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ON THE ROAD: SOUTHBOUND AND FAMILY TIES

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
'Darth Vader' drops the ceremonial puck with the help of Florida Panthers Bryan McCabe and Craig Rivet of the Buffalo Sabres. (Getty Images)

Our first extended road trip started a day earlier than it usually would.  But since it was down to the sunshine state, there were not many grumblings from the boys. It’s a trip like this that can do a lot of good for team camaraderie.

The first leg of this trip though was a little more difficult than we first would have thought.

On the way down, Clarke MacArthur had to wear a surgical mask because he was a little under the weather and had missed practice earlier in the day. Steve Montador did as well, just to make him feel a little less alone.

Both looked pretty funny and out of place.

On the bus ride to the hotel, we started to talking about some of our trips down to Ft.Lauderdale and Tampa. For some of the guys like Tim Kennedy and Tyler Myers, this was their first NHL multi-day trip.

Tyler was quick to let us know that the last time he was in Florida was when he went to Orlando when he was little. He also told us how he got sick one of the first few days and they had to cut the trip short. Hard to think of Tyler and the word short in the same sentence... Let’s just say he hopes this trip is a little better.

After a tough practice early on Tuesday morning, the team headed back to our hotel for a little relaxing time in the sun. The afternoon got a lot more hectic than I could have imagined.

I received a call in the late afternoon that our team had struck a deal with the Boston Bruins to send Danny Paille to Beantown for a few draft choices. It’s always tough when a player is traded away from our team, especially when it comes at a time that you don’t expect it.

It’s also a situation where the business and the personal side of the game separate. Danny is a good player and an even better person. When a player is traded, a part of the family has left the nest.  This is when all of us are reminded of the personal side of sports.

Players have family, wives, girlfriends, kids, pets and all sorts of things that are all affected by a trade.

It was pretty surprising to have a trade occur not only so early in the season, but on a long road trip.

When Danny was set to head into his cab for the airport, a few players wished him off at his room, but almost the entire team met him in the lobby to wish him luck. You could see how some of the guys that have been teammates with him since their days in Rochester were affected. But knowing that it's a business, it’s accepted and you move on.

I spoke with Dan later that night and he said how surprised he was that all the guys were downstairs to say goodbye. We gave him our own locker room tribute later the next day by sharing all our infamous Paille moments over the past few years at the morning skate.

As it got closer to game time against the Panthers, I received some interesting information - there would be a ceremonial faceoff before the game. I then had to tell Craig Rivet that Darth Vader was going to drop the puck.

Before the game a few of the guys were playing soccer to warm-up in the hallway outside our locker room when the game was interrupted by the leader of the Dark Side and a few storm troopers walking through. It was funny, and also the first time many of the guys found out that the Star Wars puck drop was happening.  A few guys even gave Craig some suggestions on how he should greet Darth, leading to one of the best ceremonial faceoffs I have ever witnessed in person.

Needless to say the boys had a good laugh and Craig made sure that he has a copy of the picture!

When the game was over, the guys were gathered together around a television that was showing highlights of the Bruins game. When we all saw Danny pick up his assist on the Bruins game-winning goal against Nashville, all the guys cheered and gave him a loud team chant.

Once a part of the family, you’re always a part of the family.

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