If there’s one thing about adulthood it’s that it’s interminably boring. To say this comes as a surprise would be somewhat disingenuous; after all we know from a young age that the adults around us operate on a continuous loop of work shifts, errands to procure items to satisfy our need to stay alive, television and sleep. Hell, it’s the general awareness of this looming tedium that drives people to have so much fun in college and their early twenties, the concept that what lies ahead is its own kind of death, a death of spontaneity, a death of new experiences. When that time comes- and it does, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise- it’s not just that it makes the 8-5 routine so crushingly dull, it’s that it makes your life before that tedium seem even further away, make it feel that it happened to another person.
It’s what makes seeing Jason Pominville back on the ice so strange. Despite hanging around in a Sabres uniform until the lockout season, it’s the goal, the president’s trophy, the winter classic that I remember him from, the years where I was in school and anything was possible not just for the Sabres but for the world, for one’s future. To see him back on the ice when everything is just so static- go to work, come back from work, go to the gym, cook dinner, shower, go to bed- and not unspecified is strange. I look at him like a relic despite being only a year older than me, which probably says just as much at how I view myself as how I view him.
I think it’s fair for fans to feel robbed about last season. Year Two AT (After Tank) was supposed to be the first opportunity to enjoy the rewards of the suffering, the trades, the worthless free agents, Andre Benoit, Torrey Mitchell, Ted Nolan, Coyotes updates, Trending Buffalo. It was supposed to include a playoff push at least and that was almost secondary to getting to see how Eichel took hold of the league in his second year. He came back right at the perfect time to serve as a distraction from the anxiety that comes with being made a prisoner of your own country but by that time the team was right back where they’d been every year of the decade before the tank, 8, 10 points back with the season practically a write-off.
January 20th I called in sick, turned off twitter notifications, threw on the Ken Burns Civil War series at around 11am when I started drinking. There was an aura of nihilism, hopelessness, dread that months later hasn’t dissipated so much as settled over the country like the Denora Smog, and struggling to breathe is just how we exist now. As they’ve always been in bad times there was a Sabres game that evening, won in overtime against Detroit by a goal from Okposo. The next night they were in Montreal, trailing late. As my inaugural bender continued they tied it up, Lehner made the save of the year (likely bolstered by a fellow white supremacist being in office) and Bogosian won it again in overtime. They’d provided a brief moment of joy after years of darkness.
Two nights later Eichel makes the play of the year and suddenly a few weeks later I’m watching from the bar at the golf dome with my parents as the Sabres climb one point out of a playoff spot. That was the tease, the brief run that made us think about what could have happened with a full year of Jack, wonder what could happen if they were managed by a coach whose style encouraged players to use their speed to force the opponent into capitulation and not simply hang around and hope for a timely goal. We have all of those things now and as we get ready for the season I must say, it’s terrifying.