I'm hesitant to bring up Flight 3407. Partly because, at this point, everyone has said their piece and I'm not sure I have anything new to add, partly because if you're at all like me, you're getting close to hitting your saturation point and partly because I know my words are inadequate.
But the truth is, you really can't separate this game from the tragedy that happened in Clarence last night. You can't do it. From the moment of silence at the beginning of the night - which was amazing in its perfect stillness - to the unabashed celebration at the end, the game was clearly a distraction from a day of grief. As someone who didn't grow up in Buffalo, I can say that I know most outsiders have no idea what a small town Buffalo really is. It's true that many, many people will either be affected by the crash or know someone who was and that's made for a long, sad 24 hours for all of us.
For all the grief I give the Buffalo News, I have to give them some major credit today. I was home from work today and when I signed on the computer there was already a really wonderful Mike Harrington story about the Sabres and Flight 3407 up on the website. As someone who doesn't have family or friends in Clarence, I'll admit that my first thought when I saw the breaking news last night was, "Holy cow, Lindy Ruff lives in Clarence!" You should follow the link and read the story if you haven't already but there are some amazing stories and quotes from the players, many of whom live in the Clarence area. Teppo Numminen talked about hearing the plane's engines, hearing them go quiet and then looking out his bedroom window and seeing flames. It was sad, of course, but also a really lovely reminder that in Buffalo, our athletes are really a part of our community. I think in a lot of larger markets, pro athletes are in the city but not of it. There's a separation between players and fans. As annoying as it may sometimes be to the players, that's not the case here and many of the players are mourning for friends and families who are suffering right now, just like we are.
One of my favorite moments of last season, a moment I was lucky enough to be in the building for, was when Ryan Miller got a shutout in one of his first starts - maybe the first start - after his cousin Matt died. He skated out as the first star and raised his helmet to the crowd before pointing at the "Matt Man" decoration on the back. The crowd rose to its feet and roared its approval and I cried like a friggin' baby. It was just such a special moment. A moment that was so much more than a player receiving the first star after a stellar performance on the ice. It was an athlete and his city embracing each other, us saying, "We know you're heart-broken, we love you and we're here for you" and him saying, "Thank you for everything." Tonight was exactly like that except maybe the other way around. It was the team saying, "We know you're heart-broken, we love you and we're here for you" and us saying, "Thank you for everything." As Derek Roy said in his postgame interview, "Nobody was not going to let us come back and tie this game for these people." They needed the points against a tough opponent but they won for us. I really believe that.
The hockey itself, wasn't always beautiful. Some of it was pretty awful for a while there. But everything else, the stuff that mattered? For tonight, it was beautiful.