I remember jumping to my feet as I saw Brad May cross the blue line, taking a shovel pass in stride from Pat LaFontaine, deking around Ray Bourque, then netting his now famous “May Day” goal. It was 1993 against the Bruins and the Aud erupted like I’d never heard it before.
I remember sitting in the second row of the oranges for Dave Hannan’s backhand that ended an epic quadruple overtime game against the Devils in ’94, sending the series “back to where Jimmy Hoffa is.” I’d been in the Aud for over six hours yet I didn’t want to leave.
I remember Derek Plante ripping a slapshot glove side to finish off the Sens in ’97. FNC went crazy as RJ taunted Philly, “Bring on The Legion of Doom!” The energy of the crowd was insane.
And I remember Pommer’s shorthanded backhand against the Sens in ’06. Those guys were good… scary good. It felt like it could finally be our year. Unfortunately it wasn’t.
These are just a few of the countless memories that not only help define my decades of maniacal fandom, but keep me coming back for more. They’re the ones I recant with friends over a few frosted beverages. The ones that I watch and re-watch on YouTube during a slow work day. And now, they’re the ones that have me stoked for another season.
The regular season is finally here. Though the 82 game schedule is a long and arduous one, it’s fair game for highlights, too. (Let’s make the playoffs before we start dreaming of them, right?)
I can’t help but wonder what will be some of the quintessential storylines that’ll be archived this year. Who will be etched into my memory? Will the off-season acquisitions of Kane, O’Reilly or Lehner pan out? Will Eichel-mania carry this team into the playoffs? Will Ennis flourish as a 40 goal scorer? Will last year’s first rounder, Sam Reinhart, make headlines?
Over the last four months, so much has changed…not just the players and the coaches, but the outlook and mindset of an entire city. Like a fresh sheet of ice, the season opener brings with it a renewed sense of optimism and possibility. No doubt the atmosphere at FNC will be electric. After last year’s mess, fans hunger for a winning team, or heck, just something to cheer about.
More than anything, this season brings hope. ‘Hope’ is the very thing that got Andy Dufresne out of Shawshank, but hope alone won’t get the Sabres into the playoffs. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and hustle… two cornerstones of the teams that got us to the Conference Finals nearly a decade ago.
LET’S GO BUFFALO!