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#DUFFALO: THE IMPACT OF WEBER & McGINN AND A TRUE #1 STAR

by Brian Duff / Buffalo Sabres

OFF THE ICE

One spent 10 years in the organization.

The other spent less than one year in the organization.

Mike Weber and Jamie McGinn, two of the most likeable teammates within the Sabres room – yet at opposite ends of the tenure spectrum – have moved on to Stanley Cup contenders this year.

Now younger in average age, this remaining group of Sabres is left to take the best of what they learned and enjoyed from each former teammate and proceed with not only the rest of the season, but their careers, and life in general.

In the case of Mike Weber, it’s obvious what he left behind: the meaning – and value – of character, loyalty, commitment, and friendship.

He was a poster boy for the “brotherhood” that exists in and around professional sports teams.

And a lot of that comes from the route he took, and the family that took him in.

McGinn took the Ontario Hockey League route to the NHL as well. And while only a Sabre since June of 2015, his impact was pretty significant. Especially on the likely face of the franchise moving forward, Jack Eichel.

“I think my first interaction with him was we took a bus trip up to Toronto in the preseason,” Eichel said. “We actually watched that game in Toronto, as that group was gonna go into Ottawa the next night and play there.

“So we watched that game and I just remember him being like kind of sarcastic and he would give me a hard time here and there. I didn’t really know him that well so I didn’t know how to handle it. But you know, getting to know him and seeing him every day at the rink, we became really, really tight.”

That sarcasm was effortlessly reciprocated.

“I love to give him a hard time,” Jack said with a smile. “I’m always on him about everything and he takes it really well. He’s always laughing and in a good mood. And we find enjoyment in a lot of the same things. He’s 27 and sometimes he’s able to act like he’s 19 like me which I enjoy.”

For whatever reason, I thought to ask if they shared a similar fashion sense.

“No way. I was a way better dresser than him! ” Jack said. “He probably thought he was good though. He wasn’t bad. He’s okay. He had his days.”

So what did form the fabric of their relationship?

“TV, music, just everything,” Jack said. “I feel like a lot of my routine on game day, and the day before a game, a lot of it had Jamie in it. He was a part of a lot of what I did so I became tight with him. It’s almost like we kind of fed off each other and I think that’s what helped our relationship. He’s definitely a friend I’ll have for a while and I hope to see him this summer.”


ON THE ICE
What a couple of weeks it has been for Eichel.

Increased workload and tougher minutes because of the injury to Ryan O’Reilly, and magnified by a three-game road trip versus the best in the Pacific Division.

Then the much-hyped showdown with Connor McDavid that kicked off a three-game homestand.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned, witnessed, or been told about Eichel (and there isn’t just one because there are so many) it's that he takes such pride in being the best he can possibly be.

He can’t stand failure, be it perceived or otherwise.

And that stems from his individual drive for the betterment of the team.

To go from the bitterness of game’s end versus Edmonton to a “best practice in a while” according to the coach to FOURTEEN shot attempts (and finally a power-play goal) against Calgary, to a First Star performance against the Wild that featured a goal, an assist and his first career shootout goal. To me, it just reinforces all of what was advertised well prior to last June: He’s mature beyond his age.

And as assistant coach Dan Lambert said just this past week, “he’s always, always willing to learn.”


LIFE ON THE ROAD
This actually happened at home at First Niagara Center, but it sounds like something that would have happened on the road.

We are in the Sabres room recording an interview with Johan Larsson, when at the end of one of his answers one half of our news gathering equation (videographer-reporter) is gone.

Without a trace.

And for a while.

No names need be mentioned here but the banter since has been free flowing...

#1: Hey “#2,” I know it’s not ideal, but can you post that video for me later tonight?

#2: No problem. It won't be as bad as what happened this morning. I'll bring extra pants just in case.

#1: Lol! This was a day to remember!!! In TV terms... 2 was not on our side....

#2: Ha. As long as that doesn't make the blog, I'm okay.

#1: Well...no names will be mentioned...

#2: **** happens I guess. Or as my grandmother always put it, "manure occureth"

And as we left for Toronto on Sunday, it was overheard in the hallway of the arena - “Don’t worry, I packed the Imodium!”


IN THE COMMUNITY

The timing has changed but the event is as good – if not better – than ever. A staple of the Sabres community calendar returns this Thursday to First Niagara Center with the annual Alumni Wine Festival!

And don’t forget - Rayzor will be the star of our next Beyond Blue and Gold, coming soon!


#DUFFALO THREE STARS
For the period ending March 7

1.Frank Metro - Petty Officer Third Class, US Navy World War II

(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)

It’s been a positive development over recent years at First Niagara Center: The increased amount of respect being shown to the servicemen and women who are acknowledged during Tickets for Troops or prior to the singing of our National Anthem.

On Saturday, as Petty Officer Metro was introduced, he slowly and purposefully made his way out onto the ice to assume his designated position. And something truly heartfelt and spontaneous happened as he did. Because of all his worldly experiences and sacrifices, it took him a bit longer to get out there. And that’s when the crowd went from a respectful cheer to full-on roar, almost lifting him to his spot.

What a moment, and it wouldn’t have happened without this honored veteran. I wish you could have seen the proud look on his face when the anthems were done and he had made his way back through the Zamboni doors. Many fans reached through the railings to shake his hand and say, 'Thank you.' It was amazing.

2. Mike Weber
Always dedicated to the military cause, Mike was so gracious in supporting Tickets for Troops each home game, providing tickets every night to a military member from Western New York and meeting with them afterwards. The number of lives he impacted in a positive way over his time as a Sabre and the pride with which he wore the jersey should be the template for all others to follow.

3. Jamie McGinn
Hard to argue with anything Eichel said earlier. He just has a fun-loving way that made him appealing to teammates and media alike. The fact he delivered at or above expectations coming off of a very difficult injury/surgery made him that much easier to appreciate and respect. It was also a pleasure getting to know a bit of his roots from his grandfather Cecil Denny on the Parent’s Trip.

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