(This post is the last in a series entitled “Kate’s Favorite Sabre Competition” in which I am choosing my 2007/08 favorite Sabre by process of elimination. Each and every Sabre is a hero, but in the end, there can be only one favorite.)
Maxim Afinogenov #61, Kate’s Favorite Sabre
When a person first starts watching hockey, the game can be very confusing.
I am eager for the season to start mostly because I just can’t wait to get better at watching the game. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that, to me, most hockey players look the same on the ice. Oh sure, during the playoffs I trained myself to keep a watchful eye on 23, but truthfully, without the giant number on his back, I couldn’t tell Chris Drury from Sabretooth. (Well okay, that might be an exaggeration. But you see my point.) For me, hockey is just a whirlwind of speed, athleticism, and momentum. When I watch hockey, I’m not watching individual plays and players, I’m watching the overall motion of the game. I’ve learned not to dwell too much on the technical particulars of the game because I am plenty entertained by my broad view, but still, I can’t wait to get more comfortable with the rhythm of hockey.
Max’ distinctive style helps me feel like I am more than just an awed and bewildered spectator. Max gives me something very specific to appreciate. I love how fast he is. I am charmed by how he often looks jerky and out of control while pulling off amazing feats of skill. I adore how he can make opposing players look slow and stupid. I literally giggle with glee when he manages to evade every line of defense on his way to the net. His style is unique, but it is also obvious and accessible. Even I can identify Maxim Afinogenov on the ice, and I love him for being so recognizable. I remember turning to my friend Robin during the Eastern Conference Finals and squawking, “He’s like some sort of wizard!”
I know that there is something a little anti-climactic about choosing Max as my Favorite Sabre. As I worked my way through the Sabres’ roster, and my criteria for “Favorite” began to get clearer, I realized that I want to be honest about where I am as a hockey fan. I’ve had a lot of fun assigning pretend personalities to these guys, but in the end I want a Favorite who appeals to me as a player. Once I started thinking about it like that, the choice was very easy. Maxim Afinogenov is my Favorite Sabre……by a lot.
I’m not sure how long this title will stick to Max. I suspect that my sheer enthusiasm for hockey will be a very effective teacher this winter, and that it won’t be long before I’m able to identify the differing skating styles of many Sabres. Favorite Sabres will come and go, and I doubt Max will be the exception. I’m certain that someday I’ll have a more subtle Favorite, but for now, I’m relishing my role as “New Fan” by unabashedly loving the fastest, flashiest player on the ice.
Maxim Afinogenov is my Favorite Sabre because he was the first player who made me say, “Wow. Look at that guy.”
And then there’s this. Honestly, what’s not to love?
(Thanks again to IPB for pointing out this remarkable resemblance. I think his likeness to Faye Dunaway might have solidified my love for Max.)