I didn’t think I’d write about this simply because I’ve talked about it so much, written so many words about it while only scratching the surface. I am acutely aware that all of this, the emotional connection I feel to it still today, the memories it elicits comes off both heavy handed and corny. I’m a cynic, antagonistic, dismissive about many things these days (off the top of my head: The election, fake jersey wearers, Rex Ryan, Pennsylvania drivers, my retirement prospects), but this, this was a time where everything- on the surface- seemed perfect. There will be greater moments ahead both in sports and in life but never have they both met in such a beautiful collision for me as what happened in spring 2006. This is that run as I experienced it, as much as I can remember and write without going down the many various tangential rabbit holes that would easily quadruple the size of this piece. If you wanna hear about any of the spinoffs sometime, @ me.
I usually find myself thinking about that playoff run around this time of year and I suppose since you took the time to click this, you do too. However, the ten year anniversary of the 05-06 team has come abruptly, quietly, though I suppose that’s what happens with a team that can’t even claim the most basic banner. They didn’t win their league, their conference, or even their division. Any and all metrics tell us that we should have a greater affinity for teams that came after- in 2007 and 2010 for instance- or before, in the case of 1999 or 1997. Still, The Buffalo News has practically made it a daily feature and even the Sabres twitter account has gotten on board despite the fact everyone in the marketing department thinks the organization was founded in 2010.
This summer is also my ten year college reunion. In what I am sure will shock all of you, none of my friends from Tonawanda High went away to college, and as an only child and the first one in the family to go to college, I felt rather overwhelmed, even at a tiny liberal arts school in Olean. I found some friends but felt awkward, out of place; I loved to drink so that alone got me through a year and a half until I studied abroad. When I returned my junior year, however, it was like a light bulb went off. The day I drove onto campus (drove! Finally!) I went to a party and met the girl that would dominate my memories of that Sabres run and years beyond. I made better and closer friends on campus, established a usual crew, house, bar, a place for the first time as a Bonnie.
Subsequently, after being one of dominant interests through high school, the Sabres found themselves relegated to the back of my mind in college. I’m not even sure we got MSG the first couple years I dormed there (to put it in perspective, I had an actual phone in my room freshman year because there weren’t any cell phone towers); abroad I could only follow the results from checking the TBN website each morning on campus. By junior year and the lockout, I just didn’t care. I was coming into my stride socially, getting acquainted with some of the lovely women on campus, basking in the Red Sox first World Series title in 86 years and for a month in there the Bills actually mattered! Come 2005 and the start of my Senior Year my biggest concerns were, in no particular order:
- Breakup with the Long Island girl I’d started dating spring semester for some inexplicable reason
- Get into law school at Penn State
- Eschew responsibility for fun at every opportunity