Every year, the NHL schedule reveal is a big deal for me. Being a Rangers fan that lives outside New York, I always like to see when they come to Boston so I can see them play, as well as on the road anywhere else, or even in New York on a long weekend. I have a friend who is a Sabres fan, and Jonny is a Bruins fan, so lucky for them, both of their teams played each other in Buffalo on Opening Night. We joked about going out there to watch the game during the middle of a busy school week during a busy senior year.
Little did we know this dream would become reality…
We actually secured a plan to go to Buffalo. On a random school night. In October. And come back in the same day. Wild.
After an easy flight to Buffalo and a quick stop at the Anchor Bar for some wings (these are the best wings I have ever had; unsurprisingly as they invented the damn things…), we went over to the KeyBank Center to catch the game. My friend had mentioned to me something involving a press conference. I figured we’d be standing in the back of the room for Housley’s presser; cool but nothing too too special, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything much in there. I met up with John Lydic, the guy showing me around before the game, and we got our press passes.
Once in the arena, we immediately were within the bowels of the arena, and John actually told me we had to stay put, as the Sabres were about to walk through after warmups. Sure enough, a few minutes later, here they came. You can’t take pictures or ask for autographs down there, so I just stood and watched. I gave some of the players a head nod, and they returned the favor. I was within feet of Rasmus Dahlin on his debut night. Cool stuff.
After the players left, John and I headed up to the press box. I didn’t get any pictures of the press box itself, but it was standard fare. A lot of hallway space with people milling about, and spaces to grab a bite to eat. I didn’t take advantage of the ice cream coolers they had up there; in retrospect I probably should’ve…
The view from up there was nice, as you could see the entire ice surface clearly. You could tell there was a buzz in the air, as the game drew a good crowd, and everyone was into it early. One thing that did surprise me was the lack of communication between media members. Like, it was SILENT. No guys that knew each other said a word. I was taken aback by this, as I expected at least some sort of activity up there, and after seeing that, I wondered if I’d like watching hockey in silence for a career, and the answer there is a fat no.
I watched the first from the press box, and it was a decent period; the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead, with Dexter Southfield alum Ryan Donato potting a beauty on the power play. Once it ended, I told John I was going to watch the second and part of the third with my guys. From there, I just jumped on the elevator and went down to the 100s. The second was pretty uneventful outside of a goal from David Pastrnak. With 10 minutes to go in the third, I met up with John again, only this time, he dropped a bomb on me…
“Yeah so we’re gonna head down to the locker room for postgame stuff; is there any player in particular you want to hit for an interview?”
Excuse me, WHAT?!?!
I panicked and came up with a few generic questions I could ask while waiting in the press conference room where Phil Housley would give his postgame comments once players wrapped up their interviews. Here’s a picture before media packed the room:
Once the game ended, we lined up outside the Sabres locker room with every other media member. It was packed; practically the entire country of Sweden had shown up for Dahlin alone. Once ready, we entered the room. I was unable to take pictures in the locker room, but it was nice. A bit smaller than I expected, but the amenities were clean and modern.
As soon as I got in, the crowd for Eichel was rows deep, and there was just no chance for me to get to him. I then tried to jump over to Dahlin, but after standing for a minute listening to him talk in nothing but Swedish, I kinda gave that up and looked around for an open player. Sure enough, Carter Hutton was swarmed by nobody at the moment. I walked up to him and asked if he had a few minutes, and he said yes but he needed to get his skates off first. This was my chance!
I figured that with his first game as a Sabre, it was a good idea to ask him how he felt. Then, based off of the answer he gave me, on the spot I decided to next ask him about how the team could generate offense going forward, and how he felt with his game. He gave me good answers and was polite. I thanked him and appreciated the answers; I wouldn’t have been nearly as cooperative if my team had just gotten pumped in our home opener.
Eventually, I figured out how to get the players I wanted, but it was too late. Once the camera people clear out, there’s room for you to chat with the player one-on-one without as much going on around you. But, by the time I realized this, they were all wrapped up. I almost got Okposo, but he headed out right before I was going to talk to him. Nonetheless, an amazing experience.
From there, it was back to the press room for Housley’s postgame interview.
This picture doesn’t show accurately how crowded it was—it was PACKED. I overheard one Buffalo media member mention that he hasn’t seen it that crowded for playoff games or games against Montreal and Toronto; he also added that it was probably time for a new press room. Housley was obviously upset with the product on the ice, but he too gave good answers and was cooperative. Once he was done, I met up with everyone after, and we went back to the airport.
This entire trip was a great experience for me. It’s obviously fun to go see a hockey game, it’s even more fun if you go get some unreal wings on a random school night out of town with your boys, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to get to be a credentialed press member for a night.
Special thanks to Kevin Lilly for hooking me up with the press pass and coordinating this entire thing. Surreal is the only word I can use to describe the whole evening.
Follow me on Twitter: @svdecaps
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