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by Michelle Girardi / Buffalo Sabres

It couldn’t be more appropriate that this season of Beyond Blue and Gold is sponsored by New Era, with the first episode dedicated to the drafting of a player who will have a large role in the future of this franchise. We’re offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the entire process, from the draft lottery through Eichel’s first official moments as a Sabre, including insight from the always-candid Tim Murray and director of amateur scouting Greg Royce.

Six months ago, I decided to leave a decade-long career at NFL Films to accept a position at Pegula Sports and Entertainment. This meant packing up my family in South Jersey and moving to Western New York to join the NHL’s bottom-ranked team. And I couldn’t have been more excited about it.

Sure, there was some homerism in there; I’m a born-and-raised Buffalo girl, after all, and have proudly represented my Sabres wherever I lived. But, as a television feature producer, I tell stories for a living, and it was obvious that there was a good one unfolding here.

We were all but guaranteed to get Jack Eichel, the American phenom from Boston University. It was the happy ending Sabres fans were hoping for, but even more, it was the beginning of – you guessed it – the next chapter in Sabres hockey.

I was one of the first people to greet Jack backstage after he’d been drafted. Although I was anticipating it, I was still struck by his maturity and charisma, even in the midst of the biggest moment of his life. A lot of 18-year-old athletes have confidence, but it comes across as braggadocio.

Jack somehow avoids this pitfall, which you’ll see in our exclusive footage from his combine interview with the Sabres front office, and in the way he describes the moment he knew the Sabres were selecting him for sure (Spoiler alert: this involves an epic Tim Murray moment).

It’s a special thing to watch someone’s dreams come true, and I feel lucky to be able to share Jack’s big moment—our big moment, really—with all the Sabres fans who’ve waited so patiently for this next, exciting chapter to begin.

Of course, adding one young player, however talented, won’t have us eating Lucky Charms out of Lord Stanley’s Cup. That’s why Tim Murray has made more deals than Monty Hall (or, for the kids, Wayne Brady) to rebuild the team.

No matter how much talent is assembled, learning to play and win as a team takes time. But the fact that it only took two-and-a-half periods for Eichel to score his first NHL goal sure offered us a great taste of things to come. Feeling the explosion of pent-up joy from the fans in First Niagara Center reinforced the enormity of that moment.

There’s still no guarantee of parades down Washington Street. But once we start winning, what will we remember as the impetus?

“Buffalo selects Jack Eichel.”

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