If you can get away with it, stop what you're doing and click on the link to the video beneath this paragraph. It happened 10 years ago this week, May 4, 2007. It should make you smile. If you're a Sabres fan, you will immediately recognize it as "The Drury Goal."
But as you watch the video, don't focus on the moment pandemonium sets in; or the celebrating on the ice and in the stands; or Tim Connolly trying to climb, and perhaps ride around on, Chris Drury before he is engulfed by four other teammates; or a stunned Rick Jeanneret screaming "Seven-point-seven-seconds to go! Oooooh brother!"; or the referee furiously pointing at the ice behind New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as if to say, "There! There! That puck really is in the net."
Let the video play for a while. And then enjoy the jubilation in the plaza outside what was then called HSBC Arena, as friends and strangers jump up and down and into each other's arms and cause the ground to shake.
The Sabres eventually won the game in overtime and the series against the Rangers, but they did not win the Stanley Cup that year. They have never won the Stanley Cup.
Watch the video again and then remember this about Sabres fans: We celebrated that hard over a goal that tied a second-round playoff game.
Yes, it was dramatic. It was thrilling. It also is telling, because it allows you to imagine what it might look like around here if a Sabre ever scores a goal to win a Stanley Cup.
But that's all we can do – imagine.
Buffalo sports fans are enduring an especially painful period. The Bills have not been to the playoffs since millennial was an adjective and not the kid who won't move out of your house, and the best thing to say about the Sabres is they no longer are trying to lose but manage to do it most of the time, anyway.
On the plus side, both teams are hiring.
Speaking of which, I was listening recently to my former Rochester newspaper colleague and current WGR Radio talk show host Mike Schopp talk about how frustrated he gets with Buffalo sports fans and their unhealthy attachment to the past. (Guilty.) Some like the idea of Lindy Ruff coming back to coach, or Pat LaFontaine getting another shot at the front office. It's no surprise that Drury's name came up as a potential general manager candidate for the Sabres. When the Bills have an opening, we hear and read about Frank Reich.
Schopp makes the case that we need someone different, someone who does not represent the old way of thinking. He's right about that. But it's not that fans need to win with a familiar name leading the way. We may get caught up in nostalgia – it's easier to look back when the view ahead looks awful – but we really don’t care who leads the team to the promised land. (I think I speak for many when I say if our next coach wins a championship and during the postgame news conference proclaims that all puppies are evil and that he owns a talking eggplant, we would happily look the other way and go back to chanting "We're No. 1!")
What we want is joy. A lot of those names represent joy. We want that feeling we had after Drury scored in 2007, or after Reich led The Comeback game in 1993. Getting those names back here sometimes feels like it's as close as we'll get to the feeling they once created.
Of course, what we really crave is the ultimate sports fan joy, to see our team win the big one, to feel the sweet relief they felt in Cleveland last year when the Cavs finally brought the city an NBA championship, or later when the Chicago Cubs brought the World Series home for the first time in more than a century.
But we don't get that. We get bits of happiness, and then we have our hearts ripped out.
Let's take a walk down mixed memory lane:
• Brad May scores one of the prettiest goals in Sabres history in 1993, leading to one of the most famous goal calls of all time. "MAY DAY! MAY DAY! MAY DAY!" That goal capped a 4-0 sweep of the Boston Bruins and won the Sabres a playoff series for the first time in 10 years. In the next round, they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. Again.
• In the 1990 AFC Championship game in Orchard Park, the Bills' offense led by Jim Kelly utterly baffles the Los Angeles Raiders, winning the game 51-3, sending fans into a frenzy and the team to its first Super Bowl. One week later, the New York Giants are not so easily baffled, and the Bills begin a string of four seasons that somehow go down in history as both incredible and disappointing.
• Bob Lanier comes out of Buffalo in the 1960s as one of the best basketball players the city has ever produced and in the 1969-70 season leads St. Bonaventure on a run that seems destined to end with a championship. But in the NCAA sectional final, Lanier gets injured, and with him on the bench in a Final Four game, the team loses to Jacksonville University. Lanier goes on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. The Bonnies never got that close again.
I could go on. So could you.
We correctly made a big deal this year about the 25th anniversary of the night hometown boy Christian Laettner made one of the biggest shots in college basketball history. But that shot did not win the NCAA Tournament; all it did was get Duke into the Final Four, where the Blue Devils THEN won the championship game. Every year that ends in a zero will always be a reason to remember the Miracle on Ice, when the USA Hockey team scored perhaps the greatest upset in Olympic history by beating the Soviet Union. But that win did not win the gold medal; it gave the United States the right to play in the gold medal game, which it won over Finland.
When other teams have moments like that, it has led to destiny. When Buffalo teams have moments like that, it has led to devastation.
We haven't had a championship moment to celebrate since the Bills went back-to-back in the AFL in 1964 and 1965, so we settle for the next-best thing: watching videos of the long-ago moments that led us to believe, if only briefly, that we could.
For now, it will have to do.