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The Sabres Observer

McEichel Race Reveals Cold Truth About Loyalty

I walked into the locker room last night and made a hard stop when I got within ten feet of Mike Weber, who was doing his postgame media scrum.

I wasn't getting any closer.

It was nothing more than a natural reaction. The Sabres defenseman was fuming, angry and bitter at Buffalo's home crowd for cheering for the Coyotes.

While I subconsciously knew it wouldn't happen, Weber looked upset enough to randomly take a swing at someone, and I didn't want to be the guy making the headlines.

Arizona won 4-3 in overtime, and the gap between the guarantee of a McEichel brother and 29th place, to the delight of most Sabres fans, now stands at six points.

You're going to be seeing and hearing some unflattering comments about Buffalo fans and their behavior last night. But those reports will be flawed and rooted in overgeneralizations, because the truth of the matter is the vast majority were not openly cheering for the Coyotes.

There were about 16,000 fans in the building, and a loud and vocal minority of about 3,000 were the ones you heard after Arizona goals.

Does Weber have a right to be bitter at the perceived lack of loyalty? Of course he does -- just as fans are entitled to react the same way when one of their beloved players breaks their hearts by jumping ship to play for a different team.



Loyalty is a strange concept in sports, and a cold reality is exposed when certain temptations arise.

Players can bond emotionally to a fan base, but those feelings get second billing when a larger contract or a better team comes calling.

Fans get attached to their heroes, but the yearning desire to follow a championship team will always take precedence. As Jerry Seinfeld accurately observed, we're rooting for clothes regardless of who's wearing them.

I'm not a proponent of donning tank shirts or opposing team logos, posting "Pray For McDavid" signs on the walls in the 300 level, or even cheering loudly for my team to lose. It's personally just not my thing.

But I can tell you there were a lot of excited and happy people in the building last night, and as the game went on they got louder and had more fun. That's noteworthy when talking about an arena that's seen enough excitement during games in recent years to reach the decibel level of a washing machine.

With an elite franchise center now apparently on the way, this team could be on the path to relevance and annually contending for the Stanley Cup.

If that happens, it will be great if Weber is a part of it. He's a character guy who adds a needed physical element on the ice and a strong voice in the locker room.

But if he's not, then so be it. There's too much at stake to care, and to be honest, last night's game and player reaction will be long forgotten when Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid are racking up points and taking this city by storm.

No matter how much we admire and respect any man currently wearing the jersey with our logo, there's a harsh truth to accept. Buffalo fans loved, cheered for and suffered with their Sabres long before he got here, and they'll continue to do so long after he leaves.


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Alan's avatar

It bothered me a lot when fans would do that here in Atlanta.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 03/27/15 at 01:32 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Players can bond emotionally to a fan base, but those feelings get second billing when a larger contract or a better team comes calling.

I immediately thought of CuJo when he signed on with the Wings after an immense amount of begging and pleas from the TO faithful.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 03/27/15 at 01:52 PM ET

KelseyAnn's avatar

Players can bond emotionally to a fan base, but those feelings get second billing when a larger contract or a better team comes calling.

Very true, and another way players can leave town is management not showing them loyalty. Chris Chelios loved it in Chicago before he got traded, but in his autobiography he notes that there was a lot of shadiness and dishonesty from the Chicago organization in terms of his expiring contract and what they wanted to do with him, so while he initially did not want a trade under any circumstances, he eventually said eff it and started to look at teams he wanted to be traded to.

Posted by KelseyAnn from Ahwatukee, Arizona on 03/27/15 at 03:40 PM ET

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]