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20 Years After ‘Wide Right’, One Thing Hasn’t Changed

It was 20 years ago today that Buffalo lost a tough one, and by the narrowest of margins.  The Calgary Flames came into town and beat the Sabres 5-4 at Memorial Auditorium.  Rick Dudley was the Sabres head coach, and his assistant was a young and fiery up-and-comer named John Tortorella. 

Sabres fans and media were questioning the toughness of Dale Hawerchuk and Pierre Turgeon and the worthiness of their $500,000 salaries.  Buffalo media legend Ted Darling was in his final full season in the broadcast booth.  There were captaincy issues as Mike Ramsey had just replaced Mike Foligno, who was traded to Toronto.  The Sabres were an average team trodding along with 51 points near the end of January.

It so happens that there was another game that day, with a little bit more at stake, that was of interest to Buffalo fans, and for that matter people all over the world.

Ask any Bills fan and they’ll tell you exactly where they were.  I was at a family party and still remember warning anyone who’d listen, as Scott Norwood lined up for that fateful kick, that a 47-yard attempt was a long one for him.  This wasn’t brilliant football insight as much as it was emotional self-protection for a Buffalo sports fan who’d been predisposed to negative conditioning.  It didn’t do much for the sick feeling of watching that ball sail to the right.

For the Sabres, it’s funny how many parallels exist between 20 years ago and today.  Star forwards Derek Roy and Tim Connolly are criticized for soft play and lack of playoff production.  Rick Jeanneret, another Buffalo media legend, could be in his final season in the Sabres broadcast booth.  The captaincy is an issue, with rumblings that Lindy Ruff is waiting for Craig Rivet to voluntarily give it up.  And inconsequentially, the Sabres 20 years later to the day once again have 51 points.

But, in the grand scheme of things, none of that stuff really matters for sports fans in this community.  There’s really only one thing that hasn’t changed, and it’s the fact that this city is still without a major championship.  That haze of reality hangs over Buffalo darker than the clouds that deliver to us our refreshing lake effect snow from Lake Erie.

Many if not most Sabres fans are also Bills fans.  But even for those who aren’t, today’s anniversary of Super Bowl XXV is just an ugly little reminder of No Goal in 1999, being two games away from winning the Stanley Cup in 1975, and those stacked teams that couldn’t close the deal in 1980 and 2006.

Look ahead to the next 20 years with hope, Buffalo faithful.  Considering the heartbreak we’ve endured, things can only be better.

@DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: buffalo+sabres, dale+hawerchuk, derek+roy, mike+foligno, mike+ramsey, no+goal, pierre+turgeon, rick+jeanneret, scott+norwood, super+bowl+xxv, ted+darling, tim+connolly

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

 

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