To The Victor Goes No Spoils

comicvine

Why? Just…Why? – Photo via Lucasfilms

There comes a time in every man’s life where he witnesses the fall of the institutions he’s always believed in. Call it a crisis of faith, if you will. For me, the first was Star Wars. While I understand that Episode I is a necessary part of the story, I do not understand he-who-shall-not-be-named, or his place in the story. And I really, really, do not understand Hayden Christensen. But that’s not what this is about. This is about hockey. I was introduced to the sport when I was about four. My grandmother had season tickets to the Aud, in the Oranges. We’d climb past the Reds, past the Blues with their dimly lit monitors hanging from the rafters that obstructed their view – we’d climb an entire side of a mountain, and once we got to our seats, I’d turn and a wave of vertigo would wash over me – the sheer height of our climb so great in magnitude that my body couldn’t believe my tiny eyes. I’d watch Mogilny and LalalalalaLafontaine, Turgeon, Barrasso – so many historic players that graced the ice there. When the Aud closed and The Crossroads opened, I followed. I witnessed the majesty of Hasek, that ill-fated cup team, Drury and Briere, Miller and the Olympics – I’ve been through it all. I’ve followed through times of celebration, as well as times of tragedy – unwavering. During the Cup run, my girlfriend at the time asked me if I’d rather have sex or watch playoff hockey. I paused, for what was apparently too long.

forgottenbuffalo

I left my heart here, long ago. Photo from forgottenbuffalo.com

None of this is a brag. It is only so that what follows may carry some weight. I am a hockey fan. Further, I am a Buffalo Sabres fan. I have spent too many nights screaming at a television, sometimes alone, sometimes in a bar, but the greatest aspect of Sabres fandom is that whether I was alone or in a crowd, we are a community. Every Sabres’ fan’s story is the same as mine. We are one. Long before One Buffalo, we’ve been one. Now, we aren’t. And it’s breaking my heart.

All season, I’ve tried to put a humorous, somewhat positive spin on the games. I embraced the tank months ago, understanding that it was for the greater good. Last night, when Buffalo squared off against Arizona to prove once and for all whose tank was the tankiest tank, there was an air of excitement about the city that hasn’t existed for far too long. It was the playoff atmosphere we’d been yearning for. Twitter was abuzz, national news coverage had local restaurants in their headlines – life was good! For a day, life was good. And then, in two and a half hours, it was not. The Sabres lost in OT, 4-3. During the game, the crowd was largely silent, however, there was a noticeable increase in noise when Arizona scored their goals – particularly the game winner. Combine that with some rather loud boos at certain successes the Sabres had on the ice, and you’ve got yourself a maelstrom of tank embracing.

buffalohockeybeat

Mike Weber was upset postgame. Just like we’ve been the last 70 games or so. Photo from buffalohockeybeat.com

Players are upset, and rightfully so. Perhaps the aim of their ire is a bit off – it’s not the fans’ fault, guys, honestly. We’re doing our very best to cope with what is obviously an awful situation. We’ve shifted our perspective. Our eyes are on the prize. You can’t look at the big picture – your focus needs to be on the next game, on the next play. We see beyond the season. Beyond the disappointment, beyond the losing streaks, beyond the scoreless periods where our goalie is shelled harder than the beaches of Normandy. We see the draft, we see the next two years of development. We see the chemistry that is already forming among key players – and you should too! You should be so proud that even through all of this muck and mire, the team is managing to come together. I remember when Colorado was tanking, and how embarrassing it was for some players that the lockerroom embraced it. I personally am very proud of you guys. I never once thought anyone in blue and gold was making spring golf plans for early April, or planning that family trip. I firmly believe that every man is out there and fighting. It may seem difficult to understand, but we promise, we support you. Even if we have strange ways of showing it.

NHL Cash Cow.  Photo from NHL.com

NHL Cash Cow. Photo from NHL.com

And you, NHL. You should be ashamed of yourselves for allowing this to happen. Or, to the contrary – did you intend for this to happen? Stupid like a fox, perhaps; when Edmonton’s perpetual draft failures became evident, when Buffalo’s core fell apart, and when Arizona aged themselves out, just in time for McEichel, you saw headlines. You saw dollar signs. You saw exactly what a league should see – a chance to take the sports headline spotlight. I suppose congratulations are in order, but you’ll get none from me. This ill-designed system that causes teams like mine to do what they’ve done should not be upheld as the bastion of anything good. The lengths that these three teams have gone to in order to be terrible are shocking at worst, dumbfounding at best, and legitimately bordering on immoral at the root. It is my desperate hope that when this year ends, there is serious consideration given to a complete revamping of the draft system. Those teams that scrap for every point and barely miss the playoffs deserve the best crack at the best player. You know it and I know it. Stop hiding behind your piles of cash and do the right things.

For my beloved city of Buffalo, in the immortal words of Han Solo, “Ya hear me, baby? Hold together.” We can do it, guys. We’re SO CLOSE. Eight more games. 24 periods. 480 minutes. The bittersweet end is almost here. When it comes, we’ll cheer that final horn, and every one of us can breathe a sigh of relief. We made it through the worst of times, clinging tightly to each other for support. It won’t be long before we’re holding each other in elation.

Is it?-  Photo from sportsnet.com

Is it?- Photo from sportsnet.com

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3 Comments on “To The Victor Goes No Spoils”

  1. Mea $pazz (@MeaSpazz) March 27, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

    Can I just say the a black font is much easier to read

  2. erikwollschlager March 30, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Reblogged this on ewollschlager and commented:

    United, we stand. Divided, well…we still stand, just in opposition of each other…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Outdoor hockey in Happy Valley; cap growth dividing players; 7 more years of Jagr? (Puck Headlines) | Wolrd Blogs - March 27, 2015

    […] • A man and his hockey team Based on the title of the article, guess which one, “To The Victor Goes No Spoils.” [What’s Going On In Buffalo] […]

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