They both came of age in Buffalo. Drew Stafford was drafted by the Sabres in 2004; Tyler Myers in 2008. They forever will have warm memories of the city and the team that gave them their start in professional hockey.
For the first time, Myers and Stafford returned to First Niagara Center as visitors Saturday afternoon. Stafford was a starter for the Winnipeg Jets in their 3-2 loss to the Sabres while Myers made the trip despite being out for the rest of the season with knee surgery and pending hip surgery.
Myers made the trip with the Jets because he is meeting with a doctor in New York City, driving there when the team plays at Philadelphia on Monday.
Missing this game against the Sabres, his first time back in Buffalo in over a year, was disappointing for the defenseman.
“It was tough timing,” Myers said, meeting with reporters in the First Niagara Center press box during the second intermission. “I was looking forward to playing here. It was nice I was still able to make the trip and see some familiar faces but certainly would have liked to be on the ice.”
Myers played in 73 games for the Jets this season, posting 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists). The knee injury needed to be dealt with so he could be ready for the lengthy rehabilitation of his hip injury. He declined to give injury specifics “until the doctor gets in there and sees what’s happening” but said he’s talked with several players who have gone through the same type of injury and is confident he will be ready for training camp in September.
“I’ve been dealing with it for a few years now, even when I was here in Buffalo,” Myers said of the hip. “It came to the point where I needed to take care of it. It’s a pretty common injury in hockey players. I don’t expect any complications. During the games it was not bad. It was more after games it was swollen. Different things would tweak it. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly the times but it’s come to a point where it just needs to be taken care of.”
The Sabres saluted Myers and Stafford during a first-period highlight video. Stafford stood on the bench and acknowledged the hearty welcome from Sabres fans who greeted him with a hearty round of “DREEEEW.”
Stafford, who ranks second on the Jets with 20 goals, was minus-2 in Saturday’s game, recording one shot in his 17:55 of ice time. He’s found success in Winnipeg but was happy to relive some good moments of his time in Buffalo.
“I have a lot of great memories here,” Stafford said when he met with reporters before the game. “I was here for a long time. My son was born here. I’ve got a lot of respect for the fans here. Over the years I’ve had some good times and obviously some bad times, too, but it’s good to be back and see a lot of familiar faces but at the same time, we want to win the game so it’s business as usual.”
Stafford, Myers and Joel Armia were part of the business end of the game last year when the trio was traded to the Jets for Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane.
Stafford said he wasn’t surprised when he was traded last season, especially considering he was about to become an unrestricted free agent.
“You know, it’s part of the business,” Stafford said. “It’s out there. Guys who are unrestricted, there’s a chance they could get moved. I was kind of expecting something was going to happen. I knew the direction the team was going. I knew they wanted to make some changes. It’s been beneficial for both sides and a healthy separation. I have no ill will toward anyone here at all. There’s no story on that end of it.
“I think I’ve moved on as far as with my family and everything like that. … Like I said, I had a lot of good times here and some bad times. I’ve been through the full circle of things, but I have nothing but respect for everyone here and the fans here. It looks like they’re really doing things right here, turning this organization around. I wish them the best of luck, just not against us.”
Armia was also part of that trade, though the forward played only one NHL game with the Sabres. Buffalo drafted him 16th overall in 2011 and Armia spent most of his two seasons in the organization with the Rochester Americans. Armia has eight points in 36 games with the Jets this season. He was a minus-2 in 12:35 of ice time Saturday.