Monday, March 19, 2007

The Making of a Fan

I'm not sure exactly why I'm starting a Sabres blog now. I already have two blogs I'm more or less ignoring. I already post at Hlog: Hockey's Ladies of Greatness pretty regularly. I'm working two jobs these days so I don't always get to see the games live. There are only 10 games left in the regular season. There are a few very good Buffalo blogs out there already and I'm not sure I really have anything new to add. But here I am, joining the hockey blog fray despite all the reasons I probably shouldn't. As an introductory post, here's a little bit about how I came to love hockey in general and the Sabres in particular.

Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, I was pretty oblivious to hockey. I still have family in the south so I think I can say fairly that even now hockey is more or less an afterthought for most people down there, if it's a thought at all. When I was a kid it was non-existent. I was a total tomboy so I was into just about every other sport, but hockey wasn't on my radar. Because my parents' family mostly lived in Pittsburgh I would say that I was a Penguins fan (and I did really like Ron Francis) but that was mostly just me talking. We never visited Pittsburgh during hockey season and we didn't see much hockey on TV. I liked it when I saw it, but I didn't see enough of it to seek it out in any serious way.

But then I fell in love with a boy from Buffalo. He was going through serious NHL withdrawl in the south, and I think he compensated by trying to get me interested. The Sabres weren't particularly good when we met so they were hardly on TV so lack of games still kept me from being a huge fan. Then there was the Cup run in '99 that ended with Brett Hull's skate CLEARLY in the freakin' crease. I liked that team a lot – they were a bunch of overacheivers, tough and gritty little players. I still remember what we in Buffalo call the "No Goal" game like it was yesterday. I was babysitting and while I was a wonderful babysitter who prided myself on really interacting with the kids, I remember watching the game over Amy, Andrew, and Nathan's heads and shushing them more than a few times so I could hear what was going on. I remember that when Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton came home, there were only a few minutes left in the first overtime and I actually hung around to see it through. I remember getting in the car and driving like a madman to get home before the next overtime started. I remember the exciting, excruciating feeling of watching post-season overtime hockey for the first time. And mostly I remember the soul-sucking, crushing feeling of watching Brett Hull's shot fly past Hasek. Honestly, I didn't even realize there was a controversy about the goal until the next day when I spoke to Mark, my then boyfriend. But I've made up for my lack of knowledge then by being pissed off and cynical ever since! I'm kidding, mostly, but Mark has said it's fitting that I was fully introduced to the world of Buffalo sports on that particular night. "Get used to it," he said.

Anyway, I married the Buffalo boy and he, longing for home, asked me what I thought about moving back there. He took total advantage of me by reminding me that every Sabres game would be on TV and we'd probably even be able to see a few games in person. Tricky bastard! I've only gotten more and more interested and fanatical about hockey and the Sabres over the past few years with the culmination being last year. A lot of the kids that had been very young when we moved back or drafted since then were finally blossoming at the NHL level and it was totally awesome to see. The team is young, fast, skilled, and really hard-working. Most of the current roster has come up through the system together and seems to genuinely like each other on the ice and off. It's cheesy maybe but while watching them on their best nights, you really get the feeling that they're playing for us and each other as much as they're playing for themselves. A real connection has developed between the players and the fans. It's a magical time to be a hockey fan in Buffalo and I think we're all just trying to embrace it while it lasts.

So that's me and that's my team. We'll see what happens from here.


Jordi said...

You go sistah! Anyway I love the romantic story, it makes us all that hockey penetrates all aspects of life for an obsessed fan. :)

Heather B. said...

Oh, Jordi! You weren't supposed to find this yet. The place is a mess! I haven't hung curtains or anything...