Monday, October 11, 2010

Sometimes We Forget

Tonight, watching Jason Pominville down on the ice after a brutally dirty hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson, I was reminded of something that I think we as fans are guilty of forgetting every now and then.

Athletes are real people, and real people are vulnerable.

In those moments when he lay still on the ice, surrounded by doctors, I was honestly terrified. Anyone who visits this blog at all knows how I feel about Pommer. He may not play my favorite style of hockey, but he is one of my favorite players anyway. He won me over by being one of the nicest people - professional athlete or otherwise - that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I have his jersey, and I am proud to wear it.

I've never had a moment like that before, seeing one of my favorite players in what looked like grave danger on the ice, literally praying for him to be okay.

Seeing him on that stretcher, all I could think about was Jason Pominville as a person - a husband and a father, a best friend to many of the guys on that Sabres bench.

All of the guys on that bench are people, and people are vulnerable.

Should the team have bounced back after that hit, especially after learning that he would be okay? Yes. It was frustrating to watch them crumble tonight.

But is it understandable that their minds seemed to be elsewhere for a long time after seeing their teammate, their friend, carted off the ice on a stretcher? I think it is.

I don't know Pommer beyond a 10-minute conversation we had three years ago, and I was still worried, even after learning he suffered a concussion but would be alright. The other players on the team know him - as Heather B. put it in her great post tonight, they love him; they love each other.

You could see how hard that injury hit the players just by looking at Miller's face as the doctors tended to Pommer. He looked on the verge of tears, worry and fear all over his face. I like to talk about the trio of Miller, Gaustad, and Pomiville and the core of players from Rochester that grew up together, and it is clear that they do genuinely care about one another. They are best friends, and I think it is more than excusable to fall off your game a little after seeing something like that happen to one of your best friends, a guy you grew up with and grew to love like a brother.

Would I have liked this to be one of those wins where the Sabres gave a shaken crowd something to cheer about, something positive to take home with them? Of course. But sometimes, athletes aren't superheroes, able to overcome whatever is thrown at them. Sometimes, they're simply human.

There will be a time to talk about the powerplay and the defensive lapses and the missed offensive chances. For me, at least, tonight is not that time. I'm mad about the outcome of the game, but I'm incredibly happy that the news on Pommer seems to be very positive.

I'll save the criticism for another game. I know it's cliche, but they're only human.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Undefeated Sounds Nice - Let's Keep It That Way

Dear Buffalo Sabres,
You did it! For a little while I wasn't so sure you would, but you actually beat Ottawa - for the second time in a row, in fact. I know it's just one game, but it's one game that ended with us getting two points. Were there things you could have fixed? Of course. Did the power play look downright awful at times? Sure. But you had grit, speed, and the ability to clamp down defensively when it mattered most - and that's all I can ask for. Thanks for giving this city a sports team to smile about - even just for tonight.

Dear Derek Roy,
Allow me to sing you this letter: "You made me love you. I didn't want to do it." Our relationship is tumultuous at best, Royzie, but tonight you earned some major points in my book. Here's hoping that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship (or fan-player relationship, to be more accurate).

Dear Tyler Ennis,
I really think I'm going to love you. Us tiny people need to support each other, and I'm pretty sure if you keep playing as hard as you did tonight I won't have any trouble supporting you.

Dear Chris Neil,
I wish Goose or Rivet or McCormick or Kaleta or anyone else would have punched you in the face. I wondered how long I could keep disliking you and your dirty play and ugly face, and I think I learned that the answer is forever.

Dear Ottawa Senators,

You looked bad then; you looked bad tonight. I love it when you look bad. Please continue to do so.

Dear 7 p.m. Saturday,
Are you here yet?

More Than Ready

There are a lot of questions, and tonight won't answer them all. It's just one game, but that's the thing - it's a game. After a long summer, it's hockey time again.

It's time for goal horns and breakaways and Lindy Ruff press conferences. It's time for honking with Goose and wearing your favorite jersey and Roby's words of wisdom. It's time to cheer and boo and scream expletives at opposing players and sometimes our boys too.

Miller's ready, and so am I.

Let's Go Buffalo.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back to Business

It's time to get back to business - on so many levels.

After a summer of job-hunting and resume-writing, I've finally settled down at a job I love: writing and editing educational books for children. Now that I feel settled in this crazy new life, I'm ready to get back to making this blog the best it can be.

After tonight's preseason game, it looks like the Sabres are ready to get back to business too.

A 9-3 rout of the Flyers was exactly what I needed to get back into the swing of blogging. It may have only been a preseason game, but it felt close enough to the real deal. The crowd was chanting, "Sweet Caroline" was playing, and it felt good to be back at the arena after an offseason that felt too long once again.

The best part of the game wasn't Stafford's highlight-reel goal. It wasn't even Kaleta's fight - as thrilled as I was to see my first fight of the season. It was getting to share it with two of my best friends and watching one of them experience a game at the arena for the first time. Explaining all of the best parts of the game I love so much and sharing the fun of seeing a game like that in person reminded me of why I love blogging. Writing this blog is another way of sharing all of the parts of the game I love with some pretty fantastic people. It's a way to celebrate games like tonight's and commiserate together over the bad games that are sure to come.

As I left the arena tonight, the goal chants still ringing in my ears and the smile still on my face, only one thought was left in my mind. It wasn't which defensemen were going to make the opening night roster, and it wasn't whether or not Stafford has turned a corner. It was: Is it Friday yet?

It felt good to be back. It felt a lot like coming home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Terrible Twos

Today, Muckers and Grinders turns two!
I know, boys, I'm excited too!

I know this year has been an uneventful one around these parts, and I honestly feel awful that I didn't post more. Between internships, jobs, and finishing up my final year in college, I would always be late to even think about a post, and, by then, someone else would have already said what I wanted to say a thousand times better than I ever could.

Well, now I'm done with school. Forever. My last exam at Canisius was Wednesday, and I graduate the 22nd. Hopefully, this means that I will actually have time to be a legitimate blogger again, even as I frantically search for a job. (If anyone's looking to hire someone with great editing skills, let me know!)

Lots of changes will be taking place in my life in the coming weeks and months, and I hope that they're positive ones - especially for M&G. To those of you who still read my stuff, thanks for sticking around.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Game Five Thank-You Notes

Dear Buffalo Sabres,

Now that is how you play a hockey game! I think I speak for all Sabres fans when I say thank you for showing us that you do have the heart, grit, and character to keep us believing. Thank you for giving us a lot to cheer (and cheer loudly about) last night, and thanks for showing the Bruins that they can't push us around as easily as they would like to think. Keep it up on Monday, and I can't imagine the excitement you'd be coming home to for Game Seven. One win at a time, though - just go out and play in Beantown like you did last night, and it would be tough for anyone to stop you.

Dear Paul Gaustad,

Thanks for setting the tone early and reminding the Bruins often of that physical, relentless tone. I have to admit, my beloved Goose, I was worried about your game before last night. Kudos to you for showing all of us that you hadn't disappeared and showing it with authority. From each hit to the face-off win on Grier's goal to taking on Chara at the end, you made a huge impact last night, and made me proud again to call you my favorite.

Dear Tyler Ennis,

I have a feeling Tyler Myers better get used to having you as a roommate next year - you're never seeing Portland again if you keep playing like this. You remind me of a young Danny Briere, with a heart and enthusiasm twice your size. I've always liked you because us tiny people have to stick together, but I forget how small you are when I watch you play. Your hustle, skill, and love for hockey has impressed not only the fans but Lindy as well, which is no small feat. You deserved everyone of those noogies and facewashes you got last night - that goal was a thing of hard-hustling beauty.

Dear Mike Grier,

What else can be said about you? The team turned around the day you were signed, and your calm, veteran presence has truly led the Sabres to where they are right now. The news of your signing came out on my birthday, and it was honestly my favorite present this year. Blocking that shot with your head is the kind of thing that just shows what a dedicated example you are for all of these young kids on the team. All I can say thank you for today is just for being you - playing hard and with heart.

Dear Ryan Miller,

First of all, long live the "Millerstache!" Thank you for giving us something to talk about with merely your facial hair. Now, onto actual hockey matters, thank you for giving me the biggest thrill of the night when you jumped into that scrum. It wasn't just that you did it - it was that you were grabbing Satan, which made it even better. In that one moment, you showed what has been different about the team this year - it's ability to stand up for itself as a whole and for each other.

Dear Patrick Lalime,

Thanks for the best ice dancing I've seen since the Olympics! I don't think I've laughed that hard in a long time, and I wish there was a video of it to share with everyone.

Dear Zdeno Chara,

I really don't like you. I have nothing to thank you for but for being beaten down by three Sabres last night, giving me the most pleasure from this series since I went to Game One.

Dear Sabres fans,

Thank you for showing that we still have faith. The shots of the Plaza last night were amazing, and I could barely hear RJ on my radio because the crowd was so loud. Down 3-1, the fanbase could have easily become less passionate, but the reverse seemed true. Being a Buffalo sports fan is something special, and I love putting myself in a category with all of you.

Friday, April 16, 2010


It started like this...

featured a player playing like this...

Photo curtesy of Yahoo Images

and ended like this on the ice...

Photo curtesy of The Buffalo News

...and off the ice in high-fives, hugs, car horns happily honking, and chants throughout the parking lots.

I'll have more to say tomorrow; I'm emotionally and physically drained from such an amazing night. The intensity in that game - from both the teams and the crowd was something I had missed so much over the last few seasons. The playoffs are truly a different animal, but I think we showed tonight (in the first and third periods at least) that we can face that animal head-on.

Fifteen more to go until the ultimate goal is reached. For tonight, though, I'm only thinking about one - one game, one win, and one unifying moment for the city.