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.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tonight's the Night

I really have no words to describe what I'm feeling today. I've been trying to articulate it for days, but I just can't seem to get it right.

I'm nervous and excited and thrilled and giddy. My heart is pounding when I think about tonight, and I've had a smile on my face since the moment I got up. I couldn't fall asleep last night, and I couldn't wait to wake up this morning.

I have my Goose jersey on, my camera in my purse, and my tickets waiting at Will Call. I have all of my plans for getting to the game straightened out with my dad, including a stop in the Plaza. I read the entire playoff section in the paper this morning.

I'm just ready. I think we all are. After three years, we're just ready to get back to the arena, back to the Plaza, and back to postseason hockey.

Let's Go Buffalo.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Round Predictions

I've been swamped with work for the end of the semester (which I am both longing for and fearing with graduation approaching), but I'm taking five minutes out of my paper-writing time to make my annual first round predictions before tonight's games.

I wish I had time to offer in-depth commentary, but consider this the abridged version. Hopefully I'll be able to go into more detail with the second round.

In the East...

(1) Washington over (8) Montreal in five.
Can't stop the Caps' firepower.
(7) Philadelphia over (2) New Jersey in six.
Goaltending is an issue, but my gut still says the upset will happen.
(3) Buffalo over (6) Boston in six.
Miller's experience is the key here.
(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Ottawa in five.
In big moments, Crosby is tough to stop, and I just want to see the Sens go out well before we'd have to play them.

In the West...

(1) San Jose over (8) Colorado in six.
Still don't think it's a Cup year for the Sharks, but they'll at least get to the second round.
(2) Chicago over (7) Nashville in five. The Hawks are going to make a deep run this year - maybe not all the way to a Cup, but I think they'll come close.
(6) Los Angeles over (3) Vancouver in seven. As much as I love the Canucks, the Kings are a strong team that would have given any first-round opponent trouble.
(5) Detroit over (4) Phoenix in seven.
I think this will be a close series, but the Wings have the veteran experience to put them over the top.

So there you have it, nothing groundbreaking about my analysis, but is there ever? I always pick from my gut - no real strategy. I hope to have something up by early tomorrow about the Sabres because I am literally so excited that I start shaking when I think about it.

Let me know your picks in the comments - How incredibly right or unbearably wrong do you think mine are?

Monday, April 5, 2010

One of Those Days

Today is just one of those days, one of those hands-shaking, heart-pounding, check-the-clock-til-game-time days.

I haven't had one of these days in a long time. I've missed them so much.

Tonight, Duke takes on Butler for the NCAA Championship. I know I'm in the minority in rooting for Coach K and his team, but I really couldn't care less. I'm not a bandwagon fan or someone who likes them because they win all the time (I only started caring once they started losing, unfortunately). No, I'm a Duke fan by birth - my mom loves them, so my sister and I love them. They're not just some team I pick in my bracket or cheer for occasionally. They're my team.

My sister and I on the Duke campus this summer.

It's been so long since my team has played in a game of this magnitude. The last time I was this nervous for a game was probably the start of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007. It's such an amazing feeling to know that the team you love could actually win it all, but it's also such a scary feeling to think that such an amazing ride could be over tonight, too.

I know that I'm in the minority tonight. I know that pretty much everyone on Earth outside of the Duke campus wants to see them lose to Butler. I know that most people hate my team with a passion that I still cannot totally understand. But I won't get into that now, because if I do it will just dissolve into a diatribe about rooting against an upstanding program with a high graduation rate and a class act for a coach, and I want this to be a happy post.

I know I'm rooting for the Evil Empire, the Wicked Stepmother or whatever you want to call the Blue Devils tonight. But I don't care - because they're my team. They've always been my team, since I saw Coach K in Myrtle Beach while I was still in a stroller and didn't have a clue who he was (but my parents knew and remind me all the time about my infant brush with greatness).

I've been to the campus three times, walked on the court at Cameron once, spent way too much money in the bookstore and can make my way around their arena almost better than I can make my way around the KAC at Canisius. Our family's summer pilgrimages to Duke are some of my favorite memories because, for one day, I'm surrounded by people who love my team with a passion that I usually only see in people who hate them.

Today is Dyngus Day, the best Polish holiday of the year. I hope that Mike Krzyzewski gets to celebrate it with a National Championship.

And yes, we can spell it without looking.

I'm excited about another one of my teams today, too - my first and greatest love. I got my Sabres playoff tickets today for the first home game (Section 309, row 11, seats 5 and 6), and I was literally jumping up and down when my order went through this morning. The assurance of getting to see the Sabres in a playoff game, complete with a Party in the Plaza, a new intro video, and so much electricity in the arena, is something I have missed so much.

But there will be more on the Sabres around these parts later this week. For today, I'm focused on the Blue Devils.

In Cameron Indoor Arena, there are three banners for Duke's three championship victories.

I'm hoping that a fourth one joins those ranks tonight.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Deadline Day Fun!

Today is one of my favorite days of the year, so of course I would wake up feeling like I've been hit by a truck. I don't know how coherent I'll be to keep you updated on all the deadline fun, but the guys from The Goose's Roost are hosting a live chat with a bunch of us Buffalo bloggers all day. I'm going to try and stop in and comment whenever I can, and I'm sure everyone reading this already knows that The Roost is the place to go for great commentary on pretty much everything.

So basically, as I go drink more tea and blow my nose for the 800th time today, you should check this out:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hold Your Head Up

I never want to see Ryan Miller this dejected again. My heart can't handle it.To see how much emotion he put into that performance, to see how much he cared about representing his country well - it broke me. He deserved all the happiness and accolades in the world, and I wished that he could have found comfort in at least getting the silver when most people didn't think the U.S. would medal.

But he didn't find comfort in that, and, as Sabres fans, I don't think we expected or wanted him to. Miller is a competitor of the highest degree, and I only wish he could have been rewarded for that with a gold medal. The tears in his too-expressive eyes told us all that this game meant so much to him, and it was so painful to see someone who so deserved to win come out on the losing end, when someone who's already accomplished so much (Sidney Crosby) added another layer to his legend.

Though Crosby's legend continued to grow, I think Miller's did, too. Or maybe his legend just got started. Either way, the whole world knows about our little best-kept secret now, and I couldn't be happier. To see the entire focus of America on the skinny, scruffy goalie that we call ours was truly something special. We got to share him with the rest of the country for a couple of weeks, but now he's ours alone again. I'd like to think we may have picked up a few more supporters along the way, though.

I hope what the rest of the country learned about Ryan Miller is what we in Buffalo have always known - that win or lose, he is a class act. This is the goalie who chose to stay in Buffalo and said that he would give up the money to bring a championship to this city. This is the goalie who helps so many sick children in memory of the cousin he loved so deeply and lost so young. This is the goalie who has captivated the Olympics-watching nation with his calm, kind demeanor and intelligent, focused persona.

Ryan Miller has earned all the happiness he can get out of this Olympic experience, which is why I was so happy to see him at the closing ceremonies:

Photo courtesy of Reuters

To see him smiling and enjoying himself, capturing memories of this amazing experience, made me so happy. He looked proud to be an Olympian, as well he should be. He has made an indelible impression in people's hearts and minds across America, and I hope people know that they weren't just rooting for a great hockey player; they were cheering for a great person as well.

I may have been sad to see silver in Miller's hands today, but I think I'll be okay with it come June, if that silver in his hands is from the Stanley Cup. I know it's a long shot, but if the past two weeks have taught me anything, it's that we should all be believers in "Millercles."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tremendously Tremendous

Now that was a hockey game.

Last night's USA win over Canada was something truly special. No, it wasn't "more than just as hockey game" - it was just that: a hockey game. And a pretty fantastic one at that.

It was a hockey game that made hockey feel like a legitimate sport in America - for even just one night. That game was the talk of the nation last night and this morning, and it was for good reason. End-to-end action, great saves, hard hits, incredible excitement from the blazing start to the frenzied final minutes - this game showcased the best of hockey as a sport.

Olympic victories always carry a special sense of pride, but this one feels even more special. Watching Ryan Miller make 42 saves - some of them truly fantastic - made me feel like our little corner of America played a big part in last night's victory. Because that goalie that everyone is praising, the one that even non-fans are starting to appreciate - he's ours. Watching the world come to recognize Ryan Miller last night was really cool; there's no other word I can find to describe it. Seeing him at the top of the Trending Topics on Twitter and seeing people I never thought would know his name (Ryan Seacrest watches hockey?) tweet about believing in "Millercles" made a great win even greater.

I think it's because we know how much Miller deserves this. We know what a great and generous man he seems to be off the ice as well as the terrific netminder he is on it. There is no other hockey player (besides maybe Goose) that I would like to see in such a positive, national spotlight. He has earned the love he is getting right now, and I am proud to say that he is both my country and my team's star player. I couldn't think of a better representative for the Sabres and American hockey.Congrats, Millsie. This is just one game, though, and the most important are still to come. Here's hoping that he can continue to lead the USA all the way to the podium and that there will be many more "Millercles" to come - for both Team USA and the Buffalo Sabres.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

#28 Turns 28

Today is a very special day around these parts. It has been circled on my calendar, plugged into my phone, and written in my planner.

For most of you, today is an important day in the hockey season because the Sabres face their biggest game in a while - playing the surging Senators at HSBC with the hope of keeping our fiercest rivals safely behind us in the battle for the lead in the Northeast Division.

For me, though, today is about more than just a much-hyped hockey game. It's a day to celebrate the birth of our fearless assistant captain with the ruggedly handsome face.

Happy Birthday, Paul Gaustad!

Today is the day that #28 turns 28, and I would like to celebrate with a brief photo essay on the local treasure that is The Goose.

Not only he is a leader on the ice, Goose is a leader in the community. His work with Camp Good Days has helped to make lives brighter for a lot of sick children in WNY. He is carrying on the tradition of Buffalo Sabres really striving to make a positive impact on the city, and I am always proud to wear his jersey. Not only is his charity work inspiring, it also has led to photos like this:

Say it with me...Awwww...

A guy who does all that Goose does on and off the ice could start to take himself seriously, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It takes someone with a good sense of humor to rock a pair of tennis shorts and a sweatband the way Goose can:
There's not much left I can say after looking at that picture, so I'll just end this with my birthday wish for Goose.

Dearest Birthday Boy,

It is my hope that on this, your 28th birthday, you are given the gift of a sound demolition of the Senators, a team that we all know that you hate with a burning passion. I would wish for a hat trick or even a goal for you, but all I really hope for is that you get to spend your birthday night making Chris Neil cry in a corner.I hope you are given the gift of a victory tonight and an important role in it. It would be the perfect present - not just for you but for all of us waiting for a win against the Sens.

Happy Birthday!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Having Fun Again

Sometimes, it can be a lot of fun to be a hockey fan.

I know that it hasn't seemed like that over the past couple of years, but it's true. Hockey is a sport full of unbridled emotion, nail-biting finishes, and players that wear their passion for their sport and their teammates on their sleeve. It really is a fun, enjoyable sport to watch and experience.

I feel like there were times when I had forgotten that over the last two seasons. Watching hockey and writing about it was more of an obligation, and I was often looking for the answers to why things went wrong rather than what went right (many times because things just simply did not go right most nights).

This season has reminded me that being a fan can actually make you happy more than it makes you crazy and miserable. I'm actually enjoying this team more than I'm getting angry at them. I have hope.

Tonight's game was a game that I would have written off as a loss last season with a few minutes to go in the third period. I would have assumed that we would let a tying goal in with moments left to give the Leafs momentum into overtime. But this season I expected them to clamp down in the final moments and get the win, which they did. I honestly wasn't all that nervous, which I think speaks to the amount of faith I have in this team (or the amount of faith I have in how bad the Leafs are against us).

Instead of wasting time being nervous, I had fun watching us dismantle the Leafs again. That's the way this whole season has been for me so far - with the exception of a few games, I have enjoyed watching this team play hockey more than I was expecting to.

You can see it in the players as well - they're having fun, too. I went to practice on Wednesday, and it was the most spirited, loudest practice I'd ever attended. They guys were all laughing and chirping at each other as they went through their drills. There was even an impromptu game of baseball with Pat Kaleta pitching, Goose catching, and Pommer (later Captain Craig) at bat. It was just nice to see that, while they were still focused when running their drills, they are having fun out there together.

And why not? They have the best goalie in the league, a capable backup whose always there to support Ryan (I'm glad we've gotten to see some "goalie love" between them these past two games, too), balanced scoring, strong defense pairings, and the Rookie of the Year (in my humble opinion) playing for the Blue and Gold. There are lots of things to be proud of and excited about with this team.

I know I'm rambling, and it should always be fun to be a sports fan, but sometimes in Buffalo it's not always fun. But thanks to Myers, Miller, and the rest of the Sabres, it's a whole lot more enjoyable now, and I can only hope that it stays fun long into the spring.