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Commentary: Sabres Win Even Though They Lost

By Maria Ceraulo

Buffalo, NY – Back in September, if you'd told me, a die hard Buffalo Sabres fan, that the Sabres would force a Game Seven in a best of seven games Eastern Conference Finals with injuries to several key players, even I would have been skeptical. But that's exactly what happened this year.

In a town starving for recognition, the Sabres put Buffalo in the spotlight again. No, not for its blustery weather or control board government. No, this time it was a guilty pleasure sports.

Over the past few weeks, it has been impossible to drive a mile without seeing Sabres flags proudly waving from passing cars. The whole city would win the Stanley Cup -- hockey's Holy Grail --together or go down fighting.

Buffalo got Cup Crazy again and a city whose sports fans have had their hearts broken more times than we care to remember ended up losing again. And though we were bummed out at not advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals, we were not disappointed with our team. In fact, their performance was inspiring.

The little team that could had no superstars with bloated salaries. The little team that could had a stunning regular season after a lockout year that had no NHL hockey played anywhere. The little team that could was without the services of injured Tim Connolly, Dmitri Kalinin, Henrik Tallinder, Teppo Numminen, and, in the last game (big gasp) Jay McKee. The little team that could just kept on chugging with no excuses. The little team that could rallied around coach Lindy Ruff, yet respected his privacy when his daughter underwent surgery during the playoffs. The little team that could had a coach who was named "Coach of the Year" by Sporting News newspaper and is up for the NHL's Coach of the Year.

No NHL coach did more with less this year than Ruff, regardless of the final outcome of the award voting. According to OLN, the cable channel broadcasting the series, Ruff left his cell phone charger in Carolina and told the hotel staff not to bother sending it back to him, because we'd be back for another game. Now, that's confidence.

It was hard taking the play by play of that series on OLN, which consistently favored the Carolina Hurricanes. Each time Carolina scored or was near scoring, the announcer's voice rose to a crescendo. A Sabres goal or close to it never seemed to get a rise out of the announcer. I listened to each game with the volume lowered, but not turned off, on the television (because I wanted to hear what was being said about Buffalo to the nation) and had the radio going with the voice of the Sabres, Rick Jeanneret.

In the end, things got ugly with words being said by the Carolina players who whined about our ice surface (so it's June and it's humid out) the penalty calls and anything else you can think of. After being interviewed following Carolina's win in Game 7, Rod Brind'Amour should have been a gracious winner, but instead accused Ruff of talking too much and taking the spotlight from his players. In the words of one Sabres fan on a post game radio show that night, "That just made me an Edmonton Oilers fan" referring to the team Carolina will be meeting in advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

A certain watch company would promote its product with the tag line, "It takes a licking, but keeps on ticking." That's exactly what the Sabres did this year. If it's possible to win even when you lose, the Sabres did that too. Hats off to our Buffalo Sabres. You made the city believe, again

Listener-Commentator Maria Ceraulo is a free-lance journalist in Buffalo.

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