As I sit here now, there are just a few hours left until hockey is officially back in Buffalo.
Tonight is something I have been waiting for since this blog was in its first few days. Just a week after we started writing about Sabres hockey, it left is us in the form of Daniel Alfredsson’s Game Five overtime winner. Since that very moment I have thought about what this day would be like. Opening day, the day when even the wildest expectations are plausible. What can be better?
Over the summer, though, my thoughts on opening day changed dramatically. July 1st took away our captains, and my favorite player in Chris Drury. This was not simply a passing enjoyment of Drury’s talents, but one of the deepest connections I’ve ever felt with a Sabres player.
I’ll be honest, Drury’s “my guy” and he’s going to be for a long time. I love his game, the way he carries himself, and his uncanny ability to show up when it matters most. Every conversation I’ve had this summer concerning captains and leadership has involved Drury because, let’s face it, he is the gold standard. When I think of a captain, everything that Drury has comes to mind, and it’s killing me that we lost it.
Seeing this makes me want to jab hairpins in my eyes, but I guess in time that feeling will fade.
Still, this post is not about what we lost, but rather acknowledging that the strange feeling many of us will have tonight is okay. It’s understandable to feel like something is missing. It is, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury both played last night, and both of them did very well.
It is going to be okay, though. Tonight we have banners to raise, accomplishments to celebrate, and expectations to live up to. I fully expect Drew Stafford to make “the leap” this year, and maybe someday he will come into his own filling Drury’s old post. We’ve seen special things out of him already, and only time will tell what he can do.
The truth is, tonight will be great no matter what feels left out. I’m still heading down to the Arena two hours too early, just to hang up that sign and check out the HD view. We’re still going to play “Fireworks” as we get close to the waterfront, and “Fifty Mission Cap” along the way.
Because no matter what the score ends up being, or who’s on your team, it’s still hockey. And hockey still freaking rules.
“If there’s a goal that everyone remembers…”