A Sabres Fans Confession

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So, I should probably get this out of the way now.

I’m a Bluejackets fan.

Well, I’m a Sabres fan, first and foremost,  forever and ever, amen. Allow me to explain. I moved to Ohio in ’98, and was only able to catch the occasional Sabres games – aside from the playoffs of course. In those days we had no Internet and I don’t think any of the local bars had the NHL package. It was a hockey wasteland.

But then an NHL team was announced in Columbus, Ohio. Intriguing, I thought. A chance to see the Sabres once in a while perhaps? Even if they were in the Western conference and that meant once a year at most.

Then I saw who they had drafted from other teams – they were many players that I liked. Sabres players, like Geoff Sanderson, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre and Dwayne Roloson (who declined to play for the Jackets, which was probably a good career decision: he’d have been shell shocked and/or his name would’ve been mud).  Even many players drafted from other NHL teams I liked,  like Ron Tugnutt, Lyle Odelein, Dallas Drake and Mathieu Schneider. Come to think of it, that sadly may have been Columbus’ most talented team.

Anyway, it seemed like Sabres West, built specially for me to watch hockey in a land with very few hockey fans. I once met a guy who wore a Devils jersey and we shared a bond over our mutual love of the sport of hockey*.

I still loved the Sabres, but I couldn’t follow them as closely as I was used to. Then we almost lost the Sabres. Then there was the lockout. Tough times indeed – and the Bluejackets weren’t faring very well, at least not that their record would indicate.

You see, in Columbus, with NHL hockey being so novel, it was a kick for the fans every single night just to watch a game. And the arena puts on quite a performance. They were ranked as the #1 stadium experience a few years back among all sports franchises. Now they even fire a cannon, a real friggin’ cannon, in the arena after goals. It’s LOUD, and with the combo of AC/DC playing (For Those About To Rock) it’s quite awesome.

Even though the Blue Jackets’ win/loss record wasn’t stunning over the past decade, the games themselves were. The fans were (and remain) enthusiastic and there’s always something going on during breaks in play. No matter how many times we left Nationwide Arena to make our 1.5 hour drive home after a loss, we were never disappointed with the experience.

The Bluejackets have made it to the playoffs one time in their existence… and were soundly swept by their division master Redwings. Yet Bluejackets fans keep going to games. Nationwide Arena doesn’t have an attendance problem despite their lack of making the playoffs.

It’s something to behold and something quite different than what Buffalo Sabres fans are used to. The Sabres came out of the gate roaring, making the playoffs for most of the 70s. Then the 80’s. Then the 90s. The 2000s were a bit more up and down, but overall, we expect and demand a winning club.

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A bee and a cannon as mascots. I'm pretty sure a sabre-toothed tiger could kick these guys asses.

So there you have it. I’m a Sabres fan, first and foremost. And every time the Sabres and Bluejackets play, I root for the Sabres – after all it’s in my blood. But the Bluejackets also hold a special place in my heart. I figured that if I’m going to  write about the Sabres I needed to get that off my chest. I hope you think no less of me, Sabres Nation.

What about you? Do you have a Western conference team that you (secretly or not-so-secretly) root for? Or perhaps it’s an Eastern conference team or division rival? Let those dirty little secrets out, you’ll feel much better.

 

* Hockey has really grown in West-Central Ohio. Of course, it’s not nearly as popular as Buckeyes football or basketball, but people are slowly learning the sport. There are roller hockey leagues and I even once saw kids playing street hockey! Of course, it’s bigger in Columbus but we’re in a very rural area.)

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