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.