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#DUFFALO: Remembering Dave Strader, Mike Boland and Gord Downie

by Brian Duff @duffersabres / Sabres.com

OFF ICE

Whenever I walk into an arena, no matter the city, the history of the game - and the connections that I've been fortunate enough to have made over the years - tend to make their way to the forefront of my mind.

Just a few weeks ago at HarborCenter was no exception.

I brought our 10-year-old daughter with me that night so she could sit in the booth with a headset on and listen to me and the legendary Don Stevens call the final preseason game for the Rochester Americans.

Perhaps because I had been able to make this night more of a family affair than usual, I immediately thought to reach out to a great family man and friend to the hockey world - Dave Strader.

Dave was 16 months into his courageous battle with bile duct cancer, and having seen recent video of him being honored at the local rink in his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y., I knew the fight had taken a toll.

But knowing how proud Dave was of his path to the hockey broadcast booth, which started by calling American Hockey League games for the Adirondack Red Wings, I figured if anyone could appreciate my excitement for calling a preseason AHL game, it would be Strades.

Yet as soon as I hit send...I had a bad feeling.

And the next morning...

Tweet from @duffersabres: Driving to rink on a picture perfect fall morning in Buffalo only to hear the worst news. Dave Strader was a Hall of Fame man. �� #RIPDave pic.twitter.com/nKTg2ZU4xG

 There were heartfelt tributes within minutes, and in the days that followed.

My favorite was from Doc Emrick:

The next two days in Glens Falls saw the hockey world gather to pay its respects. First for visitation at the old (and since re-named) Civic Center, where the press box was dedicated in his name only a few weeks prior, and then at the First Presbyterian Church for a beautiful celebration of Dave's life.

Hockey Fights Cancer month is underway once again in the NHL as we witnessed in Anaheim on Sunday night.

The Sabres will host this special night Nov. 18.

The Dallas Stars will be hosting theirs on Nov. 6.

Over the summer, Dave Strader - the voice of the Dallas Stars - had been hoping for Nov. 4.

That message will resonate with me forever.

It came from a man who truly loved his family, his friends, and the game of hockey.
Thank you Dave Strader - for being a friend to all of us.

Our Sabres family also lost a good man at the age of 62 this month.

Mike Boland was a rugged defenseman in his playing days, but a gentle, kind, and caring soul off the ice.

 Tweet from @BWipp: I'm very sad to hear of the passing of @BuffaloSabres alumni Mike Boland. A genuinely nice man who always gave his time to others. pic.twitter.com/sygV14q5wR

Through good fortune at various alumni events over the past five years I'd had a chance to speak with Mike several times. And I always came away with the same thought - what a genuinely nice guy.

Therefore it wasn't surprising to see "his own words" on display at his funeral service last Friday, amidst many great photos of his life of friends, family, and hockey.

We should all consider these words more often.

Rest in peace Mike.


ON ICE

We knew there would be an adjustment period under the new coaching staff and with significant roster turnover.

What they needed was an opening night win at home.

It's hard not to wonder about how different things might look had they not surrendered that third period shorthanded goal against to Montreal.

The losses that followed featured more of those exact type of moments.

Seven games is not a huge sample size so a more thorough review can wait til the next blog.

But they certainly should have learned a lot about themselves already - and how they have to play moving forward.

 

LIFE ON THE ROAD

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It's true! Things have changed from a travel standpoint now that Marty Biron and I are working road games from our One Buffalo Studio.

In the short term, I'll miss visiting some of the great music venues we managed to find on off nights. But with Buffalo's concert scene as strong as it is, there's a pretty good chance I'll be able to offset that loss rather easily. 

And from a television standpoint - I think last night's postgame show alone was a really good example of how much more content we can produce when we are in a studio as opposed to packing up hastily to catch a bus or a plane.

But in honor of the sad news today with the passing of Canadian icon Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, I'd be remiss if I didn't think back to one of the most unexpected shows we stumbled upon eight years ago in Detroit.

Working for NHL Network at the time and knowing that I would be on the road for the Stanley Cup Final I did thorough research into upcoming shows in each of the four cities that were involved in the Conference Finals - Pittsburgh, Carolina, Detroit and Chicago.

However both series were short, with the Penguins winning in a sweep and the Wings taking it in five.
So, that meant we arrived in the game one host city of Detroit far earlier than we expected.

Old friend Rob Simpson (now co-host of Stellick and Simmer on SiriusXM radio) and I were actually wandering towards a media reception around 8 p.m. when we found ourselves under the marquee of the old Fillmore. 

"An evening with the Tragically Hip" it beckoned, stopping the two of us in our tracks. Rob is not only intimidatingly tall, he also proved to be an outstanding negotiator, talking down the lone remaining scalper to $20 per ticket.

In we went, and like most old "Fillmores," the room was spectacular. 

It was also filled with just about everybody who was working on the "Hockey Night In Canada" crew.

The rest was...magic. As it always was. And always will be.

Thank you doesn't begin to do this moment justice. Gord Downie - you were truly one of a kind.


IN THE COMMUNITY

Sabres Road Crew is back for another season and the first stop of the year will be in Dallas on Nov. 3 at Parlay Sports Club (3309 McKinney Ave., Dallas, TX 75204) from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 each, with all proceeds benefiting the Buffalo Sabres Foundation. 

It's a great chance to meet Sabres alumni like Danny Gare, Rene Robert and Rayzor, and other Sabres fans from the area. I won't be able to make it there this year and I'll miss meeting all the fans there and hearing your stories, but I look forward to hearing all about it on social media! 


QUOTABLE

"I think it's just unacceptable the way we approached the game. We had a chance to build on something and I know this is a process, but the process was a little broken tonight. Our lack of preparation and accountability, and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking."

Sabres Head Coach Phil Housley, following a 5-4 OT loss to Vegas on Tuesday, October 17.

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