Silent Memory

Remember when everyone in Western New York couldn’t help but plunge a car into any storefront that wasn’t barricaded like a bomb shelter?

No pane of glass was safe. Concrete planter sales skyrocketed. It was a good time to be a mechanic or general contractor. As the shattered masonry piled up the phrase ‘epidemic‘ was thrown around. It would be dismissed, only to see another vehicle rip through a convenience store.

I completely forgot about this vehicular chaos until this morning. Lives were lost in the making of this panic, all but forgotten just a few months later. The cycle by which we consume things is remarkably quick, even locally. Even with the things we concern ourselves with the most.

It’s a stark reminder of just how quickly things can change. News stations no longer have red-jacketed reporters camping out at strip malls, waiting for the inevitable. I haven’t heard of anything careening into a 7-11 recently. If I did, it would still take a moment before I realized this had happened before. Time would fade ‘epidemic’ to mere coincidence, an evocation of memory.

Shortly after Carmageddon reached its height, the Buffalo Sabres (3-1) traveled to Montreal to play the 1-2-1 Canadiens on a Tuesday night in October. When I think about the Sabres’ season series with Montreal, this is the game I want to remember. Buffalo won, 3-1, and looked to be on the road to something special.

The game, however, was not particularly pretty. Here’s what Thomas Vanek said afterwards:

“As a team we didn’t play well. We played ugly. You’ve got to give Montreal credit. They worked hard, they beat us to a lot of battles, a lot of pucks, and I think Ryan stole those two points. That’s the only way of putting it.”

Two points stolen in Montreal in October. After the game I said how big a win it was, to steal a win on the road against a strong division rival. These are the wins you forget in April, I tweeted, when two points can be the difference between experiencing spring hockey and watching everyone else play.

I remembered the tweet, remembered how Miller stole one and even recalled that Vanek goal. I knew it was a Tuesday because I watched it while bowling. The rest, the date, what each team’s record was; all that other stuff had already shuffled off into oblivion.

I forgot how caustic those postgame comments were, or how Miller raved about Vanek’s goal by taking the media through it play-by-play. It seemed the Sabres really felt like they had direction back then, when people second-guessed themselves as they pulled into parking spaces and moved a foot from gas pedal to brake.

Things have changed quite a bit since that moment. The Sabres have struggled and slumped, a mind-numbing road losing streak easily neutralizing that Bell Centre win and then some. Looking back, that win wasn’t all that big or that team all that tough, either.

Today, the Montreal Canadiens have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Their biggest storyline this season is a lame duck head coach that’s monolingual; proving that the Sabres aren’t the only team in hockey dealing with ridiculously petty and stupid subplots this season.

The Sabres, meanwhile, still have something worth fighting for over the last quarter of the season. This is generally celebrated as a good thing, despite the long odds. Now, every game is big and unlikely to be forgotten so soon. Over the next three weeks you will undoubtedly be smarting over Buffalo’s loss in Boston last Wednesday and watching replays of the Tyler Ennis goal from Saturday night in Kanata.

Someday, though, these games will fade into oblivion as well. A phrase or highlight will jog your memory, a larger narrative will remain but the little subplots and moments that drive you crazy will be gone. Games, home stands and seasons come and go. What’s left are record books and fuzzy memories. I hope this Sabres season becomes more than the year everyone debated the appropriate way to be a fan. Maybe the team has it in them to make this silly argument go away and be forgotten as quickly as possible.

A win, stolen or not, is worth two points. It’s worth the same as the one played in an empty building in Sunrise or a nervous one in Buffalo. It’s the numbers that matter in the end and, if they’re big enough, the rest will follow.