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THOUGHTS, MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS PAST

You have to have a little bit of a boy in you to play professional hockey, and men such as the Buffalo Sabres find themselves thinking back to their childhood at this time of the year.

Here's some team's Christmas memories:

Lindy Ruff: "The best gift was when we got a snowmobile when I was 13 years old. We always got sticks and skates and that was great, but the snowmobile was the biggest gift because we lived on a lot of land. It was in the machine shed. My parents said they had something to show us. We kind of knew, but were hoping that's what it was."

Michael Peca: "I never got anything hockey-related -- maybe some tabletop hockey games or things like that. One year, I wanted a Buffalo Bills jacket, and I got that. I was always a Bills' fan. It was always a time of year when you could count on getting one thing you wanted."

Cory Sarich: "One of the most memorable Christmases was at my uncle Carl and Auntie Maxine's when I was around 14. It was Christmas Eve, and the whole Johnson side of the family -- my mother's side -- was there. It was a gorgeous day outside. We got there at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. There were a ridiculous amount of presents under the tree, so that made things great. We spent all day skidooing outside with a big tractor-tire tube behind the tractor. Thankfully, nobody got hurt even with our stupidity. We were all together, and we had a blast."

Martin Biron: "The Christmas I remember is when I was called up to the NHL on the 24th when I was 18. We had to be in Pittsburgh on the 26th. I'll never forget that. The next Christmas, I was playing in the World Juniors. That was a memorable experience.

"Otherwise, it was always great to be with my family. I've missed that the last four years, and this will be five, as I don't get to be with my grandma and my aunts and uncles and all the family. Me and my brother are usually the only ones missing. It's tough, but when I look at tapes and pictures it reminds me of when we were all together."

Rob Ray: "The best thing when you started to play hockey (after the age of 14) was that you got to go home at Christmas time. It was the only time you really got to do that. I was playing in a town about three hours away. That (trip) was the highlight. When you're a kid, you always got a new piece of hockey equipment, and that was cool. But just seeing the family was the big thing."

Brian Holzinger: "The gift that comes to mind is something called the Green Machine. It's more or less a Big Wheel without a steering wheel. It had levers that went back and forth like a bulldozer, and you could turn it left and right. That probably was when I was seven or eight years old. I remember that anything but clothes was the gift of choice back then."

Dixon Ward: "Every Christmas was great. This is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to that day more than every other day. . . . As kids when you grow up, and not a lot of us came from wealthy families, Christmas was the time when you got anything extra-special. That was exciting.

"It's a little different now. We have our own traditions now. This Christmas is going to be extra-special for us because our little guy (Taylor) is just starting to realize exactly what's going on. To see him recognize Santa Claus and for him to know some of the presents under the tree are for him is exciting, so I'm looking forward to that."
The Sabres once again used seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Buffalo's scratches were all forwards: Paul Kruse, Erik Rasmussen and Wayne Primeau. . . . The three stars were all Sabres: Biron, Miroslav Satan and Geoff Sanderson. . . . Both teams took 23 shots. . . . Buffalo was 0 for 4 on the power play, Colorado was 0 for 2.

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