Buffalo Sabres and U.S. Olympic team goalie Ryan Miller watches the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins from the runway to the ice at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, March 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
It was nice to get back on the road after the break. For myself, I knew the first game back in Pittsburgh was going to feel like a playoff game - at least in terms of media interest - and it did not disappoint.
Miller-mania was in full effect.
The first chance for most of the guys and coaches to welcome Ryan and Lindy back and congratulate them both on a job well done was at the morning skate. Both joined the team on Monday night after the long cross-country trip from Western Canada.
There were many requests from both the Buffalo and the Pittsburgh media to welcome the Olympians with a fine barrage of questions. We were all prepared for the crowd.
After the skate, we piled all of the media into a side room for the media scrum. After all the attention the pair had endured over the past few weeks, it was nothing new. They survived and now it was time to get back to the task at hand - getting ready for the Pens.
One of the coolest things has been Ryan’s reception from the public. In Pittsburgh, from walking to the bus from the hotel, to the hotel lobby so many people stopped him to say congrats to him as he walked by.
At Mellon Arena, the tight the hallways are on the ice level. Upon entering, you have to pass by all the arena workers, cooks and ushers that work at that are waiting to clock in to begin their night. When the team walked past the crew, a group of the workers started clapping for Ryan as well.
The topic of conversation in Pittsburgh was going to be how the crowd would react to Sidney Crosby.
Although he is their captain, he broke the American hearts with his overtime goal. The Pens game presentation honored the heroes of both teams. When the US goaltender was announced, the crowd gave him a very loud reception, a standing ovation. Sid got cheers, but the boos could be heard when the replay of the goal was shown on the scoreboard.
After the presentation, chants of U-S-A filled The Igloo.
Lost in the shuffle a bit was the fact that this was our last regular season trip to the Mellon Arena. It definitely has some character to it. From the narrow hallways and eye-shaped dressing rooms to the winding halls and stairs to the press box, the igloo has a personality of its own.
I’m sure all Sabres fans have their own memories of the road games the Sabres have played in Pittsburgh. After all, October 10, 1970 was the first ever regular season game and win (2-1) for the Sabres at the then Pittsburgh Civic Arena. The arena’s retractable “dome” they say was designed to open or close in two minutes. I’m not sure but I think that last time it was opened was in 1995 when Jean-Claude Van Damme was saving the day at the arena in the movie “Sudden Death”.
Hey, we all have our own memories.
Anyway, it was great to see how much of an impact Ryan has had on not only on Olympic hockey, but on the entire hockey world. As Ryan said best in an earlier interview, he would like to add a little more silver to his collection at the end of the season. “That other silver is a lot heaver.”