Posted by John Monahan on December 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm
Here’s hoping that your Christmas was a good one, full of overeating, hanging with family and opening presents. If there’s still one more thing on your Christmas wishlist, i.e. a return to winning ways for the Sabres – it may start tonight against the Washington Capitals.
Last time these two teams met (back on November 26th), the Sabres tore them apart in a 5-1 victory, leading to the Caps firing their coach, Bruce Boudreau. Who do they hire but old Sabres nemesis Dale Hunter who will obviously teach his players to viciously check guys without the puck who aren’t looking. Well, one likes to assume these things, that way we can work up a good dislike of the Capitals.
The Sabres are trying to avoid four straight losses, while the Caps are on a skid of their own. They’re 5-4-1 in their last ten games and they’ve only gone 5-5-1 since hiring Dale Hunter.
Perhaps we’re getting our Christmas wishes as the Sabres appear to be getting healthy: both Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht return tonight and on top of that Vanek will be playing. Paul Szczechura is a healthy scratch while Derek Whitmore returns to Rochester after a pretty solid outing with the parent club.
Both teams need some wins to get back in the playoff mix. The Caps and Sabres are 10th and 11th in the Eastern Conference respectively. The Caps are every bit as hungry for a win as the Sabres and should make the contest tonight a pretty fierce one.
The Sabres are just 4 points back from the 7th and 8th spots. A win tonight and we leapfrog Washington to tie Winnipeg. (Click to embiggen.)
Aside from getting healthy again we also have a secret weapon. It’s name is flair.
The Sabres will be hosting a holiday sweater tent party – i.e. an ugly sweater party in the Tailgate Party Tent. Tickets are $10 bucks and you get a free beer! From the Sabres site:
Fans are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday-themed sweaters at the tent party and enjoy the Sabres trivia, music and Sabres prizes – including tickets, three autographed jerseys, an autographed stick and more – before heading inside First Niagara Center for the game. A current Sabres player will be on hand to interact with fans and sign autographs.
It's a work of art AND keeps you warm! Perhaps the Sabres should switch to something similar.
The more ugly sweaters, the more holiday cheer, the more emotion and rowdiness in the FN Center. Dig out your worst/best sweaters and add buttons, lights, whatever makes it gaudy and offensive to the eye. We can demoralize and/or blind the Capitals. Sabres players have an inverse reaction to ugly holiday swag and will be energized by it.
Here’s hoping it can spark the Sabres on a roll tonight!
2Posted by John Monahan on December 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Well that certainly didn’t turn out like we Sabres fans had hoped. I refer to both the Maple Leafs game as well as the entirety of the season so far. Now heading into the Christmas break, we are downtrodden and looking in on the teams with better playoff position like street urchin children staring in through a window on merry revelers eating a huge feast.
Spare a shilling, sir? Per'aps a scrap of food or an overtime point?
Yeah it sucks right about now. All the offseason hype is fading, the Pegulamania has died down and fans are growing negative. Perhaps rightfully so: the on-ice product isn’t what we want or what we were promised by the Sabres front office.
Steve Jobs is one of my all-time heroes and something he said seems appropriate:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. -Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech
We can’t know how the story will play out for the Sabres. However we can take solace in the fact that we’re all in it together and that we now have an owner willing to do whatever’s in his power to make a championship happen. I’m willing to take some lumps with the team and see how this shakes out. It’ll be a hard, long road but well worth it.
This is, after all, Hockey Heaven. Hockey Heaven doesn’t mean that you automatically win every game or that they just hand you the Cup at the end of the year because Pegula hath declared it to be so.
Hockey Heaven isn’t about winning the Stanley Cup RIGHT NOW. It’s about much more than that. Yes, the Sabres are 3-5-2 in their last ten games and injuries shouldn’t be an excuse for that. But we can ride the wave, secure in the knowledge that the Sabres are willing to go for broke. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have a decade of winning with maybe a couple of Stanley Cups over one quick season where we won it all and then degraded quickly into mediocrity?
If the ship doesn’t get righted quickly, we may see a trade or two. I don’t expect Lindy or Darcy Regier to go anywhere soon, as the Sabres management has emphatically stated (and we’vereiterated) they’re not going anywhere.
Yeah, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. However, when we finally do reach the promised land, it’s going to be soooo much sweeter.
A merry Sabres Christmas to you and LET’S GO BUFF-A-LO!
9Posted by Scott Michalak on December 22, 2011 at 6:40 am
Sabres fans are being severely tested by the Hockey Gods.
As the days and weeks of the 2011-12 season pass, the team identity has gone amiss, injuries continue to mount, and games are being lost. Our once boastful, or hopeful predictions for what might be accomplished by this Sabres team are being truly tempered.
And boy, a lot of us are losing our temper.
Calls to fire Ruff (as we’ve touched on a couple times recently here on BSN) and/or Regier are prevalent throughout the media, blogosphere, and Twitter chatter. Calls to shake up the roster by trading away our best names are being trumpeted just as loudly. Indeed, these calls are a far cry from the “clarion call” that Ted Black asserted Pegula was making to the NHL when he took over ownership from Tom Golisano – that Buffalo was to be the destination for NHLers, and for Stanley Cups.
But take heart, Sabres fans. All is not lost. Not the season. And certainly, not “Hockey Heaven.”
There has never been a sense of entitlement in this town. But when Terry Pegula arrived on February 22nd, 2011 (forever hereafter to be known as “Pegula Day” to Sabres Nation), there was a new sense of confidence.
There was a birth of belief. And it felt beautiful.
For perhaps the first time in the storied history of the Buffalo Sabres franchise, the fan base was compelled to a certitude that the Stanley Cup would be won. It might take years, but it would be won. This was what was promised to us, and this promise still stands.
For a moment though, let’s put the Quest for the Cup aside. Sure, hockey’s ultimate prize is our ultimate goal as Sabres fans, but even as the team struggles, our “Hockey Heaven” endures and grows.
“Hockey Heaven” is not a destination, after all. It’s a way of life.
It’s the kids that block traffic playing street hockey in front of your house. It’s the Labatt Pond Hockey tournament. It’s the midnight broomball games at Leisure Rinks. It’s the pride we feel when we lead the national ratings for a playoff game rounds after our own team has been eliminated. It’s the backyard rinks in winter. It’s teaching our kids to skate at the good ol’ Nike Base, like our parents taught us. It’s the open practices at the FN’ Center. It’s a 25 hour long hockey game, played for charity on the wondrous ice surface that once showcased the NHL’s first (and best, in my humble opinion) Winter Classic.
Sometimes, it is as simple as the smell of the hockey rink when you first walk through the door to watch a varsity match between St. Francis and Orchard Park.
We breathe it deeply here.
“Hockey Heaven” has always been here, but what Terry Pegula has done cannot be overlooked. Heck, how do you overlook over 75 Sabres alumni signing autographs at Fan Appreciation Night? The anticipation felt by fans about Pegula on February 22nd has been replaced with almost a dumbfounded thankfulness, as Terry adds perk upon perk to the fan and player experience.
A challenge: try to name all the changes and improvements that Pegula and Ted Black have put into place since their arrival. Just try it.
It’s amazing what they did in basically just three calendar months after taking over the team. Here’s a quick list (which I am sure is incomplete, feel free to add more in the comments section below):
He decided not to dismantle the team he bought, instead, he bought into his team. Trading only to bring Brad Boyes in, his men responded by going 16-4-4 to improbably make the playoffs.
He made the Sabres family whole again, when he invited all Sabres alumni back into the fold. Every one of those guys who spent time here have since gone back to their homes, and around the world, the message these new emissaries brought with them was “Buffalo is the new destination.”
He has been in “serious discussions” with Canisius College to help build an on-campus events center. As Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News reported, “It would serve as a home for Canisius and the Buffalo Junior Sabres, a practice rink for the Sabres and be available to youth teams. There’s talk it could also become a basketball venue and a place for graduation ceremonies that are now held at UB.”
For all of our problems here in the Queen City, we have a lot to cherish. And for much of the bullet points stated above, it’s not only about the Sabres winning a hockey game (or three).
Even with all of his largesses, Pegula did not create “Hockey Heaven.” It was here all along. He sure has made us feel it a heckuva lot more, but even now, despite all the injuries and the losses to his team, despite the frustration, “Hockey Heaven” continues to flourish:
Amazing are our hockey fans.
In Buffalo, that video sums up our feelings right now. Our experience with this team, this game, and this culture, is something to celebrate. Something to love. No slump can ever make that go away. Even in the worst of times, it’s too good to let go. Our arguments over what to do about – or what to do to the Sabres to get them back on track simply translate to a “clarion call” of our own: we are extraordinarily passionate about our Sabres, and about the game and culture of all things hockey.
As losses mount, we’ll still put up our Christmas lights, lace up our skates, and pray for freezing temperatures so that our backyard rinks are ready for a game.
I’ll still put up my Sabres GIFs and BINGO posts.
One of Pegula’s mantras is to never get too high after a win, and never get too low after a loss. Right now, we’re all feeling more than a little low over what is happening to the boys in Blue and Gold. There’s been a lot of vitriol, a lot of venom, a lot of hate.