Presenting: Maxim Afinogenov, Kate’s Favorite Sabre!

(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.”

(I first saw this video over at BfloBlog, and I’ve watched it many, many times; it was made by a BfloBlog contributor named Andrew. You can see more of Andrew’s videos here.)

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.)

15 Responses to “Presenting: Maxim Afinogenov, Kate’s Favorite Sabre!”

  1. 1 Heather B. September 1, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Max is a great choice and one I don’t think you have to cushion on the choice of “a new fan.” My two favorite things about Max:

    1. He’s totally willing to drop the gloves if a guy is all up in his face. Part of me is terrified he’s going to break a hand but part of of me, “Yeah, that’s right! He doesn’t NEED an enforcer!” He just totally snaps and it’s awesome to behold.

    2. For a guy who doesn’t seem to be hugely smiley off the ice, there’s so much little boy in him on the ice. He’s just so darn excited when he does something good that it’s awfully adorable.

    I met Max once!

  2. 2 Heather B. September 1, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    That first sentence made very little sense. Sorry.

    Mark wants to know if you’re getting a jersey. Or are you going to wait and see if Max sticks?

  3. 3 Katebits September 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I’m holding off on the jersey. The high cost of jerseys combined with uncertain longevity of my Favorite Sabre makes me think I should wait until I really, really NEED a jersey before I pull the trigger. Now, I am SURE that if Slag-faced Drury hadn’t turned Ranger, I would own his sweater by now, but whatever. He’s a whore. I’m so glad he’s gone! :P

  4. 4 Schnookie September 1, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    If my eyes hadn’t dried out completely in the comment thread of the last post, I might be able to read this one and applaud your choice of Favorite Sabre. Alas, they did and I can’t.

    Just kidding!

    I think Max is a great choice! I mean, any guy who looks like Faye Dunaway and still prompts you to spontaneously call him a wizard is a guy well worth loving. Nicely done! I don’t think Max will let you down at all.

  5. 5 Meg September 2, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Max is also a choice you won’t have to explain. It’s totally understandable to anyone who watches hockey, because while he’s not always effective, he’s always one of the most exciting players in the NHL.

    Heather, was he pleasant when you met him (I hope so)?

  6. 6 Becky September 2, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Bravo! Excellent choice!

    Even after you have mastered the art of watching Sabres on Ice, Max will still be the one that stands out in a crowd, especially when you go to the game in person.

    Without a play by play announcer and close camera angles it can be tough, especially the further away one sits. You can depend on Max to zap your brain back into attention should it wander over to the idiot with the very loud horn sitting a few seats over (if someone here fits that description, sorry, but it’s distracting and makes my ears and head hurt).

    At one game after a play/penalty/something that actually got announced, I commented that Max was great. My son said that no, the announcer said (somebody else) did it, to which I replied that he had moved just like Max…The announcer came back with “Correction, that was Maxim Afinogenov!”

    For me, the flash and dash never get old! My only problem with Max as a personal favorite is that every time I go to write “Afinogenov” I have to scroll to the top or look at the back of my jersey to make sure I spelled it correctly – another reason to buy one!

    The spelling thing is not unique to Max though, because on a bad spelling day I could mangle Miller, much less Kalinan, Lydman, Paetsch, Numminen and the rest…done without checking, so if they’re spelled wrong…

    By the way, had you axed Max, my next choice to throw his baseball cap into the ring was Ruff (C-#22?) – entertaining to watch & listen to at times, and he’ll never get traded!

  7. 7 markberm September 2, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Good choice, Kate! Despite many people bashing his playoff performances, I still like Max a lot. There’s very few players that can bring you to the edge (or off) of your seat when they get the puck coming out of the defensive zone. He turned a corner after his benching in the playoffs and could push Thomas for the scoring lead this year!

    Plus, I have to give you props for picking a guy that Gleason desperately wants the Sabres to trade.

  8. 8 Heather B. September 2, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Heather, was he pleasant when you met him (I hope so)?

    Meg, it was at one of those Sabres organized carnivals they used to do and it was his rookie season so he hardly spoke any English at all. He was very pleasant appearing though – smiling, motioning people forward etc. (Mark tells me this isn’t really “meeting him” but it’s as close as I’ve ever come, okay?)

    Every once in a while I get Max and Soupy (of all people mixed up) if I can’t see their numbers clearly, I guess because they’re both speedy, moving guys. But yeah, Max is definitely a blast to watch. One of the best things about a live game, Kate, is the palpable excitement when Max bursts out of the defensive zone with the puck. You can practically hear the entire crowd holding its breath and feel them leaning forward.

  9. 9 Gambler September 2, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Kate, I’ll admit that when I figured out your final four the other day I was sort of surprised that Max was still in it. I don’t know why, but I kind of forgot about him. But what an excellent choice! There’s so much to love: Dynamic skating and Faye Dunaway similarities aside, he also has a fantastic speaking voice. And his name is so great, I often say it to myself just for fun. And Heather makes a good point about him fighting. So awesome!

  10. 10 Meg September 2, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    (Mark tells me this isn’t really “meeting him” but it’s as close as I’ve ever come, okay?)

    I’ve never so much as seen a Sabres player in person, so that’s meeting by my standards!

    Gambler, I almost forgot about his speaking voice. I’m always surprised by how low it is, even though I’ve heard him interviewed quite a few times.

  11. 11 Heather B. September 2, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Gambler, I almost forgot about his speaking voice. I’m always surprised by how low it is, even though I’ve heard him interviewed quite a few times.

    I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Mark and I feel like Max and Goose somehow ended up with each other’s voices. Max’s is so low and growly and Goose’s is way too squeaky for a guy his size. It’s very funny and no matter how many times I’ve heard either of them, it always takes me by surprise when they first start talking.

  12. 12 Pookie September 2, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Excellent choice, Kate! Max seems to me to be a really underrated player. I hope he takes his role of KFS seriously, and has his best season ever!

  13. 13 Katebits September 3, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Kate, I’ll admit that when I figured out your final four the other day I was sort of surprised that Max was still in it. I don’t know why, but I kind of forgot about him.

    Me too! My love for Max really snuck up on me. It wasn’t until I was well into the cuts that I realized that Max had a fighting chance of winning.

  14. 14 Patty September 3, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Maxim Afinogenov is my Favorite Sabre because he was the first player who made me say, “Wow. Look at that guy.”

    I said Wow a few times watching that clip. I’ll have to watch for him when I watch more Sabres games this season. Just from that little bit I saw, his footwork reminds me of Mike Ribeiro. Sometimes I think the bone on the inside of his ankle will touch the ice.

  1. 1 Max is Special « The Willful Caboose Trackback on July 24, 2009 at 8:21 pm

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