There was a lot of negativity surrounding the end of last season and the lack of any big moves in the off-season.  It’s a giant relief to be looking at a fresh slate of 82 games.  Anything is possible.  Besides the big picture of wanting the team to win The Cup, there are many little things that hockey season brings.  Here are a few of the small things to get excited about.

Going ice skating and playing ice hockey:  Depending on where you live you can go ice skating anytime.  But skating or putting on the equipment during hockey season makes you feel a part of the action.  Whether you are just learning to skate or practicing your Alexander Ovechkin goal celebration, it’s a great feeling to get out on the ice.

Hockey Garb (Clothing): Jerseys, winter hats, gloves, T-shirts, sweatshirts.  Time to open up the winter closet and shake the dust off your winter clothing.  If you live in Upstate NY many of your winter clothes may double as Sabre gear and vice versa.  Hopefully The Sabres haven’t traded the guy whose jersey you paid $150 for last year.  If so, I recommend next time going with a Sabres legend such as Lafontaine, Perreault, May, Ray, etc. 

Camaraderie: Nothing brings people together like Sabres hockey.  Get ready to high-five strangers in bars and have random hockey conversations with the Tim Horton’s drive-thru guy.  ‘Do you think Tim Connolly or Derek Roy should be first line center?’  I’m not sure, I just want my coffee.  If The Sabres do well it can make you forget life’s problems at least for 3 – 20 minute periods.  We all remember the playoff run of ’05-’06; it seriously felt like we were all part of one big Sabres family.  Pretty special.     

Distraction from the Bills: I love The Bills, but they’re terrible right now.  Thank goodness there’s another team in town.

Looking forward to the games: Checking your magnet schedule while you eat breakfast, thinking about the game all day at work, and finally sitting down in front of the TV at 7pm.  Workdays are a little easier to get through when there’s a Sabres game on the other end.

Rick Jeanneret: Need I say more.  This man’s voice is as much a part of Buffalo Sabres hockey as the two crossed swords on the crest of their sweaters.

Rivalries: We’ve got Ottawa right off the bat.  They still have Chris Neil; we still hate them.  Toronto is getting better and should be a fun rivalry.  Due to last year’s first round playoff match I foresee the Boston rivalry being renewed this year; at least in the eyes of the fans.

Going to Games at HSBC Arena (and other arenas):  There’s nothing like the human energy inside of HSBC during a Friday night Sabres home game.  It’s the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night in Buffalo, NY.  Riding the subway car down Main Street packed with Jersey-clad Sabre fans of all ages.  All the ladies are dressed up in their Derek Roy jerseys, and we dudes are hiding our fat with an XL Ryan Miller jersey.  22 oz. Labatt’s, Nachos with cheese that hardens into rubber unless you eat it in 5 minutes, 48 oz. souvenir cups of pop that YOU WILL spill all over your pants, kids playing knee hockey in the concourse.  It’s all a part of the game day experience.  Once you get to your seat you’ve got Doug Allen singing the American and Canadian Anthems.  I love that they sing both anthems in Buffalo.  Later in the season the walk from your car to the Arena can be brutally cold and windy.  But once you’re inside of HSBC all is forgotten and it’s GAME ON!

As a hockey expert, one of my favorite game day indulgences is pointing to the rafters and explaining to first-timers that Tim Horton was a real person; and actually played hockey for The Sabres.

Going to see games in other arenas is usually not as exciting.  What IS great about going to road games is finding other Buffalo fans.  I’ve been to games in LA, Anaheim, and NY (Rangers).  There’s usually a nearby bar that Buffalo fans meet at to rev up for the game.  Once you’re inside the opposing Arena, it’s funny to listen to opposing fans comment on the large # of Buffalo fans (and sometimes their behavior).  We’re everywhere; Deal with it!

Things to get excited that are specifically about the team:

1)    A full season of Tyler Ennis.  Let’s see what this kid can do.

2)    Tyler Myers will still be good.  I do not foresee a sophomore slump.  There will be nowhere near the excitement of last year when he came out of nowhere and grabbed the #1 D-Man role.  However, it’s still exciting to have a 20 year old Norris candidate on your squad.

3)    Rob Niedermayer.  He’s old, he’s on the 3rd line, but he’s NEW, and might just make the 3rd line into more of a scoring line.  Remember when the Sabres had 3 good scoring lines?  (’05-’07)

4)    Cody McCormick.  He fights.  I like Fights.

5)    We’ve got a great goalie.

Let’s Get Excited!  Are you excited?  I am.

GAME ON