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#Duffalo: Kicking off Season 2 of the blog

Brian Duff tells you what's happening on the ice, on the road, and in the community

by Brian Duff @duffersabres / Sabres.com

If you came here in search of hot takes on former Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, I can't blame you. But I've matured these past few months, and here's hoping my tri-weekly (?) blog has too.

Welcome to Season 2 of #Duffalo, where hockey, non-hockey, our amazing community and the unexpected/unusual come to meet. 

 

ON ICE - #ColdHardTruth

Outside of KeyBank Center, it was balmy in the second week of October. Inside, consecutive days posted agonizing chills of -15 and -9.

Considering the circumstances - longer-term injuries to Jack Eichel and Evander Kane - and a less than healthy roster on opening night, I think one should probably consider the glass half full after the first three games.

Yes, three one-goal leads evaporating in Calgary is hard to stomach, but in a league where getting to overtime is critical, and wasn't always easy for the Sabres in recent years, you take what you can and move on.

It's far too early to make bold statements about areas of the teams' game that appear better/worse/dramatically different than a year ago.

But I do believe there is a greater trust among the group. 

Trust in their fellow teammates. 

Trust in their game plan and how to execute it.

And even trust when dealing with people (like our crew) who are around them on a daily basis.

The latter is a little harder to explain, but I feel that whether we are talking to players for a future Beyond Blue & Gold episode, or for a daily practice report, or just about how things are going for them in life in general, the conversations are much easier now. 

It speaks to the maturation process. And I hope it translates for the fans who are always eager to learn more about the players and team they adore.

Of course, no one in club history has ever had a deeper connection to ALL of the players than Equipment Manager Rip Simonick.

Video: Rip Simonick's 3,500th Game

The year I joined the Sabres (in a part-time role) was the 2011-12 season. In the five months before that season began, Rip lost his wife Mary Ann (nee McGuire) and his brother-in-law E.J. McGuire, the NHL's former Director of Central Scouting who had also coached with many teams during his life in hockey.
Through my time with NHL Network I'd had the pleasure of interviewing E.J. often, and Rip knew that. 

And even though his heart was so broken at the time, Rip loved to tell E.J. stories, and I was honored to listen and learn about how the McGuire family became his family.

 

OFF ICE - "30 for 30" 

From Stony Creek, Ont. to the end of many an NHL fan's bucket list. Congratulations to Bill and Lisa Kurpel who made it to Edmonton and Calgary this past week to see their beloved Sabres and complete stops 29 and 30 on their NHL arena tour.

 

Season ticket holders in Buffalo for much of the past decade, these two Ontario Provincial Police Officers (Bill served for 30 years and retired out of the Niagara Falls detachment in 2007 while Lisa is still working - 22 years and counting - out of Burlington) came by their love of the Sabres honestly.

"Our dislike for the Leafs," Lisa said with Bill nodding in agreement.

And their sound reasoning went beyond that.

"The Buffalo people. The arena itself. The close proximity [from where we live]. Not to mention our longtime broadcaster Rick Jeanneret," Bill added.

And, said Lisa, "The tenacity of the fans, sticking with it even though they haven't won yet."

The couple figures that, over the years, they've managed to catch the Sabres at about 80 percent of their NHL stopovers, making the experiences that much more special.

But now that they've finally crossed them all off, the NHL is making it hard for them to rest on their laurels, with Las Vegas on the way for 2017-18, and a new rink in the Motor City that same year.

"Yes, the Vegas trip is already in the back of our minds," Bill admitted.

And Detroit is very special to Lisa.

"My favorite arena is still the Joe Louis. It's got hockey tradition and I met Gordie Howe there. That's going to be the saddest," she said. "We've got tickets in November for our last game there. But then we'll have to go to the new arena in Detroit next year. So even though our bucket list ends tonight, as they build new arenas we'll probably still go."

Ryan Miller, Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis and Jack Eichel headlined Bill's list of favorite Sabres over the years.

Lisa concurred but added, "[Andrew] Peters! And Rob Ray."

And we'll add Bill and Lisa Kurpel to our favorites list. Safe travels to you both. I'm sure we'll see you at another NHL arena in the near future.

 

LIFE ON THE ROAD - #NothingToSeeHere

These are the highlights so far:

Marquette, Michigan (October 4)

Tweet from @duffersabres: Well, was not expecting this in #Marquette for #KraftHockeyville Rayzor's hot dog stand... @robray32 @BuffaloSabres pic.twitter.com/LyEalQmMjg

Edmonton, Alberta (October 15)

It can only get better, right???


IN THE COMMUNITY - #HockeyFightsCancer

For me, one week from tomorrow marks the most important date on the Sabres 2016-17 calendar.

Like you, I'll be thinking of those who are among the toughest, bravest, most courageous people we've ever met.

R.J. 
Jim Kelly.
Dave Strader.
My mom.

And Nate Brundage.

  

We met Nate back in the spring as he was truly the star of the night at the annual Make-A-Wish gala.
Just over a week ago, we attended his funeral in Niagara Falls.

Nate was 19.

A few months earlier, it was a funeral for an equally inspiring young man: Jonathan Hecht, whom we got to know through Camp Good Days. 

Jonathan was 23.

The power and the purpose behind these nights cannot fade. We have to stay strong and support those who are in the fight, and stay committed to finding a cure.

Our Hockey Fights Cancer Night is on Oct. 27 when we play the Wild. There is a special ticket and T-shirt offer available at sabres.com/hockeyfightscancer.

 

Another special event is happening on Nov. 12 and 13. 

A team representing Impact Sports Performance North and South has entered to compete in the World's Toughest Mudder in support of Camp Good Days.

The team of five will face a 5-mile course in Nevada that features 22-plus grueling obstacles, completing as many laps as they can in a 24-hour time period.

Impact Sports has created a fundraising page on behalf of Camp Good Days and is accepting donations and pledges toward their participation in the competition. Proceeds raised will go directly to Camp Good Days and their mission of making the lives of children dealing with cancer as happy and rewarding as possible.

Also, anyone who donates at least $50 will receive a "CAMP GOOD DAYS GETS TOUGH" T-shirt, and a complimentary group training session at either of the Impact Sports Performance locations.

You can donate by clicking here.

 

#DUFFALO THREE STARS 

For the period ending October 19

I can't top what "Lionel" offered after the Sabres OT loss in Calgary last night...

Tweet from @C3U1S5E: @duffersabres Lexus Leaders:1. Whistle 2. Ref Skate3. Non-Boarding Call

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