Personal low

February 8, 2018

I love hockey. I love the Buffalo Sabres. I love watching the Sabres play hockey. I’d bet I’ve watched as many or more meaningless end of the season play out the string Sabres games than their most ardent super fan. That’s because despite working in the media, I have always been a Sabres super fan.

“Yeah, I know this season is over and this game is meaningless but they’ve called up this Varada guy and I want to see what he’s got.”

That’s me, probably, in 1996 telling someone why I wanted to watch another game with no meaning in the standings.

Need a more recent example? Remember Matt Hackett? He was a goalie. Remember when he broke his leg in the second to last game of the 2013-14 season in Boston? I do. You know why? Because despite the fact that it was a gorgeous spring day in Buffalo, maybe close to 80-degrees if memory serves, I sat in my house watching the Sabres lose their sixth game in a row. It was their 17th loss in 19 games.

I had to watch. For the record, that’s not because it’s my job to watch the Sabres, although on some level there is truth in that. But despite what some of you may think, my job ultimately is to be ready to talk about the things that matter to lots of Buffalo sports fans. That game in Boston in 2014 was never going to need to be talked about. I wasn’t going to learn anything about who they were or where they were going. I watched because I love to watch. Plain and simple.

I could go on, trying to prove my super fan bona fides to you but what’s the point? Either you’ll accept that I’ve always been a psycho Sabres fan or you won’t so let’s just move on.

This season has finally broken me. Oh I’ve seen every game, at least in part, aside from the few that took place while I was in Costa Rica recently. Full disclosure, I did try to get my MSG Go app to work. It didn’t.

The Sabres have played a lot of Tuesday and Thursday games, and as it happens, those are Giant Goalie Son's practice nights and there’s a big screen TV in the lobby of Holiday Twin Rinks. There I sit with a handful of others hockey parents, hand holding up chin, staring blankly at the TV as another lost Sabres season drifts by. I get mad about how bad they are and walk away to watch my kid practice, but I’ll always drift back.

The games are mostly a blur. A boring, meaningless blur. An overtime loss in Pittsburgh stands out because the GGS emerged from the dressing room just as OT was starting. I excitedly yelled to him and he threw his stuff down to watch only to have to pick it all back up again as the Penguins scored before the pads even hit the floor.

The new low point in Sabres fandom came this past Saturday for me. His Regals team was scheduled to play a pair of games in Cattaraugus County against a team from Pittsburgh. Due to injuries, illness and high school hockey conflicts, we barely iced a team for the first game and the second game was called off.

Presented with a suddenly free Saturday night, my first suggestion to him was that we go to the Sabres game. His response was “I’m not really feeling that.” That’s a first. Any suggestion to attend a Sabres game has always been met with great enthusiasm. Heck yeah in all caps if it were via text.

So we came home, caught a nap, and as the Sabres game with the Blues was about to start he came downstairs. “Sabres-Blues are on” I said. His response, “yeah the Regals 16U are playing Niagara North at Holiday. You want to go watch that?” I had just cracked open a beer and was settling in for a comfortable night on the couch watching my team, but I quickly thought about the hundreds of days and nights I’ve spent doing exactly that and thought, what am I doing this for? So off we went. We stopped for wings after and caught the third period of the Sabres game. We talked about lots of stuff, including how to fix the Sabres.

I made my familiar point about their lack of speed and how hard it is to play when you’re the slower team every night.

What went unsaid was something more emotional and probably even embarrassingly trite.

I hope the Sabres get it together soon.

I miss them.