Monday, December 19, 2011

Where the Sabres roam...

So, for the next place on my odyssey, or “hockeyssey” (I was originally going to say “hockyssey”, which is what my mother almost demanded I put, but I like how “hockeyssey” looks, even if it is pronounced “hockey-see”), I traveled to Buffalo, New York. The Sabres were playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom I’d already rooted against (and seen lose) at their place.

As an aside. I don’t think I’ve ever seen fans that are more obnoxious than Maple Leafs fans. It’s kind of ridiculous. I personally have been heckled at only two games. Both times it was by damned Leafs fans. Admittedly, at the Hawks-Leafs game in March, it was the 3rd period by then and they Hawks were busy pummeling the home squad (see my Toronto blog for that little story), but this time it was before the game and I get heckled in my Ryan Miller jersey. I know it was me because I was sitting next to my mom who was wearing my Kris Versteeg Leafs jersey (which I bought after they traded him away in exchange for 2 draft picks (I’ll let you figure out how that’s working now)). As an aside to the Leafs fans out there, “pregame” in hockey (or any sport) does not mean the same thing as the “pregaming” you were doing, so please, stop showing up drunk to hockey games, you'll just embarrass yourselves. I know your team sucks, but, as a former Cubs fan, I’ll give you a piece of advice. If you can’t watch the team sober, don’t watch. Also, to note, from Wikipedia, regarding Leafs fans: “January 22 (1955) – During a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings at Maple Leaf Gardens, Red Wings forward Ted Lindsay leaned over the glass and struck a drunk Maple Leafs fan with his stick after the fan had scuffled with and spilled beer over teammate Gordie Howe. Lindsay was given a match penalty and suspended for five games for the incident.” Just a little tidbit I found.

Ok, my rant is officially over. I do like many of the features the First Niagara Center has, like the fan shop one can enter without a ticket (it is supposedly open every day, but I wasn’t actually staying in Buffalo, so I couldn’t verify that). Also something that was very interesting was the “Player Burger”, where the concession stand sells a specialty burger inspired by a player, in my case Tyler Ennis.

I <3 signs

One really irksome bit, though. They didn’t let us in the 300 section up until an hour before face-off. I know, I get to arenas absurdly early, but it just seems silly that I couldn’t get to my seat when I got there, I was just moseying about on the concourse for half an hour. The explanation is because we were coming from Canada and didn’t want to get stuck at the border forever, so we left pretty early.

Again, we got there VERRRRRYYYY early
Ok, whatever, what was important was the game (of course). It was a tense affair. You could really tell that the two teams were unfriendly towards one another (along with the Leafs fans, who are unfriendly towards everyone) {EDIT: Sorry, I couldn’t help but continue griping on the Leafs fans}. It was a pretty epic battle, with the two teams trading the lead (until Toronto put themselves in the box for the whole second period (I guess they emulate their fans) {EDIT: Sorry again, I’ll make it up to them: MAPLE LEAF FANS AREN’T AS BAD AS RED WINGS FANS! There, happy?}. Seriously, however, the Leafs couldn’t stay out of the box, even their Captain, Dion Phaneuf was sent for a 5 minute major and a misconduct. Resulting in one of these:
This was actually the first Buffalo goal, but whatevs
Not to say the Sabres were flawless penalty-wise either. A tripping penalty (that looked from where I was like he just wiped out, but whatever) allowed Nikolai Kulemin to score on a penalty shot which cut the Sabres lead to 4-3. After that, the place went nuts for the last 10 minutes. The chanting for the next entire play was deafening, with “Go Leafs Go” drunkenly slurred voraciously cheered against “Let’s Go Buffalo” (Neither Sabres nor Buffalo really work for chants, OK?). The tension in the building was almost tangible as it felt as if the foundation for the stadium was rocking on its moorings. There was a little bit of letup as Thomas Vanek scored his second of the night to make it a 2 goal lead, but just 30 seconds later the Leafs had cut it again. The tension mounted in what was arguably the most intense game I have seen live.

In the end, the Sabres held on for a 5-4 win, though it wasn’t easy. The game was a very enjoyable experience, and I did reset the big board to record the recent journeys.

What’s this? Are there pictures on the board?!?!?! Why yes, yes there are! It appears that stickers of the team logos have popped up on it, corresponding to each city I have traversed to! Weird! (lol not really, Canadian Wal-Mart can do wonders for an arts and/or crafts project).

Now I must pack for New York City!

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