveling.
Ethan Cuddihy, 23, a Buffalo native and a lifelong Bills fan, was more than willing. The team’s beloved quarterback, Josh Allen, had already given him so much; it was only right that Mr. Cuddihy return the favor, he said.
And there was added motivation: The Bills offered to pay $20 an hour to any fan who showed up to help shovel.
Mr. Cuddihy, using what could playfully be called “boy math,” reasoned that the hard work had helped offset the hefty price of his Sunday ticket: $200. By his count, he had earned about $90. In other words, he was now going to the playoffs for half price.
Daryll Bernard, 29, said he figured his day’s pay would cover only a couple of drinks at the game on Sunday. But he wanted to be part of the unique experience.
“Having to dig your neighbor out and stuff like that — that’s just such a part of Buffalo,” he said.
All kinds of fans answered the call on Friday, lining up outside Highmark Stadium ready to work. Some cheered and whistled; others quietly waited, shovels in hand.
Jenny Chazen, 56, and her friends lined up after a morning of skiing at nearby Kissing Bridge Ski Resort. She said the man next to her in line had come from Toronto. Another man, Daniel Weatherholt, 38, drove about 80 miles from Rochester.
“We want to help try to win the Super Bowl,” Mr. Weatherholt said. “It feels good contributing, even though I’m not on the field. It helps.”
Andy Major, the vice president of operations and guest experience for the Buffalo Bills, said that the team had relied on fans to help shovel out the stadium since the team first moved there in 1972. Snow quite literally comes with the territory, he said, so there has to be a plan to remove it in time for game day. Fans drive plows, shovel, use snowblowers, spread salt and, in many cases, scoop up the snow with their bare hands. Whatever works.
When the Bills know the workload will be too much for their regular staff, they put out the call for help.
Ms. Chazen said she was “perplexed” that the organization hadn’t come up with a plan involving regular employees. But while the Bills could hire extra professional help, they might miss out on something else.
“Bills Mafia at home is always going to give you that much more momentum, especially if they’re shoveling snow two days before for an extra $20 an hour,” Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said, using the term Bills fans have adopted for themselves, on his podcast, “New Heights,” ahead of his matchup with the Bills on Sunday.
Tim Lovallo, a lifelong Buffalo resident, also pointed out that the snow in Buffalo can be unpredictable, so it would be hard to have professional workers on call. The fans, on the other hand, are at the ready to pick up a shovel and get to work.
“I guessed before I got on line that it simply would be people looking to earn a little spending money,” Mr. Lovallo, 70, said. “But I came to find that most everybody there was a fan of the team who sort of viewed it as their civic duty.”
So many dutiful Bills fans showed up on Friday that lines snaked around the stadium for hours. Mr. Lovallo said he had given up after standing in line for about 45 minutes. Others waited up to three hours. Mr. Major, the team executive, said that he had expected at least 200 fans but that the number had been at least double that.
“This is the most fans we’ve had show up as long as I can remember,” Mr. Major said. “It further shows how we are so close in this community.”
As the day wore on, Hot Pockets and pizza slices were passed around to weary workers while snow continued to swirl. As the first shift of volunteers trudged back to their cars, a fresh wave of eager shovelers filed in past them. Most wore Bills gear or colors, but at least one person came in a fuzzy zip-up onesie. One daredevil arrived in a Kansas City jersey, though he was quickly exposed as a Buffalo local just looking to stir up some drama.
Mr. Cuddihy said he hoped it wouldn’t be the last time fans needed to prepare the stadium this season — meaning their beloved Bills would be inching closer to the Super Bowl.
“I could definitely do it any other time we need it,” he said. “Hopefully next week.”