Sabres defensemen Toni Lydman was a huge hit this week following the 5-4 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
His popularity, however, was not derived because of his actions on the ice that night.
To four fans in particular, it is Lydman’s heritage that makes him exciting to watch as much as his game.
“Those who know hockey and follow it every day know Toni Lydman and appreciate him and all the things he does defensively,” said Hannu Tuomainen.
Tuomainen, an avid hockey fan from Finland, and three of his friends traveled to the United States to make a road trip from Los Angeles to New York- seeing a few sights, and hockey games, along the way.
One of those stops included Buffalo to see one of their favorite NHL players, and countrymen, in action.
“Toni is like most Finnish defenseman,” said Petri Levatahti. “He is quite underappreciated. Many people back home don’t know Toni.”
These four hockey fans do. Following the Sabres game against the division-rival Maple Leafs, Tuomainen and his friends Levatahti, Alexsi Manninen and Anssi Vainio had the opportunity to meet their idol.
Lydman signed autographs and chatted with his fans in Finnish, coming to one conclusion.
“These guys are awesome,” Lydman said. “But I don’t know if they’re really Finnish. They aren’t drunk enough,” he joked.
Tuomainen said the planning for the road trip began six months ago, booking hotels and flights.
“We started from Los Angeles and then went to San Francisco and then Las Vegas,” Levatahti said. “Actually we saw a lot of national monuments and stuff like that; the Hoover Dam, Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon. Then we went to Chicago and Detroit and entered the hockey area in Toronto and now [we are] in Buffalo.”
They continue the journey Tuesday and head to New York City before returning home next week after a 12-hour flight.
“There is so much to see in the United States. You just can’t miss this,” Tuomainen said.
Watching their countryman’s team battle back from a two-goal deficit against the division-rival Leafs, the four agreed the game was not bad either.