I can thank my Grandpas (both who have passed away) and my Dad for instilling in me such a passion and devotion for Buffalo sports. They had season tickets as I grew up, and it was always a battle between my brothers on who got to go with my Dad to games. I can remember the first time I walked into the Memorial Auditorium, when I was in Kindergarten, and I'll never forget the year my Dad bought me a Dale Hawerchuk jersey from the Sabres store on my birthday when I was young. So many of my favorite memories growing up involve Buffalo sports teams!
I'm one of those people who gets really angry when someone says "it's just a game", and I am one of those diehards who will sit up in bed the night before and after games strategizing on what the team should do (because clearly they are going to come to me for advice) and reliving plays over and over again.
So when I walked into The First Niagara Center on April 3rd with my boyfriend, I expected to make another great memory, but when I walked out of the building after the Sabres beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime 6-5, I not only had a set of memories to someday share with the next generation of Sondels, but a new appreciation for the city of Buffalo and the people of Buffalo.
I had a hard time falling asleep last night, since I was so wound up about the game, so I started really picking apart each period. The more I thought about it, the more the game became a metaphor for the city of Buffalo, and the people of Buffalo.
See, to me, most people count out Buffalo (at least people who don't live here) as a city that can have an impact nationally or as an option on where to live. So when the Sabres went down 3-0 in the first period, I'm sure nearly everyone counted us out.
One line, the young line of Stafford, Ennis and Foligno, reminds me so much of the younger generation in Buffalo. These three guys came out every single shift and played their hearts out. They gave of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, and you could tell they really wanted to win. As I'm immersing myself even more in the Buffalo culture, and organizations in the area, it is clear that the younger generation of Buffalonians, love the city and Western New York, and wants to make sure we create an even better Buffalo in the years to come.
With just a few minutes to go in the third period a crazy scrum occurred in front of the Leafs goaltender, and because of a little patience, and a lot of heart and grit, the Sabres buried the puck and tied up the game. The people of this city roll up their sleeves and aren't afraid to get a little dirty to make things happen. The people of this city are hard workers, who have hope. The people of this city will high five strangers, pat you on the back and buy you a beer to celebrate.
In overtime, the veterans stepped onto the ice and won the game for us on the power play. It was one of those moments that happened in slow motion for me. I couldn't talk. I couldn't even scream. I hugged my boyfriend, high fived the people sitting around me, and took in the crowd noise. The players, their emotions on the ice as they celebrated, and the buzz in the air as we walked out were incredible. Incredible. It's a feeling I've felt numerous times throughout my years as a sports fan, and the feeling that gets me through the bad games, or some years, bad seasons.
I was proud to be a Sabres fan last night, but more importantly, so proud to be from the city of Buffalo.
I guess, the moral of the story is, don't count Buffalo out. Not in the playoff race just yet, and certainly not when it comes to revitalizing the city. We have a ways to go (and I'll be the first to admit so do the Sabres and Bills), but if we can tap into the energy inside First Niagara Center last night, we are certainly on our way to great things.
So, Let's Go Buffalo!