Robin Lehner didn't have any personal ties to Craig Lehner, the Buffalo K-9 officer who died during a police dive team training exercise last month.
But the Buffalo Sabres goaltender understood how the death impacted the Western New York community. And so Friday night, on Military Appreciation Night and what would have been Craig Lehner's 35th birthday, Robin Lehner will honor the fallen hero.
During warm-ups Friday night when the Sabres host the Florida Panthers, Lehner wore the team's special military-themed jersey with "C. Lehner" on the back. The jersey will be No. 43 instead of Lehner's usual No. 40, an homage to Craig Lehner's radio call sign, which was K-9 43.
"You really felt the loss through Buffalo here," Robin Lehner said after the team's morning skate in KeyBank Center. "I have a few friends that told me a lot about him. Some of them served with him. There have been a lot of fans, actually, on social media that have sent me some messages. It just feels right. What they do for this country, him being in the Army and being a police officer. It's not just him, it's for all he represents.
"It just felt right being military night. He served in the Army and obviously touched a lot of people in the city."
Robin Lehner will wear this jersey in warmups tomorrow to honor Craig Lehner, K-9 43. pic.twitter.com/xGPkV8qyAY
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) November 9, 2017
While the Sabres are putting the pre-game jerseys up for auction to benefit the Buffalo Sabres Foundation (the auction is currently live at Sabres.com/auctions with bids closing at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18) Lehner's jersey will be presented to Craig Lehner's family.
"I'll give the jersey to the family after the game. Maybe meet some of the family after the game, too. It's for everyone in law enforcement and the military.