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It’s time to move Beyond the Brawl

Celebrating a line brawl from ten years ago is choosing to celebrate the wrong thing.

Buffalo Sabres v Ottawa Senators Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

During last night’s broadcast, the Buffalo Sabres aired an episode of Beyond Blue & Gold that focused on the line brawl between the Sabres and Senators following Ottawa’s Chris Neil sniping the head of the Sabres captain, Chris Drury. It was another very well-constructed, well-produced, interesting product from the organization’s fantastic video team.

And I absolutely hated it.

It wasn’t because of the video itself. Kudos to the producers for focusing the “oral history” aspect which led to some nice insight from the guys on the ice, and for getting interviews from Lindy Ruff, Ryan Miller, and then-Ottawa coach Bryan Murray. The video itself was an interesting look at one of the most iconic Sabres moments of the past ten years.

And that right there is the problem.

The fact that a pre-planned fight - a fight that the Sabres actually lost - is one of this organization’s most memorable moments of the millennium and that it’s what we’re celebrating it above all else is, quite simply, depressing.

Say what you will about the place of fighting in the NHL (I’m not against it entirely) but the fact that we know so much more about the effect of fighting and head injuries now than we did even five years ago tinges the memories of those players and moments from the past.

Think about three of the primary players involved with this video:

Patrick Kaleta - Beloved in Buffalo, but viewed by 29 other teams as someone who shouldn’t be allowed on the ice thanks to his reckless, injurious play.

Andrew Peters - Maybe punched a teenager recently (or at least his team of teenagers punched a lot of other teenagers) and has for some reason been given a more prominent spot on the television broadcast in the weeks after.

Adam Mair - Missed 31 regular season games and most of the 2006 playoffs with concussion issues. The Mayor of Hockeytown had more penalty minutes in his career than games played and points combined.

Why are these the guys the team is celebrating? Why is this the moment that has - to my knowledge - been the only ‘Sabres Moment in History’ that’s gotten its own BB&G feature?

The sad answer, and the reason why I realized this video had my blood boiling last night, is that there hasn’t been much of anything else to celebrate the past ten years.

Seriously, let’s make a list of the best, non-tank related Sabres moments from 2007-2017 that you can remember. Here’s mine:

  1. Chris Drury’s tying goal (Who else?) in Game 5 against the Rangers with 7.7 seconds left, and Afinogenov’s OT winner
  2. Ryan Miller winning the Vezina/becoming an American hero for three months
  3. Winning the President’s Trophy in 2007
  4. Drafting Eichel (already featured in BB&G)
  5. The Pegula family buying the team

Out of those five moments, only two of them actually took place on the ice, and both in the same season. Of course there are other, smaller moments to be proud of on the ice, but are they anything that the rest of the league would care about? Are they anything the rest of the league even knows about?

The brawl itself is not my issue here. If you loved last night’s video, that’s fine. Was it a galvanizing moment for the team and the community? Yes. Did a 21-year old me go nuts while it was happening? Hell yes. But the fact that this moment is what the Sabres organization had to celebrate is my issue.

You think the Kings or the Blackhawks are running fond retrospectives of that one great fight they had a decade ago? Did the Penguins throw a parade for the guy who beat up the guy who hit Mario Lemieux? Of course not. Most other teams have playoff victories, All-Stars, division wins, and championships to remember, not the night they lost to Arizona to secure last place.

Where was the 10-year anniversary of the amazing 05-06 team that should have happened last year, a fitting tribute for the team that revitalized the passion for hockey in Buffalo? Where’s the remembrance of the President’s Trophy-winning team in ‘07? Hell, give us a BB&G video about the incredibly fun 7-6 playoff victory against Ottawa in 2006, or the Pominville series winner a few games later. A video about Dominik Hasek. Stories of how fun it was to watch the French Connection. Something that we can show off to the rest of the league and say proudly, “This, you guys! This is what Buffalo Sabres hockey is all about!”

Instead we got a video featuring a bunch of goons talking about a line brawl.

It’s time to move Beyond that, and it’s time for the Sabres as a team to give us a reason to.