I often have a difficult time writing about the biggest games. When the Sabres play a wild game with lots of different storylines, I find it difficult to focus a post.
I wish I was a better writer so I could describe to you how the game on Friday busted my heart right open.
Usually I write this blog with an audience in mind, but this post is mostly for myself. I want to have a detailed description of this game. I don’t care if I can’t figure out a way to package this post into one cohesive thought, I just want to have something to read later, to remind myself of the day the Sabres clinched their spot in the 2011 playoffs.
Going with Renee: Those of you who follow me on Twitter, know that until Thursday, I didn’t have tickets to the game. (This may, or may not, be because at the beginning of the season, I may, or may not, have sold my tickets to a Flyers fan. How could I have POSSIBLY predicted Pegula and Alumni/Fan Appreciation Night?!) But, at the last-minute, Renee THE WONDERFUL, decided to bring me to the game. Renee’s seats are AWESOME. First row balcony, center ice. I had so so so much fun watching the game and then celebrating the victory with Renee.
The alumni: I’m a new fan, and I’m naturally suspicious of nostalgia, so the alumni aspect of the evening wasn’t necessarily designed to cater to me, but, I’ve been feeling more and more attached to the history of the Sabres. I was genuinely moved to see all of those men in Sabres uniforms on the ice. Once a Sabre, always a Sabre. I’d like to think the alumni played a role in the win on Friday. Somehow, all of the hopes and the dreams of every past Sabre were on the ice in the 3rd period.
Thomas Vanek: I know that Gerbe scored the goal of the year, but Thomas Vanek was the story for me. He made two passes to Pominville during the game that were so beautiful I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about them. And then, of course, the OT goal, and the moment he spent plastered against the glass, celebrating, face-to-face with the front row. I am so proud to root for Thomas Vanek.
The guy sitting next to us: I was sitting next to a guy who came to the game alone, just because he felt he had to be there. I was strangely moved by this, probably because the day before, I’d been scrolling through Stub Hub, considering buying a single ticket to the game. I understood where that guy was coming from, and I admire that he made it happen. He DID have to be there.
He and I were of similar minds about the game. We kept turning to each other, and saying determinedly, “One point. We just need one point.” There is something so special about bonding with a stranger over sports. It doesn’t happen with every Sabres fan I meet, but he and I seemed to have a similar Sabres-disposition, and at times it felt like we were working in tandem to will the Sabres to OT. At the end of the night we shook hands, and thanked each other for the experience.
Lindy putting Miller in the 3rd Period: I could NOT have been more shocked and electrified when Ryan Miller skated out to start the 3rd period. I loved it. LOVED IT. WHAT a move by Lindy Ruff.
As much as I loved Enroth’s performance during the stretch-run (and seriously, he saved the season), I always wanted Crunchy back. The shock factor of seeing him skate out for the 3rd cannot be overstated, and after the shock, came the charge of confidence. At least that’s how I experienced it. Lindy put it all on the line with that goalie change, and it paid off. The team responded. Miller is the backbone of this team. End of story. It was an amazing and truly gutsy move by Lindy.
Lindy in general: I have a new appreciation for Lindy Ruff. Even at my most critical, I’ve never doubted that on a fundamental level, Lindy is a good coach. But truthfully, I’ve mostly been taking your word for it, because I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by his work during my fandom. Things are different now. Now, I’ve seen firsthand what Lindy is capable of when he is firing on all cylinders. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be a, “he’s got a job for life” kind of Lindy fan, but I will never again call for him to be fired without a profound awareness of what we’d be losing if he got away. It has been an honor and a treat to watch him work these last few months.
The last minute of regulation: Without question, when I think back on this game, my most prominent memory will be the last minute of regulation. It was such an oddity to see the Sabres and the Flyers essentially standing around, letting the clock run down. I will never forget the feeling of the arena, welling up with noise and pride, as we watched Tyler Myers twirl around with the puck. The Sabres came so far for that moment, and it was such an unexpected treat that we as spectators got to experience their clinch in one loud, glorious minute. Usually the last minute of an important game is terrifying, but this one was fearless and electric. I will never forget it. Ever.
Seeing SarahJess7 in the bathroom: Right after the game, as I was walking out of the bathroom, I heard someone say “Kate!” and I turned to see Sarah standing in line. In an instant we were hugging and screaming and jumping up and down. We behaved like children. It was a moment of pure joy, and a highlight from a night full of highlights.
Which brings me to my last, and most important, point…
Harbor Club and Swanee House: The best thing about Friday night was how it felt like every time I turned around at the arena, I saw a friend. From the plaza, to the very end of the night at The Swanee House, I laughed and celebrated with wonderful people. The arena is starting to feel like home, and friendships that started online, are now relationships that I will cherish forever.
I cannot possibly express enough gratitude for the richness that the Sabres have added to my life in Buffalo.
Thank you, Sabres fans!