Friday, April 30, 2010

Raising a Legion of Sabres Fans

If you talked to me five years ago at this time, my hockey fandom was just in its infancy. Four days ago Brian Campbell had laid down R.J. Umberger, and Danny Briere finally found paydirt with shot number fourteen. After sporadic views throughout the season, I immediately started watching the NHL playoffs. I had kind of been a Sabres fan in waiting, relegated at home to the checking of newspaper box scores and the all too rare network television game.

My first year of college was unfortunately the first year of the lockout. So going to hockey-heavy Clarkson University had yet to have an impact. Sophomore year started off similarly. I had access to cable television for the first time and hadn’t yet become tech savvy enough to peruse team websites for schedules, not that I’d have remembered anyways. But the 05-06 playoff run happened, and my fandom was on its first steps towards becoming legendary.

Fast forward two years. Briere and Drury had gone, and the Sabres were out of the playoffs. I was graduating, and hell bent on getting Cable TV to ensure access to Sabres hockey for years to come. Three weeks after graduation I started my first job, earning nearly double what I had anywhere else. I wanted to try and get a mini-pack, but the waiting list seemed impregnable. Still, sometime in September, I was rewarded and informed that I’d be able to select tickets for the 2008-2009 season. Shortly thereafter, I picked out the fourth through thirteenth games that I would attend.

Coupled with this newfound fandom was an increasing involvement in the Buffalo Sabres message boards. I registered in mid-2007 in the throes of a boring internship for something to do. I began as a “lurker” mostly reading, rarely adding commentary. Somewhere along the way in the 07-08 season, I began to post more often. Game-day chats in AIM chatrooms started to grow in popularity and I became friends with several of the message board members. During that season, the boards had its first meet and greet for members. Sequestered over three hundred miles away at Clarkson University, I could not attend, though I continued to keep in touch with my newfound friends.

On November 12th, 2008 I struck. I took my dad to his first Sabres game in over twelve years, a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues, his first at the “new” HSBC Arena. I reintroduced him to a sport he had grown up with, yet lost due to a lack of cable television. My sister Stephanie then went to her first Sabres game nine days later. A disappointing 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but no matter, the seed was planted. On January 17th, 2009 Stephanie and I went to our first Meet and Greet at Tully's on Transit road in Buffalo and for the first time I was introduced face to face with people I had been friends with for nearly two years. There was an instant click with the people I’d shared many an AIM conversation with over the past two seasons, and consider them to be among my best and most real friends to this day.

Not content to stop there, I continued the onslaught. On March 14th, 2009, I took my other sister, Sara, to her first Sabres game, a 4-3 shootout loss against the Atlanta Thrashers. Finally, on February 13th, 2010 the takeover was complete, My Mom attended her first Sabres game, a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. At that point, every member of my family had merchandise, every member began watching the games on television, and we all even went to playoff game in 2010.

Both of my sisters, and even my Dad have been to Meet and Greets for the boards. (Take that those who debase meeting people via the internet). I probably make 15-20 trips to Buffalo a year with my sister accompanying me a majority of the time. Every season I’m always pestered for who I’m taking to which games. The fever has arrived. Even in their fandom infancy, my family is proving why the Sabres have the best fanbase in the NHL.

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