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Serious Sabres Superstitions: A Story behind the Sign-off

Go Sabres.

That’s my sign-off here on Buffalo Sabres Nation, having taken it with me from my old blog, “buffalo74.”  It wasn’t there on my first post, and I don’t remember exactly when it became a part of my posts or even why – but along the way it became something much bigger than a simple sign-off.

“Go Sabres” became the latest addition to my long list of Sabres fan superstitions – a new superstition that was confirmed, eventually, by one tragic event.  More on that at the end of the post. For now, let me introduce you to a few of the things I put myself (and my lovely, supportive wife) through on game day.  It’s going to be a weird ride, so settle in with your Sunday cup-o-joe and be ready to admit to yourself that you do this kind of loopy stuff too.

The Wing-Stained Jersey

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Artist's interpretation: don't ask how it got into the armpit. Things got pretty nuts at the ol' BWW's.

During the 2006-07 playoff run, I purchased a rookie Drew Stafford “slug” jersey.  I wore that ugly slug with great embarrassment pride at the Jacksonville, FL “Buffalo Wild Wings” for every one of those insane playoff games.  Like all the other displaced Sabres fans in Jacksonville that chose that venue for that year’s wild ride, I was not willing to wear anything else on game day.  It didn’t matter how many wing/beer stains it soaked up – in fact, the more wing sauce that dripped on his jersey the more empowered I felt.  Stafford had a pretty solid showing in that playoff run, and I believed that the spice from that hot sauce was somehow adding some fire to his step. And for a fan, belief is fact.

We all know how that playoff year ended.  Washing the ol’ jersey was a painful thing to do (but at least the neighborhood pit bulls stopped following me to the corner store on my game day beer runs).

The Aud Seat

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The Captain's Chair!

It’s orange, with a #6 plate.  It’s beat up as if someone valiantly climbed fell over the fence during the demolition of the old Aud and snagged it from a pile of debris.

My lawyer would like to assure you all that not I, nor anyone else, came across the seat in that fashion, nor would we advise anyone reading this to climb a fence of any variety, (unless maybe to escape the pursuit of a bunch of neighborhood pit bulls while on a game-day beer run).

The seat was my throne of power throughout the mighty playoff push this season, a push which saw the Sabres pull off the best record in the Eastern Conference that was powered, as far as I was concerned, by the sheer willpower of my comfy butt.

When Round One came up against Philly, I had a hard choice to make.  I had already put everything colored orange into storage in preparation for the fight against the hated Flyers.  Conflicted, I set it down in the closet.

Of course, the Sabres would lose in seven games, and I can only wonder over how things may have been if I had not ditched my lucky seat.  But the fact is, it wasn’t the seat.

It was something else entirely.  Again, we’ll get to that later.

The Mini Stanley

I have an old plastic Stanley Cup – the last remaining artifact from my old Coleco table hockey game.

ColecoStanleyCup Serious Sabres Superstitions: A Story behind the Sign off

My precious.

Back in the 90’s, my friends and I at Buffalo State College would hold tourneys over this trinket, but the main events at that Coleco table were the match-ups on Sabres game days during the playoffs.  These match-ups, we were all convinced, directly influenced the outcome of the games.

The proof: I was skating with an old-school version of the Vancouver Canucks – one that included Don Lever, who was an assistant coach with the Sabres in ’93 when Buffalo swept Boston to move on to Round Two against the Canadiens.  Folks have often wondered how Brad May was able to make that move to beat Borque, and then the next move to freeze Andy Moog and score that iconic goal. Well, anyone living in Neumann Hall at that time knows what happened a few hours before RJ screamed out “MAY DAY, MAY DAY!”  My little plastic Don Lever dude had a hat trick.

Fast forward to Game Three against the Habs: Mogilny breaks his leg and LaFontaine hurts his knee.  The Sabres would go on to be swept by Montreal.  Earlier that day, little plastic Don Lever and his 2-D Vancouver boys were shut out.

These days, I position the Cup on the top right corner of my TV.  No one touches it.  If it accidentally moves a little, no one touches it. If it falls, bad things are to be expected on the ice. It’s not totally accurate, obviously, but I believe it still carries some of that power from the good ol’ days at the dorm.

And like I said, as a fan, belief is fact.

Over the years, I’ve piled up enough half-witted superstition items to make a voodoo shrine at the foot of the TV for playoff games. There’s an old, autographed Rob Ray card that I used to carry with me in my back pocket to games at the Aud.  That thing motivates the fluff players on the Sabres roster to put in that 110%.  I have a puck from each era of Buffalo hockey (including one from the “pepsi-cap” Bisons).  Each one of these is lined up, in chronological order, along the front of the TV.

I even have a Sam Elliott bobble-head (“The Stranger,” from the Big Lebowski) that  I set down near the pucks.  When I get antsy, I whap him upside the head and try to remember his opening narrative:

I can’t say I seen London, and I never been to France, and I ain’t never seen no queen in her damn undies as the fella says. But I’ll tell you what, after seeing Los Angeles and thisahere story I’m about to unfold – wal, I guess I seen somethin’ ever’ bit as stupefying as ya’d see in any a those other places, and in English too, so I can die with a smile on my face without feelin’ like the good lord gypped me.

It’s all a little stupefying and silly, isn’t it?  But it all puts a smile on my face, and I feel – I believe – these trinkets and superstitions do keep me connected to the team in a way no other thing can.

And as a fan, belief, my friends, is fact.

Oh, about that sign-off thing.  I promised I’d get back to that one.  Well, here goes – forgive me if it comes across as sounding a little like a confession.  (Because it is.)

The morning of Game Seven, I wrote up a nice little post, proof-read it with a smile, and hit the publish button.  When I read over the post on my blog a little later, all the years of building up these superstitions welled up inside of me like one perfect volcano of absolute terror: I had forgotten to sign-off.  “Go Sabres” was no where to be seen.  I hastily corrected the mistake, but seeing “Go Sabres” added to the already published product felt even worse.  I put the computer aside and waited for the game.

The Sabres were crushed.

And that’s a fact.

I’m sure all of you out there have your own odd and wonderful things that you do on game day – and I’d love to hear about them.  Feel free to share below in the comments section.  As for me, well, you better believe I will never again forget to close off a post without typing:

Go Sabres.

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Top Ten 2010-2011 Sabres GIFs

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A picture says a thousand words.  A GIF says a thousand words, over, and over, and over again.

A GIF file, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, is used to display small animations and low-resolution film clips.

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Not a GIF.

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The Resurrection of Tim Kennedy

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It’s a saga of redemption.

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Tim Kennedy's been searching for a break since August of 2010. That break has finally arrived.

The sorry tale of Tim Kennedy began on September 30, 2009, when the Sabres announced that Kennedy would start the 2009–10 season in Buffalo.  Kennedy scored 10 goals and 16 assists, for a total of 26 points in 78 games in the regular season.  He scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.  Things were looking up for the kid from South Buffalo.

A RFA, Tim was unable to come to terms on a new contract through his agent and Darcy Regier. On August 3, 2010,  he was awarded a $1million contract through arbitration.  The Sabres felt the price tag was too high for their hometown darling, and immediately placed him on waivers.

Not a single team claimed him.  It wasn’t a pleasant situation for Tim.

“It hurts. This is not what I envisioned for the last month of the summer before the season started. It’s tough. I hope this isn’t the end, but it doesn’t look too good right now. You grow up watching this team your whole life. I don’t even know what to say right now because I’m so shocked.”

He eventually found a home with the New York Rangers, but found himself shackled in the AHL – the Rangers didn’t want to risk losing him through re-entry waivers by calling him up, and by burying his contract with the farm team, the Blue Shirts’ were able to ease up on their dwindling cap space.  Tim never played a game in a Rangers uniform.

On October 5th of 2010, he was waived again.  And again, not a single team claimed him.

Kennedy remained a Ranger by default, but was clear that they really didn’t want him.  In February of 2011, he was dealt (along with a 3rd round pick) to the Florida Panthers for Bryan McCabe.  On March 8 of the 2010-11 season, he finally saw action in the NHL again, and would skate on to record 1 assist in 6 games with the Panthers.

Fast forward to the 2010-11 offseason.

Kennedy is on the ice for the Panthers’ last game of the season.  It’s a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals, wherein TK records an assist and a +1 marker, helping the team finish on a high note by breaking a 10 game losing skid.

That high note doesn’t last long for Kennedy, though.  On April 11, locker clean out day, he is a RFA all over again.  You know that his head has got to be swimming with how this whole dreadful story started when he was a RFA back in 2009.  It sure didn’t help that Florida just fired their coach, Peter DeBoer, who at least had the faith to keep Kennedy in the lineup for that final game.

With an unstable world spinning under his skates again, deliverance must have seemed like a long, long way away.

Then, on May 31st, the Panthers announced the hiring of Kevin Dineen to fill their head coaching vacancy – and for Kennedy, that news must have felt like a godsend.  Finally, it looks like he will get the break he’s been hoping for.

There is simply not a single person on the planet better equipped to save TK’s career than Dineen.  After all, Dineen was the coach in Portland during the 2008-09 season, when Kennedy blossomed with 18 goals and 67 points in 73 games before his promotion to Buffalo.  Kennedy was quick to praise the hiring:

“I can’t thank him (Dineen) enough. He was a great coach down there (in the AHL) and he’d be a great coach (in the NHL) too. He really helped me transform from playing in college [Michigan State] to the pro game. I owe him a lot of credit.”

Those are some smart words from TK – he must know that this is his make-it-or-break-it chance to stick to the NHL.  Dineen knows who Tim is, what kind of player he is, what to expect from him on the ice, and how to utilize him to get the best performance possible.

Suddenly, the future is looking bright again – but there is still that nagging RFA issue.  With Dineen on board, and part of the decision making process, the most damning twist to this saga yet would be if the Panthers decide not to keep Kennedy on the team.  Such a move, by perhaps the person who knows Kennedy’s talents the best, would pretty much sound a death knell over Kennedy’s NHL career.

But I don’t think that Dineen is gonna’ ring that bell.

It would be a shock if the Panthers didn’t bring Kennedy back – a player that they traded for, a player that they used on the ice to help bring a tumultuous season to an end on a high note, and now a player who is reunited with the coach that made him NHL material in the first place.

South Buffalo, rejoice: the resurrection of Tim Kennedy has begun.

Screw the whole saga, and forget all those dates.

Instead, focus on plays like this.

And this.

And this OT gem, (where he “beats his old team” at the 3:45 mark).

Under Dineen, there will be more highlights from Kennedy to come – and from here on in, they will all come at the NHL level.

Good luck, Tim.

Go Sabres.

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We’ve got a lot of Defensemen: how the Sabres can Add Bieksa, Erhoff, or Wisniewski

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Something’s gotta’ give.

The Sabres would purportedly like to add to their defense to develop a true shutdown pair.  Buffalo’s locker room is already pretty full, however.  If Pegula and Regier pull in a big name on July 1st, then a player (or two) are going to have to be shown the Zamboni door.

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At the beginning of the season, Vancouver fans were clamoring for Kevin Bieksa to be dealt for a bag of pucks. After a strong year, and a particularly snarly post-season, he is the top defensive UFA of 2011.

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Former Sabres Faceoff for the Cup… and No One Seems to Care!

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This year’s Stanley Cup Final features two former Sabres.

Well, kind of.  One of these guys barely sweat into his jersey enough to justify a game-worn jersey auction on Ebay – but dangit, this is the Pegula Era, which boasts the mantra “Once a Sabre, always a Sabre” (or something like that).  So with that trumpeted promise held close to our hearts, we can now look hopefully towards the future, when one of these two former heroes of the Blue and Gold may return to Buffalo for Alumni Day.

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"You just got served a piece of PAILLE!" was always fun to shout at the bar when this guy scored. Maybe it was all the more fun because it so rarely happened.

Ah, Danny Paille – the 20 goal scorer that never was – but came oh so close.  In the 2007-08 campaign, Paille managed to pile up 19 goals. He then confidently sped into full reverse, scoring 12 in ’08-’09, 10 in ’09-’10, and 6 in ’10-’11.

He was traded to the Bruins in the ’09-’10 season, after managing to score zero goals in just two games played with Buffalo.  In return, the Sabres received a 3rd round pick for Paille’s prowess, a pick that turned into Kevin Sundher in the 2010 draft.

Paille, often scratched from the lineup for the Bruins, has managed to have some impact in the playoffs, having tallied 2 goals and 2 assists.  He was given a team-low 6 shifts in Boston’s Game Seven against Tampa, for a lowly 5:14 off the bench.

Meanwhile, Sundher is currently listed as the 10th best prospect for Buffalo on SabresProspects.com.  Soooo, thanks for that, Danny, and good luck in the Cup Finals (getting ice time).

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We considered a shot of Raffi in action, but somehow an off-ice photo seemed far more appropriate.

Ah, Raffi Torres – you are gone, but not forgotten.  Mainly because you skipped town only at the end of last season, after burning up this town as one of the most heralded free agent signings of the 2010 deadline.  Unfortunately you failed to burn anything up during your tenure here, failing to score a single goal in 14 games.  Sorry Raffi, but 5 assists and a -3 rating was an astounding failure on your part.

What makes Torres’ place in the annals of Sabres history even more appalling is that we had to give up Nathan Paestch and a 3rd round pick (Petr Straka) to acquire him from Columbus.  Sure, Paeassttchstch and a 3rd (Straka) may not seem like a lot to give up, but it sure is when you give those things away for a whole lotta’ nothing.  Plus, how many parents in Buffalo got tired of explaining that Torres was not THIS Raffi?

Torres was signed as an UFA after the 2009-10 season by the Vancouver Canucks (lucky [expletive]).  He has since relished his role in the bottom six of that monster of a team, recording 14 goals and 15 assists in the regular season, and curiously matching Paille’s playoff stats of 2 goals and 2 assists through the playoffs.

So there you have it, folks.  Our two departed heroes for this season.  One of them is going to win the Stanley Cup without us, and one or both of them may someday return to the Queen City for a free room and board spree on Terry Pegula’s Wallet Alumni Day.  I am setting my autograph book aside for that one.

Until then, we can all enjoy watching one of these guys winning the Cup from afar.

The hosers.

Sigh.

Go Sabres.

*Editors Note: we considered including a poll here, so folks could vote which of these two Sabres fans should be rooting for.  But seriously, between these two, what’s the point?

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