As I sit and think about what I should be watching on a Tuesday night, (Sabres vs Senators), I’ve been scrolling through pictures of games that I’ve been at. I got to thinking about what games I’ve been to, and what games I wish I was at.
I figured I’d break this up into 2 questions. 1. What’s the best hockey game(s) that you ever went to? and 2. What game(s) do you wish that you went to/were alive for?
For me, there’s so many games that are in competition for the best game that I went to. In the end, only one stands out.
March 23, 2007- Toronto Maple Leafs @ Buffalo Sabres
I went to this game on a whim, purchasing tickets just days before the game. I had forgotten what it was like to go to a Sabres Leafs game. It always felt like half of Toronto came down for the games hence I avoided them. After 2 periods, it was a classic tight hockey game, but Toronto was clearly playing harder than Buffalo. To start the 3rd, Toronto pounced on 2 Buffalo mistakes to make the game 4-1 with 16:08 to go in the game. Miller even threw his stick at the boards in frustration.
I remember turning to the person I was with, and saying; “You know, I just hope Buffalo gets a couple goals, make it look a little better than it is.”
The Sabres got a quick power play and Thomas Vanek delivered his 2nd goal of the night to make it 4-2. I glanced up at the scoreboard, 14:33 left. Now, I normally jump out of my seat when Buffalo scores, and I’m one of the last to sit down. I didn’t even get up for this one. Just under 4 minutes later, Danny Briere slips one past Leaf goalie Andrew Raycroft. I jumped up for that one, there was light “Ray-Croft, Ray-Croft” chant starting to cascade down from the rafters. When I sat down, I looked at the clock, 10:48 left.
In the back of my head, I heard “What if... Nah, no way.” However, I was back on the edge of my seat, like all 18,690 in HSBC Arena.
What happened next, I couldn’t believe. Buffalo’s Jochen Hecht and Danny Briere force a turnover and hit Jason Pominville as he walked in alone on Raycroft. He let a quick wrist shot go that beat Raycroft. Game tied. The arena erupted that would make one think that the Sabres had just won a playoff game in overtime. On the clock, there was 6:08 to go in the game.
If I couldn’t believe Pominville’s goal, I was stunned over the next 20 seconds. The face off ended up going back to the Buffalo end, Buffalo got possession of the puck and took off on a 3 on 2. Vanek carried the puck in over the line as Stafford charged the net. Vanek fired a pass to Stafford that he tapped past Raycroft to give Buffalo a 5-4 lead. The “Ray-Croft, Ray-Croft” chant was over powering.
Let’s recap- in less than 10 minutes, Buffalo had gotten 4 goals and had a 5-4 lead with 5:48 left in the game.
HSBC was electric!! It sounded like Buffalo had just won the Cup. The game ended, with Mats Sundin getting a great opportunity to score on Miller in the dying seconds of the 3rd, and Miller stopped him cold. It was a regular season game, but it felt like so much more. How often does a team overcome a deficit that big, with only 16:08 left in the game? It was a great win, and a memory that I hope to pass through to generations to come.
So then I started thinking, what game do I wish I was at? There’s several that pop into mind, and several things that I wish I would have been able to see...
Part of what I base games I go to on, is based on who plays for the other team. I like being able to say; “I saw Dominik Hasek, Ovechkin, and (can’t believe I’m saying this), Sidney Crosby”. I would have loved to have seen several players play in person. Among those, I wish I had seen Gretzky play, especially the early years in Edmonton. It would have been a joy to watch. I also would have liked to see some of the greats throughout the years play, Howe, Maurice Richard, Orr, just to say I saw them.
Of course, I was born too late to see the French Connection play in Buffalo. I wish I had been able to see them play. Any game where they were together would have been worth it. As for specific games, I have 2 that I wish I was at. The first is the famous “May Day” game on April 24, 1993. Now, I spent that game celebrating my mom’s birthday, watching the game and eating pizza with my family. It would have been great to be there though, but I wouldn’t trade the memory of watching that game with my family for the world. The other game would have been the 4 overtime barn burner between the Sabres and the Devils on April 27, 1994.
However, there’s 1 game that is the 1 game I wish I could have been at. The only problem with this one, like many of the players I wish I could have seen, I wasn’t alive for this game. I’ve watched it several times on TV, because I never tire of watching it. That game is the classic 1980 game; USA vs Soviet Union, the Miracle On Ice game. I think it’s one of the best moments in hockey history if not the best moment in hockey history. This is a hockey game that on paper was just a game, but it meant so much more to so many people.
For those of you who have been to Lake Placid, you can walk right into the Herb Brooks Arena. I dragged my wife there in May of this past year. There wasn’t any ice down, and you could walk right out onto the floor of the arena. In the rafters, a video was running a replay of the game. As I stood on the “ice”, I could hear the dying seconds of the game playing over the sound system, and hear Al Michael’s screaming “Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?... YES!!!” I got chills. I even have a 1980 USA jersey. I just wish that I could have gone to that hockey game. (The picture on betweenthebenches.com is me on the 1980 ice rink)
So now, I open this up to you. Tell us what your favorite game you attended, and what game you wish you had been able to go to when you were younger.