Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Decade's Best

The new decade is upon us, and what better time than New Year's Eve to recap the best Buffalo sports moments of the last decade. It's been an up-and-down kind of decade for us as fans - no playoff football, no hockey at all for a year, Stanley Cup playoff runs, and some miracles on and off the playing field. Being a Buffalo sports fan this decade was interesting to say the least, and there was always something to talk about. So for today, I am choosing to focus on the 10 most positive things that happened in the Buffalo sports world over the last 10 years.

As a disclaimer, these are my personal top moments, and they were compiled after much internal deliberation and much discussion with noted experts (ie. my dad). Without further ado, let the happy trip down memory lane begin!

10.) A trio of memorable games: Bills beat Pats 31-0, the Ottawa Brawl and Game 5 of the 2007 EC Semifinals. All three of these games provided something that seemed to be missing a lot in Buffalo sports over the last decade: excitement. When the Bills shutout the Pats to open their season, it was the most excited I've been during a football game this decade. The Ottawa Brawl added even more spark to a rivalry that has defined the decade in a lot of ways for the Sabres, and it proved that we have a coach in Lindy Ruff who is a man with a tough, Buffalo mentality through and through. And I had to include that game against the Rangers because I was there. I saw the Plaza teeming with screaming fans, I heard the car horns in the streets, I felt the energy radiating from every corner of the arena. Here's hoping that the excitement provided in these three games is reflected in the next decade in far more contests and with even more chills, hugs, and cheers.

9.) The Bisons Win the Governor's Cup. In 2004, the Buffalo Bisons took home the Governor's Cup, the championship of the International League. Being there during their postseason run was extremely memorable because I love baseball, and I love when it feels like an important sport in the WNY community. Though the team has struggled lately, for that year they were the best, and isn't that what we always dream of for our sports teams in Buffalo?

8.) March Madness Comes to Buffalo. I was lucky enough to get to see the first round NCAA Tournament action at HSBC Arena in 2007. To see so many people from so many places enjoying what our city had to offer was fantastic, and it was even cooler to see some of the most amazing talents in college basketball right in front of me. As a devout Duke Blue Devils fan, seeing them at their open practice and in a game was an experience I will remember forever. And for the many out there who don't like Duke, I'm sure you will always remember the upset they were handed, one of the most shocking of the past few first rounds, and it happened right in Buffalo.

7.) Bills Hall of Fame Inductees. Though the Bills didn't see the postseason these past 10 years, we were all able to relive a little bit of the Glory Years with the inductions of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Ralph Wilson Jr. and Mary Levy into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I give Thurman the honor of having the best speech - it was funny, moving, and eloquent. While the present looked dim this decade for the Bills, during those days at Canton fans got a reminder of just how proud we should be to be Bills fans.

6.) Bandits Win the NLL Championship. I'm still a little bitter that this came in 2008, the season before I got my season tickets. But when it happened doesn't matter, what matters is that it did happen. In a decade of futility for most of the Buffalo sports scene, the Bandits brought a championship to the city. Lacrosse fans are some the most passionate fans I've ever seen, and it makes me happy to know that they were rewarded with such a great team and a great outcome. I only wish I could have been in the arena to see it happen.

5.) The 2008 NHL Winter Classic.

Need I say more? For one day, the world took notice of our city and liked what it saw. We were passionate, beautiful, and perfect. Even though the game didn't turn out right, the atmosphere of the day was amazing, and it's something we'll all be telling our kids about someday.

4.) Kevin Everett Walks Again. It was a miracle - plain and simple. He should have been paralyzed - or even worse. But there he was, Kevin Everett, walking on the sidelines of the 2008 season opener.

There was no better moment for the Bills this decade, and I don't even know if a trip to the postseaon could have topped it in my eyes.

3.) UB Wins MAAC Championship. The entire 2008 season of UB Bulls football was an incredible journey to behold. From losers to winners, from embarrassed to respected, one season changed the face of college sports in Buffalo like no other. It made Turner Gill a hero and a Buffalo legend, and even though he has deservedly moved on, he will always be remembered for what he did for that program, that season, and the hopes of college football fans in this city.

2.) The Sabres President's Trophy Season. Think about it - what other season this decade had this city so excited from start to finish? We knew from the first 10 games that it was going to be special, and that team didn't let us down until the very end. Did it end poorly? Yes. Does it sometimes hurt to think back on it? Yes. But it was still the happiest I remember this city during the 2000s for such an extended period of time. From the opening win streak to the Ottawa Brawl and Drury's goal with 7.7 seconds left, they took the city for a ride that season - one that brought crowds to the Plaza and brought people together like I never remember seeing for a hockey team before. It was truly something special - something magical.

1.) Pominville's Shorthanded Goal Sends the Sabres to the 2006 Conference Finals. I know this wasn't the best moment of the decade, or maybe even the most memorable. But I think it was the most positive, the happiest. That goal symbolized that entire season - a player no one had heard of, one who everyone else had written off, scored a goal that never really should have happened. But it happened - just like that whole postseason run never really should have happened if you asked people coming out of the lockout about the "new" Sabres. From the looks on the players faces to the cheers coming from living rooms all over WNY, the joy in that moment was the purest joy of the decade in terms of sports. There was nothing to lose in that moment, no downside or doubts. There was only that "scary good" team that changed the perception of hockey in Buffalo - made it important again. Watch the video of it again, and think if there was any other moment this decade, in terms of Buffalo sports, that made you that ridiculously happy. For me, I know that this was it; the hope I felt after that goal was greater than any other time - I thought they could take on the world, and they did their best to put up one heck of a fight to the end.

What were your top moments of the decade? Think I'm crazy for my picks? I'd love to hear your choices!


Caroline said...

Great choices!

Katie said...

Thanks, Caroline!

Kathleen said...

That’s a really good list, Katie. Can’t think of one I’d change.

Katie said...

Thank you so much, Kathleen!