The Zamboni doors opened and the sound of a revving engine echoed throughout KeyBank Center at the conclusion of the Buffalo Sabres' practice Tuesday afternoon.
Players motioned for assistant equipment manager George Babcock to step on to the ice, and Zach Bogosian emerged from the open gate wearing a Buffalo Bills helmet while riding a snowmobile. Bogosian, a Sabres defenseman who sat out practice for maintenance, parked near center ice and told Babcock that the vehicle was a gift from the players to commemorate his 2,000th career National Hockey League game.
Babcock walked around the snowmobile before running over to hug the players, who were beaming while watching Bogosian present the gift. The vehicle was decorated with Sabres decals, including one with Babcock's name and acknowledging his 2,000th game, which occurred Nov. 21 in Boston.
Babcock, a Williamsville native, worked at Sabreland, the team's former practice facility in Wheatfield, before joining the Sabres in a full-time capacity. He has been on staff since 1993 and has a unique role under Sabres coach Ralph Krueger.
Babcock keeps track of line changes and informs Krueger if the Sabres are on the ice too long during a game.
"George, you can just feel the passion," Krueger said. "He monitors the line changes for me on the bench during the game. You ask him to do a task of that nature over and above everything else he's already doing and he does it 100%. He's focused on it and sometimes I'll be looking over at him two or three times in a period because I have been speaking to a player and just want to monitor how long the lines have been out or a D pair, to keep track of the timing of our shifts and try to keep them in frame.
"My personal interaction with him is that way, but of course he's doing so many other things that you can see the appreciation that they feel. Above all, it's the passion and the energy he brings every day. For me, I had no idea how long he'd been here, but it doesn't look like the excitement is waning at all. He just does whatever the team needs or asks for, whether at home or on the road. It's a strong spirit to have."
The Sabres gifted assistant equipment manager George Babcock a snowmobile for his 2,000th career game.
Zach Bogosian rode it on to the ice after practice. pic.twitter.com/JM2RFac7rb
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) December 3, 2019