It spread like a plague today. Slowly it crept along from mouth to mouth like a disease, everyone within earshot hearing the news come like a hurricane. Then television picked it up. Then radio. Soon phones were ringing, and text messages were exchanging the stories like carrier pigeons.
I don’t know who to blame. Most people think Darcy screwed the pooch today. Some blame the players and the Almighty Dollar. I, however, blame myself mostly.
Actually, I blame us all.
We all deserve the burden of guilt for thinking it could be any different. To live that terrible sham, thinking this “New NHL” will help keep us in the game. How many people championed the lockout as necessary to help smaller franchises stay competitive with rising player salaries?
And yet, here we sit, captainless once again.
In reality it’s not fair. But who questions the system but the ones deprived because of it? Say what you will in hindsight, but we were the ones stamping our feet for a salary cap because of the Red Wings and Rangers of the world. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that two years later we blame those same teams for our misfortune once again.
I think it is time we as Sabres fans face the reality of the situation: we may never compete on July 1st with anyone. The system just isn’t put in place to work for us, no matter what the intention is.
A salary cap is intended to keep a limit on team payrolls, yes, but who was to guess that it would increase dramatically in consecutive years? What GM would know that signing Daniel Briere at arbitration rate last year for 3 years would be a brilliant move?
So when the salary cap is raised due mostly to revenue from increased ticket costs, who has the money to go after players? Can Buffalo get away with raising ticket prices to sign anyone? No, but the Rangers would fill the Garden if they only accepted gold bricks at the gate. Buffalo cannot and will not spend to the cap this year, and won’t be able to next year either. It is a cold, hard fact; and no calculator work on any fan’s part will change that.
So what’s a boy to do? As a fan, there is nothing to do but watch. It will be interesting to see how many fans react to losing a few major pieces to the puzzle. This area has been so transfixed by the Sabres the last two years, and Danny and Dru were a major reason for that. There will be some fans that fade away, some in disgust, some in protest, and many in despair.
Today being Canada Day, I went to downtown Niagara Falls to watch the fireworks display. I wasn’t sure what we were celebrating, but sitting in the darkness watching someone else’s party summed up everything that happened today. While “the other half” celebrated and lit up the night sky, we sat in despair, only catching the reflections of another’s happiness.
This is not an aberration, this is our first day of reality. We are not special here in Buffalo, no matter how quaint our love of hockey is. Any one city can create a hockey atmosphere when winning is involved, and when dollar signs and weather patterns come into play, we sure do drop down the list quick. It’s a hard truth to take, but nothing comes easy in a city like this.
Just another day in Buffalo.
Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo.
It’s a sentence alright, but not always a good one.