Max is Special

Now that I know he’s out of our hair, I’ve been feeling a flush of Max Afinogenov appreciation recently, and so it was with some interest that I followed this link to a translated Russian interview.  (Thanks to Vance from Bangin Panger for the link, via his Twitter feed)  The article is interesting, both because Max was famously tight lipped during his time in Buffalo, and because the translation is hiLARious.

Say what you want about him, but Max Afinogenov was a Sabre for ten years. When I first started watching hockey, for a long time he was the only player I could identify by his skating style alone.  Even as much as I loved Drury, nothing about his playing was particularly gripping to me as a new fan.  But Max? Max was electrifying and captivating, so much so that he was my original Favorite Sabre.

I missed Max’s hayday completely, and even in spite of the the funk that he’s been in for the entirety of my fandom, he has been without question, the player most capable of captivating the crowd at the arena.  Even when we hadn’t seen him score a goal in months, a buzz went through the crowd every time Max touched the puck. I’m really going to miss that next year.

I don’t think Max conveys as well on television.  In order to truly appreciate him you need to see the entire ice surface, and you need to have two full teams of players to watch in comparison.  Even when the Sabres sucked the hardest, I was always happy rooting for Max because no matter how bad he was (and he was BAD), he was always interesting.  Rooting for him felt like I was embracing the absurd.  Sure, I knew without QUESTION that he was ultimately going to turn the puck over to the opposition after skating it all over tarnation and before even taking a shot (I don’t think I ever saw Max score live), but damnit, I also knew without question that the Sabres were toast regardless of Max.  If the loss feels inevitable, I want to at least see a flash of pizazz and a blur of flailing limbs.

In the end, at the arena I watched Max almost separately from the game.   There was the game, where I could expect normal hockey plays and the potential for goal scoring, and there was Max, where I could expect NO goal scoring, but instead be treated to some variation of amusing trickery and misplayed tomfoolery.  I’m not sure why I never fully turned on Max, but I think it’s because I always always always found myself delighted by him at HSBC.  To me there is something inherently endearing about Max’s style, particularly live.

I don’t know what happened to Max.  The style of the game stopped favoring his brand of speediness, and obviously his relationship with Lindy deteriorated.  He’s all but useless now, I realize this.  But in spite of all his many and obvious flaws, I’d love to see Max have success in the NHL again.  I wish him nothing but good luck and well wishes, and I’m grateful that I got to see him play as a Sabre.

Good luck, Max!

11 Responses to “Max is Special”

  1. 1 Becky July 24, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Did you get the impression that many of the players from that side of Europe learned English using that translator program?

  2. 2 Caroline July 24, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I will always have a soft spot for Max too. Just the fact that he was a Sabre for so long, and he was really exciting to watch when he was on. I always rooted for him, but I knew that a change of scenery was in order. Wherever he ends up, I wish him the very best and I will miss him.

  3. 3 Heather B. July 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I was going to write a very similar post – and probably still will because NOTHING IS HAPPENING – but I agree. Wherever Max ends up, I hope he’s happy and productive.

  4. 4 mcguffers July 25, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I am shocked, SHOCKED, to see that Max and Lindy didn’t see eye to eye. And by shocked, I mean not at all surprised.

  5. 5 Shauna July 25, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Hey, thanks for the cuteoverload suggestion. If you want to see a video that made my day, go to JK Wedding Entrance Dance on Youtube.

  6. 6 Becky July 25, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I always knew when Max had the puck even when I was sitting at a distance and perhaps not paying close attention. Not because the crowd stood many times but from his unique skating style.

    The closest similarity to Max’s skating of late is a scene in the movie Scarecrow, starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman, where Pacino’s character creates a distraction so that Hackman can shoplift something. It’s such a awesome diversion that Hackman just watches him with his mouth hanging open and never gets the goods. Good scene, good movie. Just like Max with the puck.

  7. 7 Becky July 25, 2009 at 8:12 am

    It’s on youtube:

  8. 8 Katebits July 25, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Ha! Becky, that’s exactly like Max! Captivating, and totally ineffectual.

  9. 9 Erin July 26, 2009 at 10:05 am

    That translated article made my day. So funny. Much luck to Max in the future!

    (also- from what I could understand from that article- sounds like we’re in serious coach/gm trouble)

  10. 10 Diane August 25, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    I loved the razzledazzle Maxim A. He was the absolute best skater that the Sabres had. I really blame the Sabres for not utilizing Maxim to the fullest extent. Too often they just penalized him for little stuff. I have been a Sabre fan for the past 25 years but, I am not looking forward to this year. I cannot believe Lindy is moving away from speed as the number one element. The Sabres have been famous speed skaters!

  11. 11 Dean Youngblood December 20, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Maxim is doing nasty this year for Atlanta. He’s got 30 pts in 33 gp. What an improvement. I love the man to death.

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