Buffalo Sabres Live Fan Reaction Went Too Far


The Buffalo Sabres lost to the Arizona Coyotes in overtime Thursday night by a final score of 4-3.  That’s not the story.  What was one of the more interesting games in recent Buffalo Sabres history, and recent NHL history, due to whats available for the future was, in my opinion, marred by the live fan reaction.

Let’s get this out-of-the-way first.  I understand why fans want the Buffalo Sabres to finish last.  I realize what type of player it guarantees and how that makes the Buffalo Sabres immediately relevant.  While I’m not openly rooting for it, I have resigned myself to looking at the bottom of the standings to make the last two years of suffering mean something to fans.

It’s not just about the fans.  For the last two seasons the Buffalo Sabres have watched quality players traded away for future promise or picks.  Those that remain and play for the most part aren’t thought of as part of the Buffalo Sabres future by fans and some media.  But make no mistake those players are trying to win every time they step on the ice.

Players like captain Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson could have signed anywhere as unrestricted free agents.  But they chose to come play for the Buffalo Sabres.  Gionta was the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, an honor you don’t earn by showing up and going through the motions.  That’s not in his DNA.  Fans can’t expect players to show up and try to lose.

But some do.  I listened to the post game show and heard fans making comments about not understanding how the players can’t appreciate this opportunity.  I cleaned that up.  A LOT.  There are a small group of fans that expect players to just understand how they feel despite working for next years jobs in many cases.  Some of these players aren’t staying with the Buffalo Sabres next year.  But they play hard to earn the right to continue careers.

And yet a group of fans cheered when the Arizona Coyotes scored goals.  Stop it.  Just stop it.  You can root for last place and the pot of gold at the end of this tanking rainbow.  But if you are in the First Niagara Center and the opposing team scores, cheering is not an acceptable reaction.  Paul Hamilton from WGR 550 had some early thoughts about it and I would be one of the fans embarrassed by the cheering of Coyotes goals in the arena.

After two years of rooting for last place the Buffalo Sabres players, those still left here, are exhausted.  They play to win and have done so little of it despite their best efforts.  Part of being a professional athlete is learning how to handle defeat.  But there is nothing that prepares a player for that moment when some home fans turn on you, even if they think it’s for the greater good.

I’m curious how the rest of the NHL viewed that.  If you are an unrestricted free agent after the season as Andrew Vermette is and the Buffalo Sabres called you on July 1st, do you take the call?  Are Buffalo Sabres players the only ones confused or offended by what was heard tonight?  I’ll be very interested to see if tonight comes up in a few months when free agency begins.

Maybe it won’t matter, maybe it will.  Better yet, what does Evander Kane think about what happened tonight?  He’s going to be here next year, you know?  Think he’s looking forward to that atmosphere if next season isn’t going well?

Spare me the argument about player salaries and that they should ‘suck it up’ because they are highly compensated.  That’s rationalizing poor behavior.  Just because someone is highly compensated doesn’t mean they should be subject to that experience, regardless of your profession.  Maybe if a few hundred people charged into your place of employment and booed your efforts or cheered your competitors it might change views.

You spend your money, fans.  I suppose you have the right to express yourself in that way.  But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  If you’re that conflicted about your actions, you shouldn’t be doing it.  Period.  Go to the bar, throw a house party and cheer Coyotes goals from there.

Doing it at a Buffalo Sabres game crosses lines.  The barn is sacred.  If you’re cheering for Arizona because you root for Arizona, that’s fine.  If you’re cheering for Arizona goals because it’s what’s best for the Buffalo Sabres and you’re doing it in the arena, you’ve made a choice I whole-heartedly disagree with.

I am sincerely concerned a group of fans have started a conversation tonight about the Buffalo Sabres that will change the course of the franchise more than selecting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.  As much as I want this season over with so fans can all be on the same page again, I question whether that will ever happen.  This season has divided the Buffalo Sabres fans and tonight pitted them against players wearing the crossed swords.

And that’s a line we can’t uncross.

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