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!