I was struggling to get excited about hockey this year. I can’t place it, but for some reason I didn’t get excited when the preseason games started; and last weekend felt… wrong. Hockey doesn’t start until opening night, and even leading up to it this week didn’t feel like hockey just yet.
Then I watched this:
Ken Dryden talked a lot about muscle memory in The Game. It was what made him a better hockey player, and no matter what level of intelligence he had, he relied upon and trusted a natural function of his body to make him the player he was.
I think in my case, the term “music memory” works a bit better. I’m not alone in this, but many times my emotions rely on what I’m listening. More specifically, whenever I first listen to something, where I am and what I am doing leaves an impression on what I think about when I hear it.
For example, I will always remember driving past Graceland while listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will always bring to mind a basement and a guitar, and most of Ryan Adams’ songs I will remember first and foremost as live. Where I was and what I was doing while listening becomes a part of the song, and in a way that’s much more important than what the lyrics say or mean.
The first time I ever heard “Sabre Dance” was a moment of instant history. My first strong memory as a Sabres fan, when my parents dragged me out of bed to watch this. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it played, and it wasn’t my first memory of the Aud, but that song will always bring up Pat LaFontaine giving that last wave before he slides that puck over the goal line for the final time.
Since then new songs have taken over, and the team has changed again and again. But every year you could head downtown and see that reminder of the past.
This is the last home opener that building is going to be there. Over the next few weeks it will be taken apart and vanish. Already it is a shell of what it once was. We could talk for hours about memories the building gave, but the fact of the matter is that when that building is torn down it will mark a significant change in Buffalo.
From now on it’s either going to be a pile of rubble or a Bass Pro. You won’t get to pass the Aud on your way into the Arena, and you won’t be telling your children, “The Sabres used to play there.” What there? It’s not going to be there anymore.
It’s not a bad thing, just… different. The walk to the arena will be different. The thoughts you have will be different. You won’t get to wonder what it looks like in there, or if the scoreboard is still hanging. All those questions will be answered when the light of day sees the arena floor.
Maybe the song you hear in your head will be different, too. “Hurricane 2000” may have replaced “Sabre Dance” for you, or maybe you just listen to talk radio to get you going. Whatever the case, each year brings about a new set of circumstances of being a hockey fan. Changes in expectations, rosters, salaries; year to year things slowly slip towards progress. It is what keeps changing that keeps us coming back, but always with a nod to the past.
I’m not sure what song you are going to hear tonight. Maybe it will be “Sabre Dance”, or maybe that Goo Goo Dolls song they murdered two years ago. Maybe it will be “3s and 7s” by Queens of the Stone Age. Whatever they play, remember it. Remember what that fresh start feels like against the weight of all that history. That potential is what this is all about. Sometimes it’s not just what happens in the arena, but what happens on the way there.
If there’s a goal that everyone remembers, It was back in ole ’72…