Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/16/09 at 06:26 PM ET
On Saturday, the Hurricanes will be visiting Buffalo for the first time this season. I won’t be able to watch because I have a family commitment, but I’ll DVR the game for later viewing. This is a new rivalry that was pretty much born in the 2006 Eastern Conference finals. Since then, Canes fans and Sabres fans have pretty much been at each others’ throats.
Some folks down here treat Carolina-Buffalo like it’s Duke and UNC. It’s all about hate.
This is a very unfashionable thing to say, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t hate Buffalo. I don’t even dislike Buffalo. I tried to buy into that system. I even partook of the Hatorade briefly, but it never felt right. While other Canes fans will swear up and down that every Sabres fan is the spawn of Mephistopheles and so on and so forth, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Sabres fans. I kinda liked the Sabres before this whole thing started, and I still kinda like them.
The paragraphs below will explain. The anecdotes are related to hockey, but are mostly about personal stuff.
To be fair, I should admit that my brief traipse into Sabre hatred was really childish. I have tons of acquaintances, but don’t have a whole lot of friends. The ones that I do have, I like to keep close. I have a good friend named Amanda who is a relocated Western New Yorker and a big Sabres fan. I met her in March of 2004, and we became very close friends during the lockout. During the 05-06 season, I brought her with me to a both Canes-Sabres regular season home games. We watched others on teevee. We watched playoff games together without incident, even while some Canes fans started to hate all Sabres fans. More on that sub-story in a bit.
During the summer of 2006 when thing slowed down in blogger world, I was paying attention to what the Sabres were doing. I wrote a series of posts, each criticizing the Sabres for one thing or another. When Amanda asked me to cut it out, I maintained my position and continued to criticize the Sabres. Instead of honoring the request of a friend, I kept at it. I could have been writing about any dozen other things that wouldn’t have put stress on our friendship, but I was obsessed with what was going on up there. I ignored her requests and pushed her away in the process. It was a slow process that was exacerbated by other bits of selfishness and childishness on my part. Eventually, we weren’t even on speaking terms. She had gone from being someone who I spoke to every day and told everything to being a stranger.
The more I realized that I didn’t have this friend any more, the more I childishly tried to disassociate myself with the Sabres. I hopped onto the “I hate Sabres” wagon. At one point, I was even quoted in a post on the Slapshot blog as saying “I hope the Sabres never win another game”. Even when I typed that answer to the question, I didn’t feel it. It was just part of my dealing with the situation. Not the right way.
More than a year passed, and Amanda moved to Colorado. After she had been there a few months and after a couple of pathetic attempts to contact her via networking websites, the silence was broken. She reached out with a text message. We exchanged a few texts, then some phone calls. Then, coincedentally, she moved back to North Carolina. We’re nowhere near as close as we once were, but I’m very happy that we’re back on friendly terms.
Aside from that situation, I’ve had good interaction with Sabres fans. There are loads of reports about visiting Sabres fans being rude and disrespectful and violent, but I’ve never experienced any of that. In fact, during the ECF, I spent all afternoon of game 2 tailgating with some Buffalo fans who had driven down. Actually before AND after the game. We shared beer, they shared food. We all got along without incident. I talked with dozens of other Buffalonians that day and throughout that series, and I found them all to be respectful. Of course I saw some who were being obnoxious, but there were more than a fair share of Canes fans being equally or more obnoxious. I’ll always have fond memories of those guys who fed me and a friend some of their delicious dagwood sandwich. Of course it’s easier to cherish that memory because things worked out for the Canes, but it was still a genuinely good time.
At the end of all this, my point is that I don’t have anything against the Sabres. I’ll lose some Caniac points for that, but it’s the truth. I only pretended to hate them as a coping mechanism when I pushed away one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.