It is a good feeling to say you were in on something from the beginning. People love saying they liked musicians before they made it big, or that they read a book before it made the bestsellers' list. It makes people feel good about themselves; they believe they are trendsetters, ahead of the curve, even.
I am surely not a trendsetter, but I must say that I have been in on something all year, and I do take pride in it. On Oct. 5, the National Hockey League started its 88th season; and I watched the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Islanders in person. There was room in the building for others to be there, the game was not sold out, but people were content with ignoring this team.
Five months later, however, this team demands attention. The Sabres are hovering around the top of the Eastern Conference, and even with numerous injuries, they keep hanging around. The team is essentially starless; no one player on the team stands out, yet victories keep piling up, and HSBC Arena is starting to fill up as a result.
It is amazing to see what a few wins can do to a franchise. The NHL did not exist last year, and three years ago the Sabres were bankrupt and managed by the league. Now people are saving for playoff tickets and the arena is packed every home game. In fact, almost half of the Sabres home games have been sellouts this year.
This team simply should not work. We have two starting goaltenders on the roster; we have too many rookies, not enough leadership, and too many injuries. Our general manager doesn't trade, our head coach can't motivate, and the owner knows nothing about hockey. Well obviously someone's wrong here, because the Sabres work, and play an exciting game to boot.
Honestly, it is just nice to have some good sporting news in this area. You can look at the chaos that is the Bills all you want, but the only thing you can come out with is hope. But look at this hockey team, the work ethic, the way they win, the chemistry they have. All I can see is potential, the chance to win.
Watching the Sabres play is just so much fun; it is rare to find that in sports these days. Look at all the commotion surrounding the NFL and free agency, or baseball and steroids. All of it reminds you just how nice it is to watch a team that doesn't give up, one that plays like a true team. There is no star on this team, only lines that work, players that work together. Watching them come from behind so many times, knowing that just because you are down two goals doesn't mean the game is over. It is so refreshing to not worry about a team, to have faith. It is something you really do have to see to believe.
And so I guess that is what I recommend, to take a look at this team for yourself. If you are a fan still discouraged by the lockout, boy, are you missing out.
And if you have never paid attention to this team, now is as good a time as any to watch. There is the chance for magic from this team, and it would be a shame to miss the bandwagon, even if you do show up a bit late. Not that we would hold it against you.
Ryan Nagelhout is a senior at Niagara Falls.