“We were cheated, not defeated!
“Thou shalt not steal!”
Those were a couple of the signs held aloft by Sabres fans on June 22nd, 1999 – 12 years ago today. Two days previous, the Dallas Stars had finished off the Sabres in the Stanley Cup Final in the third overtime of Game Six.
Brett Hull, from Lehtinen and Modano.
We all know the story, but if you’d like a refresher, click here.
Fans were crushed, but it didn’t stop 20,000 of them from attending a rally to support their team that just lost a professional sports championship in one of the most frustrating and controversial ways of all time.
Fast forward to 2011: a few days ago, fans in Vancouver rioted – again – after losing out in the Stanley Cup Final. (They had also taken to the streets in a stupor of violence in 1994, when their team was defeated in the Final.)
Not to take anything away from the city of Vancouver – it’s boasts a wonderful, year-round embracing climate, plenty of great stuff on the waterfront, and the people are as friendly as they come. Still, after that same friendly population there suffers a gutting defeat, there is a scary pattern of violence.
In Buffalo, that pattern could not be any different.
“We love you Scotty!”
Back on January 29, 1991, Barbara O’brien of the Buffalo News wrote a sentimental piece about how 30,000 Bills fans gathered downtown for a rally in support of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had just lost Superbowl XXV in a horrific way, as Scott Norwood failed to convert a 47-yard field goal at the end of the game. Fans in Buffalo would take to the streets, but not to riot. Instead, they came out to hold their heads high.
From the O’Brien article:
Dwight Bonk of the Town of Tonawanda and Matt Goulet of Buffalo said they wouldn’t want to be any place but Niagara Square on Monday afternoon.
“I thought the Bills had a great season. They definitely deserve an ovation like this, and I know they’ll be back next year,” Bonk said.
“The Bills are where it’s at. They’re the team of the future. They’re the team of today, they deserve the respect of every fan who’s here,” Goulet added.
“They’re still No. 1. I don’t care what anybody says,” said Yvonne Scott of Cheektowaga.
The players felt the same sentiment of hope.
“We don’t have the most talented players,” wide receiver James Lofton said. “Every player on our team is not All-Pro, but what they are is what Mark Kelso said — they’re family. We bond together. We’re Buffalo’s team. We’re going to be No. 1 when we get back next year.”
Eight years later, the quotes from fans at the ’99 rally were virtually interchangeable. Again, fans held their heads high – and the media covering the Dallas Stars even took notice. From an article posted by the Amarillo Globe-News:
“Even though they were defeated, we still have to show them support,” said Jennifer Feher of Kenmore. “They represented Buffalo throughout the world.”
While she remained disappointed over how the series ended, she said the fans would eventually put it behind them.
“In Buffalo, we’re tough people. We’ll come back next year,” she said.
This time, Rob Ray took over where James Lofton left off, to say what the players believed.
“This team is going to be unbelievable in years to come. You can almost guarantee there are going to be many more days like this in the future. The bright young stars that we have are not to be denied.”
Lofton, Ray, and those fans were right. The Bills would go on to the Superbowl for the next three seasons – an incredible feat for the ages, even bearing the fact they lost all of them. The Sabres’ young talent took a little more time. When they did emerge in the 2005-2007 seasons, they were better than Ray could have imagined – and likely would have won a cup in 2006 if not for a defensive squad entirely decimated by injury in the Conference Final.
At the end of every season, we’re lucky to have each other, in this “City of Good Neighbors.” Hope and hard-nosed determination really can’t help fans get to a championship, but in the times in-between deep playoff runs, it sure beats the heck out of smashing each other’s windows and looting what is left of our city and our pride.
Sure, there are plenty of rust-belted folks out there that would understandably quip that “Fans would try to riot, but as soon as they hit Main Street, they’d remember there isn’t anything left there to steal.” Funny, yes, but wholly untrue: you can’t steal hope, and you can’t loot pride.
We have those two things really figured out here in Buffalo. The folks in Vancouver might have a lot of “stuff” that we wish we had on our waterfront, but they sure don’t have what we have in our chests – (which is why it feels so great when we thump those chests, even in losing seasons).
12 years to the day since that rally in ’99, and we’re still ready and waiting to claim that Big Game. Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, all of that stubborn Western New York grit will be rewarded, and we will have a rally of champions.
Go Sabres, go Bills, and, “Let’s go Buff-a-lo!”
(We’ve made this old post “sticky” today, in honor of Alex the Great’s birthday [Feb 18, 1969]. Enjoy.)
Thank you, JimmyJ9989, of the miracle that is Youtube.
I have been trying to locate a picture of this iconic Sabres moment for years. Today, that search finally paid off.
The tale of the tape:
December 24th, 1992. In a slightly off-beat Christmas gesture to their fan base, the Buffalo Sabres hand out free sombreros to a bunch of lucky fans in a certain section of the Aud.
This was the season that Mogilny scored 76 goals (in 77 games). Already, this early into the season, many fans were saying to each other, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if he got a hat trick tonight?”
With all the good-times flair that was the 1992-93 Sabres, Buffalo beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 – with Mogilny capping off his natural hat trick with 5:25 left in the 2nd period. The sombreros came tumbling down to the ice.
Mogilny was often considered an enigma for many of his playing days here, but his fun-loving nature in 1992-93 can’t be denied. During the three star selections, Mogilny came skating out on the ice, wearing, of course, one of those sombreros. Here is a video highlighting that season, with Mogilny and his Mexican nap-hat making their appearance at the 3:35 mark.
For those video challenged out there, here’s a grainy screen-grab. If anyone has a better picture of this, please let me know.
Sometimes, "hockey lore" is just a very, very fun moment.
If that title made your stomach tighten a little bit, then you know what we’re onto here.
Relax. Let that boo go. Feel better now? Good. That’s what we’re here for.
Yes, the venerable Gary Bettman, commissioner of our NHL since 1993 (and thus being a symbolic part of the NHL94 alumni), is the namesake behind this award, given to the folk(s) with the firmest mastery of their Napoleon complexes and the talent to make us want to heckle them.
As for Bettman’s curious leadership of one of the most historied sports leagues in the world, fans needs not look any further than 1996. That’s when the Fox Network introduced the “glow puck,” which was supposed to make the puck easier to see on the primitive tv screens of the day. (We’ve come a long way since those ridiculous cathode-ray tubes, kids.) The problem, of course, with the “glow puck,” was that instead of making the puck easier to see, it just reinforced the idea that watching hockey on TV was impossibly difficult.
You can now find these things at classy eateries, buzzing and flashing wildly to alert patrons that their heart attack nacho platters are ready.
Indeed, Bettman was quick to preserve the reputation of the league when he emerged from his Penguins’ Lair to orate the following strong message to a concerned fan base:
“I don’t need it, [but] it doesn’t bother me. “I don’t like the blue dot – but if it makes it easier for [TV] fans, that’s fine.”
Bettman in his NBA days.
Since then, Bettman has employed the same resolute determination when guiding the NHL with his incredibly consistent NHL discipline plan, for injuries and scandals. (A flowchart.)
This season, there was plenty of nasty stuff out there that drew our ire. Here are our nominees; the winner receives a free platter of those heart-attack nachos, (glow-puck coaster not included), so vote wisely.
1. The Green Men and the City of Vancouver – The louder that hockey traditionalists cried foul over these green-skinned freaks, the more butt (or package) the Green Men pressed up against the penalty box glass. Loved by some, loathed by many, the Green Men set a wacko fan precedent that will lead only to god knows what in the stands next year, as circus-themed populations such as Montreal will undoubtedly try to outdo them. I would say that they were a “riot,” but what happened in the city of Vancouver after their team collapsed out of the Stanley Cup Final put the “I don’t care if I’m a sports star of my own, losing just makes me wanna’ smash stuff and blow up police cars” back into that word.
Take THAT, Boston!
2. Mario Lemieux – It’s no secret that the NHL greatly misses Mario’s
talents whining since he retired, but he was kind enough to remind us all that he still has it. After a dirty hockey game against the Islanders, Lemieux was prompted to release a statement whining doctrine masterpiece in which he warned, “If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.” Mario conveniently left out the fact that he employs the dirtiest little cheap shot artist in the league (who is also the most hated player in the league).
I'd say "Stay classy, Penguins," but according to Mario, they are TOTALLY classy.
3. The Thrashers’ Atlanta “Spirit” Group – There is nothing funny about this at all, so we’re going to skip the jokes. Instead, here’s a punch-in-the-gut quote from former co-owner Michael Gearon, who “broke down several times” when he assured Thrashers fans “I’ve been focused on trying to avoid this day. I spent time with possible investors going back four years ago, because I was concerned this day would come. I made a desperate plea in February. Unfortunately, that didn’t lead to any real prospects. To be sitting here today is just awful for me.” To which the disgusted fans of Atlanta responded, “Sitting there? Sit and spin, (expletive)!”
RIP, Blueland. We hardly got a chance to get to know you.
Probably shouldn’t have ended this on such a downer. Ugh. Anyway, those are our candidates. Make sure you vote with a heavy dose of spleen. I assure you, hitting one of these buttons is going to make you feel at least a little bit better.
See also: “BSN Summer Awards: The Envelopes (and Brooke Shields) are IN!“
It’s going to be a sad day in the B-lo when Rick Jeanneret finally retires.
Until then, his potential replacements are being groomed. While we already covered the likelihood of Kevin Sylvester taking over the booth, not everyone is sold on his voice talent.
I’m a fan of Kevin’s, but we like to remain objective here on Buffalo Sabres Nation.
"The Next One?"
In that spirit, here’s a couple samplings of Mark Jeanneret. While his style is very similar to his father’s, his voice is a bit higher on the octave scale. He’s been plying his trade down on the farm in Portland, after breaking into the scene with the Erie Otters of the OHL.
Here’s a call from his Erie days. You might want to ensure that all of your crystal and any skittish cats are in the other room before you hit the play button.
Since then, his style has certainly matured, but that Jeanneret passion simply cannot be tamed. Here’s his play-by-play for the Sabres, when they took on the Flames on December 27, 2010.
Despite who I might prefer, it’s hard to root against either Sylvester or Jeanneret – I’d be happy with either making the calls. Also, it sure would be a real heart-warmer if Mark was able to continue a family legacy.
We’d like to hear what our readers think about these two candidates, so we’re sticking a poll in this post. Vote away!
For Father’s Day, BSN is going to take a slight detour to the world of football, and family.
There aren’t too many words that remain the same across all the languages on this world, but those are two of them.
Then again, there’s sports. Some would argue math is the universal language, and they’re right – but it’s application to the world of sports is what makes it so widely spoken. The box score is common ground for all of us. The results at the end of games, season upon season, weaves up an emotional fabric that criss crosses through all of us.
For fathers and sons, common grounds can be hard to come by. Language only gives us “taxi” and “radio.” That’s simply not enough to connect the generations. I am not claiming that sports is the best venue for communication – but it is very ingrained with passion, want, and hope. A place where emotions can exist and be worn on the sleeve.