OH MAN! Hockey is coming back! We have the schedule to prove it!
I know a lot of folks are wrapped up in hopes and dreams for what T-Pegs, Teddy Black and Darcy 2.0 are going to come up with in the NHL Draft this weekend, but the fan in me (i.e. the guy with little to no time or desire to learn about the Muppet Babies I probably won't see on the HSBC ice until 2014 or so) is always more excited about the schedule being released. Calendars are marked, the first seeds of gameday plans are planted, roadtrips contemplated and, for those expats in NYC, six dates become non-negotiable. Each year for the past 6, I've made an effort to make as many of the six local Sabres games (two each against the Devils, Isles and Rangers). A couple years ago I was a perfect six for six, and it was glorious. Last year, I scaled back to 4 out of 6, including one late arrival to the Prudential Center, clad in a pin-striped suit with Miller jersey underneath... never had I been more confident in my own douchebaggery. Many of those games involved great groups of transplanted Sabre fans - the eight of us who met in lower Manhattan to take the PATH out to Newark, only to find another three dozen fans in our section, ready to cheer our boys on to an early-season win against a pathetic Devils team; or the eleven of us who sat in the back row of the upper deck at MSG, right behind a row of 18-22 year old Ranger fans from Long Island who were good-humored when we made fun of their accents and scathingly asked them why they didn't follow the Islanders, and who didn't get bothered by our "We Got a Point" chants, echoed on our way out after the eventual overtime defeat; or the small City Honors crew that drove out to Hempstead armed with nothing more than Four Lokos (the original, dangerous kind! woohoo!) and a dream, and left with a hangover and memories of a disgusting loss to the Islanders in regulation.
As fun as it was, what bothered me a lot about the Sabres schedule last year was that the Tri-State area games were realy jammed into the first half of the season. The Rangers game on March 1st was the latest game in the season, and no other games came after late January. Indeed, both of the Devils games (by far my favorite to go to, given prices and cleanliness of the arena....*cough* *cough* *thecoliseumisashithole*) were within the first twenty games of the season. In hindsight, my annoyance with the situation was really due to the fact that the Sabres turned it on late, and I had no real opportunity to see them during that run. But, more to the point, games late in the season always matter more, so it's nice to see that this year's schedule is a little kinder to us fans in NYC. Actually, taking a look at the schedule, the Hockey Gods are indeed smiling down upon me and the DGWU Crew.
Also bringing great joy to me is the fact that all four Rangers and Islanders games are on weekends. This will be particularly helpful for those trips out to the Island since (a) getting there is a HUGE hassle (honestly, how Charles Wang has not figured this out is beyond me...you've got 9 million people in the five boroughs, some of whom like hockey and most of whom have no car...you're an idiot for not arranging more streamlined access to games...though, fuck it, the list of idiot things you do is mind-bogglingly long); and (b) my dream remains to rock a party bus - complete with booze and bumpin 80s rock - to take a crew of Sabres fans out to a game in Uniondale. THIS IS THE YEAR. Now vested with the true force of DGWU, I am confident we make this happen.
You know how Canes fans complain about expats invading RBC? We're taking that as a challenge...the gauntlet has been laid, and The Scizz, Yachter, Aps and me are up to the task. And, as you all know, we can be huge, drunken assholes. This much is clear.
As for non-expat-related musings, there are certain things about the schedule that are both bothersome and intriguing. After the Sabres come back from Europe, they get one home game, then four away, and then five back home. While that road trip is not awful, I imagine that it will be a big test for the team in terms of keeping their fitness up after so much travel. Then again, after the road successes last year, including the sense that the team bonded during those trips, we could be looking at a very cohesive unit after those first few weeks.
Also of note are the west coast teams that the Sabres play twice - Detroit, CBJ and Ducks. We lucked out on these - while two of these teams were in the playoffs, I find that the Sabres generally play to a pretty high level against the Ducks and Wings, and those Ducks games always involve a weird and unexpected amount of bad blood. The Blue Jackets games, we can assume, will be the kind of "easy" games that the Sabres manage to blow, but I'll hold out hope for at least the split.
An absurd part of the schedule looks to be the road trip in January, following a home -and-home (though not back-to-back nights) with the Maple Leafs. Those seven games away from home - starting @ Islanders on 1/14, and then continuing through Detroit, Chicago, Winnipeg (!!!), St. Louis, New Jersey and Montreal - should be a doozy, even if geographically logical with respect to route. Five of those seven games are in the span of eight days, with the sixth coming a mere three nights later. The seventh, a week after that, wilI, I imagine, be broken up by a stop back in the 'Lo before the team heads to meet the Canadiens. We at DGWU look forward to attending two of the games on that roadtrip, so it should be a fun and anxiety-producing time.
Looking further ahead, chronologically as I must with my limited ability to multi-task as I coast through the end of my work day (which doesn't mean I'm leaving any time soon, mind you), February looks to be a great month for home games - 9 out of 12, in fact. With Presidents' Day weekend in the middle of the month, one or both of the games on the weekend of February 17th - either the Friday night vs. the Habs and/or the Sunday afternoon Hockey Day in America game against the Penguins - look to be the prime targets for a DGWU Road Trip to HSBC. I went to the Hockey Day game last year - hooked up with NBC broadcast passes, actually - against the Caps, and it was a fun time. While I doubt I'll have the Harbor Club access I did then, the holiday weekend will be a prime opportunity for us to act like drunken assholes without fear of having some dirtbag stick a shiv into our kidneys.
NYC is rough, yo.
So, there you have it. The Scizz may add an addendum to this post, since I sort of stole it from him, but I think it's pretty clear that this season is going to be EPIC for the DGWU Crew and all Buffalo Expats in NYC. There's a certain beauty in being the jackass road fan who invased another team's arena, and I am really looking forward to making our mark on the Concrete Jungle yet again.
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