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#DUFFALO: MEMORABLE NIGHTS WITH SURVIVORS, VETERANS AND RINGO

by Brian Duff / Buffalo Sabres

Equipment managers, training staff, and hockey folks in general are always leaning to the lighter side.

So I knew it had to be funny when Sabres equipment manager Dave Williams sought me out only a week or so after my first blog posting of the season...

(Names have been removed to protect the innocent)

That actually happened. SMH.


Beyond that little moment of levity though, it’s been an eventful and emotional few weeks since last we spoke in this forum.

Starting with Hockey Fights Cancer night at First Niagara Center on Oct. 24.

For the second straight year it was an unforgettable experience to be a part of. And here’s a few more reasons why: from left to right - Nya Ricks, and Jack and Sydney Frost.

It was a couple of years ago when I had the privilege of tagging along with a few of the Sabres players on one of their many visits to Roswell Park.

Little Nya stood out for her attitude, confidence, and determination. I promised myself that I would never forget her name. If you missed her story in the Buffalo News from a year ago, you might never forget her either.

But she wasn’t the only unforgettable part of that visit.

How does one even begin to explain meeting siblings in the same cancer ward?

How cruel can life be to one set of parents?

This is the condensed version of what the Frost family has been going through, as shared by their mom Sue after we reconnected on Hockey Fights Cancer Night.

"Sydney had her bone marrow transplant in August 2013. She was in the hospital for a total of 231 days. It took her over a year to really get back to a new normal life. Sydney is now 13 years old and back to school full time and she is enjoying life again.

"Jack had his bone marrow transplant July 2013. During the last two years Jack seemed to get every rare side effect from his meds. He was in and out of the hospital for a few months after his BMT. He managed to stay well for a year with no hospital visits until February 2015. He had an infection in his body which went to his brain. Jack needed major brain surgery. He had to learn to walk and talk again. And after eight months, he is doing OK. Jack still has a long road ahead of him. He is trying to go to school a couple half days a week. He is now 11 years old and is probably one of the Sabres biggest fans!"

I know that last part to be emphatically true. I had met Jack a few times at the arena before that day in the hospital. He knew a lot about EVERYTHING Sabres related.

But seeing him and his sister in the same room together at Roswell just...

The fact that all three of them - Nya, Jack, and Sydney - were not only at the arena Oct. 24, but were as happy to join us on the set as we were to have them, will forever be my favorite memory of HFC 2015.


Former Sabre Danny Briere spent countless hours with kids in similar situations, especially those at Camp Good Days, during his time in Buffalo. Many of those children affectionately became part of Briere’s Bunch.

No surprise then that a bunch of Buffalonians flew down to see Danny be honored by the Flyers and their fans on Oct. 27.

Camp Good Days Regional Director Lisa Booz couldn’t make the trip, but she also couldn’t help but have great things to say about the former Sabres co-captain.

"Danny Briere was a champion to children with cancer on and off the ice while in Buffalo. He not only was generous with his donations, he was equally generous with his time,” she said. “There are hundreds of kids in Western New York with smiles on their faces as part of Danny's good deeds! We miss him!!"

Count Ryan O’Reilly as one of the many players who had nothing but great memories after having Briere as a teammate. The two spent last season in Denver with the Avalanche.

“First of all, one of the classiest guys in the game,” O’Reilly said. “Watching him growing up, and how much he scored. Just game winning goals all the time, because he’s patient and knows where to go. He’s got such a great shot. It was only one year that I played with him but it was a treat though.”


An amusing O’Reilly moment from the game in Philadelphia saw Ryan get tossed from a D-zone faceoff with about five minutes to go in the second period.

O’Reilly admitted to trying too hard to cheat against the Flyers Claude Giroux.

The funny part was what followed.

No one else wanted to take the draw!

Tyler Ennis, a day later, suggested he thought sheer size was the best way to combat the dangerous Giroux, hence his “reluctance to participate”.

After a brief standstill that had even goalie Chad Johnson bemused, Nic Deslauriers “stepped up” to the challenge, for just the second time in his career.

And less than two seconds later the Flyers were denied by Chad Johnson on a glorious one-timer by Michael Del Zotto, whose slapper came off a clean faceoff win by Giroux. Deslauriers said he’s still winless in his career on faceoffs, his first one being equally as “memorable”.

“It was against Danny Briere, in Montreal, lost it clean too! So, 0 and 2 – not looking good,” he joked.

And upon further review, it appears as though Ennis is preaching abstinence when it comes to the faceoff dot. Ennis, who has taken more than 1500 draws in his NHL career, is the only forward on the Sabres who has yet to take a draw this year.


The first road concert we managed to get to this year was definitely old school.

Ringo Starr And His All-Starr band rocked the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.

Twenty-five cover songs and a trip down 80’s memory lane later, the highlight of the show had to be the venue itself.

Perfect almost doesn’t do it justice. It will be hard to top in future concert stops across the country.


Speaking of “Old School,” one of the funnier practice moments of the season happened at HARBORCENTER.

As one particular drill was ongoing, coach Dan Bylsma instructed his players to “turn around” and go the other way.

Within seconds I could hear a cluster of players, on the far side of the rink no less, break into an audible chorus of this track.

Of course it wasn’t really this track. Marcus Foligno, with confirmation from David Legwand, acknowledged it was in fact the version performed by “The Dan Band” in the movie “Old School” starring Will Ferrell. I’d offer up a link to that but it’s NSFW...


O’Reilly and Legwand are just two obvious examples of how practice habits have improved among the entire group.

The other day they staged a legendary battle of “puck through the glass” at the end of their morning session.

I’m guessing they were about 15 feet from the boards, and trying to put the puck through the tiny hole in the glass where photographers put their lens.

Not to diminish the efforts of Legwand, but as per usual O’Reilly made it as hard as possible - doing it on his backhand.

I’d say it took him longer than he wanted, but it wasn’t over until he was successful.


As we approach Veteran’s Day on Wednesday, it’s always humbling to be around so many brave and dedicated men and women. Our entire MSG crew, and a lot of our audience based on the response we received on twitter alone, was in awe of the bravery and commitment level of this man - our Saturday afternoon guest Army Staff Sergeant Timothy Payne.

I hope that we are trending in the right direction when it comes to acknowledging more, helping more, and doing the right things more often for our veterans.


Last week Hamburg Middle School participated in a new initiative called “Treats for Troops” where students donated a portion of their Halloween candy and turned it into care packages for injured military men and women. These packages will be delivered to Military Rehab Centers on Veteran’s Day by a non-profit organization called Operation Backbone.

Operation Backbone “provides crucial brain & spine surgical treatments for the most severely wounded active duty & veterans who need an accelerated substitute to their current care options. Post strength, mental, and physical training provided by the Buffalo Sabres and the NHL.

The idea began after Hamburg resident Leilon (she didn’t want to disclose her last name, but it rhymes with that of the Sabres longest tenured coach...) saw a news story several years ago about an army officer returning from a tour of duty overseas.

When asked what he missed most about home, he said candy! That got her thinking about all the excess candy kids get at Halloween. After some exploration, she discovered that sending chocolate overseas would not be feasible due to refrigeration issues. Last year, she met Mike Sformo (Operation Backbone) and realized that this same idea could be applied right here at home.

So, this past Friday, a group of students from Hamburg Middle School gathered to create the care packages that we hope will bring a smile to those recovering from injury this Veteran’s Day.


#Duffalo 3 Stars for the period ending November 9, 2015

1.Our Veterans, and all the brave and heroic men and women who continue to serve and protect our way of life. #VeteransDay

2. #ArmisticeDay

3. #NeverForget

And lastly, because we have such freedom to be silly, make fools of ourselves, and have a platform to help spread the word about men’s healthy issues...it’s MOVEMBER!!!

A lot of the boys in Blue and Gold got a head start this year (Gorges, Foligno, Girgensons...) but the point is: there are no rules. Anything that can be done to help raise awareness and money is alright on these pages.

So with that being said, here’s a couple ways you can get involved this month.

Donate to the team.

Donate to a specific player...or even me.

Or for a really great time, come hang out with my friends at Brawler’s Back Alley Deli on Nov. 28, and watch the Sabres take on the Predators while you are there supporting the cause!

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