The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 04/21/13 at 09:00 AM ET
Talk about kicking a gift horse in the mouth.
Is there something about the diehard hockey fans of Buffalo that’s become too much for this group of Sabres to handle?
If fans can dish it out, they can take it back? This town has been “taking it” for the better part of 43 years, and the Stanley Cup-hungry Buffalo faithful repeatedly look past their dissatisfaction with an inferior product by emptying their wallets to fill the building.
It was cute at first, but the constant pouting coming from this group of underachievers has really gotten tiresome.
The fan favorite and de facto captain called out the crowd for booing a team that couldn’t clear the puck out of its own end faster than the time it takes to get a $7 beer. That scolding came to pass, because Steve Ott is the only player on the team that can get away with it.
Darcy Regier, the last man in Western New York and Southern Ontario who should dare criticize the fans for as much as yelling to shoot on the power play, said a few days later during his radio segment that he agreed with Ott’s assessment.
Patrick Kaleta has been practically begging Sabres fans to get riled up and rowdy, theorizing that the positive energy would offer a much-needed boost. The gritty homegrown forward isn’t to be criticized for this, perhaps other than for not accepting that the real problem lies within his own dressing room.
And now Ryan Miller, who Friday night apparently failed to notice the large number of boisterous unfriendlies donning Rangers jerseys, suggested that it should be par for the course -- no pun intended given the consequence of losing that game -- for frustrated Sabres fans to accept heckling from the players.
At least Ron Rolston saves his temper tantrums for the media, about whom we’ve been told are professionally trained to dish it out and take it back.
Does this hypersensitive cast of characters think the concept of booing was invented in Buffalo? What do these guys honestly think the reaction would be if they were in Philly or Toronto wearing Flyers or Leafs jerseys? Or even if they played for the top team in the league?
Booing is a perfectly natural reaction to bad play. It’s as inevitable for a pro sports team as death and taxes in the real world. And if I were anyone running a team, I'd joyously take the scene Friday night in Buffalo over a half-empty building of bandwagoners any day.
Take a look at the mighty Penguins and Blackhawks, and flash back to what games were like in their buildings before the wonders of the NHL draft guided their ascent to greatness. It wasn't pretty.
What exactly is the problem the Sabres organization is having with its fans, whose biggest fault is being ardently loyal to teams that have often been propped up as contenders only to play out as complete failures?
This weary fan base has been through six straight years without winning a playoff series, the dismantling of a championship-caliber core by incompetent management, a bankruptcy that almost stripped away the franchise, a filthy criminal owner, possible deprivation of two Stanley Cups due to a disregard for the rules and a defenseman's staph infection, the trades of four beloved captains, and the kicking to the curb of two of the most popular coaches in team history.
And that’s just in the past 16 years, folks.
Are Sabres fans still not showing their team enough love? That same following that sees thousands of people outside the building screaming with pom-poms during playoff games? Is it a disingenuous community that swarms the building for meaningless intrasquad scrimmages and constantly ranks near the top in television ratings and merchandise sales?
Buffalo loves a hard working group, and it demands a roster of players with a hatred of losing. Take a look back at the 1995-96 squad. They lost a lot, and they hated it. Many older fans will tell you it was one of their favorite teams ever.
Looking away when your goalie is run, checking out during big games, telling the media that fighting isn’t your job, and whining about fans that detest all of the above are some surefire ways of lulling your customers into a state of indifference.
Is that suggestion box still open, Mr. Black? Well, here comes my contribution. Use your boatload of draft picks to build a team that refuses to be outworked by the opposition, despises losing hockey games with every fiber of its being, and is secure enough to accept some flak from the fans when things aren’t going well.
It’s a love - hate relationship that this city has with the team. But when all the cards are on the table, Buffalo truly does love the Sabres. And if some occasional fan crankiness has driven you to want to play somewhere else, then just be careful what you wish for, because you’ll be shocked to learn that every other hockey city that gives a damn about its team will act the same way.
It’s a pretty simple concept. You get what you give.
Audio clip courtesy of WGR SportsRadio 550.
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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.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]