Heather B. at Top Shelf recently traced her journey though her Sabres fandom, issuing to others the following challenge:
How about you guys? Who’s your favorite now? Whose jersey do you don at game time? Who’s your all-time favorite? Who was your first favorite? Do your favorites have similarities? Or are you all over the map? Can you articulate why your guy is your guy or is it just a gut feeling that can’t be explained?
My favorite Sabre right now is Paul Gaustad. I really admire his work ethic and style of play. He was a 7th round draft pick for the Sabres that probably had no business making the NHL at all. But, while the lockout screwed the fans, Goose probably benefited from it. He got to spend time developing in Rochester, working with the Amerks coaching staff and even the Sabres coaching staff. He also rehabbed like a madman after his ankle injury during the 06-07 season, coming back in time for the end of the Rangers series, when it was thought that he would be lost until the start of the 07-08 season. And if this article is any indication, it sounds like Goose spent most of last summer rehabbing and working on getting stronger. If we look at this past season, all the work did pay off for him, as statistically, he had his best season since cracking the NHL. And how can you not like a guy whose weight training regimen doesn’t focus on creating “beach looks,” but instead focuses on performance? But bench pressing 300 pounds is pretty hard core, though.
And you have to love Gaustad’s community involvement. Whether its having flour fights with the kiddies at Camp Good Days, working to save the planet or spending time chilling out with the guys on WGR, you get this feeling that he really likes this town.
At game time, I wear a Drew Stafford jersey. I had wanted a Gaustad one, but unfortunately, one could not be found in the size that I needed. Stafford brings an interesting mix of snot-nosed punk and flashy player to the team. Hopefully, this past season was just a sophomore slump for young Stafford. We saw more wimpy nerd than snot nosed punk from him, and I didn’t like it.
His was not the first jersey that I had. My high school graduation present was a Michael Peca jersey. And Peca was only with the Sabres for one more season after that, so that jersey has been relegated to the “worn on cold nights around the house” pile. I’m worried about whether my Stafford jersey will soon be out of date, as his name keeps popping up in some of the trade rumors out there.
I’m having a hard time with who my all-time favorite Sabre is. I’m leaning towards declaring it a tie between Lindy Ruff and Marty Biron. Lindy’s spent over twenty years with the Buffalo organization. He’s been head coach for ten years and was captain for three during his playing days. He wouldn’t devote so much time to an organization if he didn’t love both it and the town it was located in. His interviews are always a joy to listen to, irregardless of whether you have Happy Lindy or Bitchy Lindy shows up to talk with the media.
Now onto Marty. How can you not love Marty? He came to Buffalo as an 18-year-old kid and left as a 30-year-old man. He could’ve made life a living hell for the team after losing playing time to Ryan Miller, but he manned up and made his corner of the bench the French Canadian Back-Up Goaltender Comedy Zone (TM SAS Wiki). You never knew whether you would catch Marty rambling away at a teammate or opposing player, doing the Wave, or chewing on his towel like it was a chew toy. And he has a rule in the NHL rule book named after him. The Biron rule says that players can only wear numbers 1-98. (Marty wore #00 in his first couple years with the organization. Note that the NHL could regulate player numbers, but not whether a player was in the crease or not.) I was sad to see him leave Buffalo, since it meant the Sabres were without a solid and dependable backup goalie. But, I really wish him the best as a Flyer; he deserves it.
Michael Peca was the first player I clearly remember naming my favorite. If I may be shallow for a moment, I started liking him because he was hot. Then, once I moved past the hotness, he was a pretty decent player. I liked his willingness to make or take a big hit when needed, his ability to play sound defense and the fact that he had his own foodstuff (Peca’s Pickles, anyone?). My love for Peca started to go downhill when he held out for more money, and completely evaporated when he made the comment that a $3 million / year deal from the Sabres was an insult, since he needed to feed his family.
As a fan, I’m relatively easily won over by players. Show up every game, do your job, don’t hold out on stupid contract offers, don’t play like a pansy, own up to your mistakes in the media and don’t be an asshole to the fans. Do all of those things (or at least most of them consistently), and you’ll stay in my good graces.