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Way Beyond Blue and Gold: There's more story to tell

by Michelle Girardi Zumwalt @chellegz /

BBG: The Ottawa Brawl

BBG: The Ottawa Brawl

Ten years later, we look back at the line brawl between the Sabres and Senators; Beyond Blue and Gold is presented by New Era

  • 13:54 •

We should do a BBG for the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Brawl

When it was first suggested, I hesitated, wondering if we could possibly do such a memorable moment justice in the few short weeks of production time dedicated to a typical episode of Beyond Blue and Gold

Then I realized that the three Sabres alumni involved in the infamous "last change," and the goalie who left his crease-and soon after, his skates - were still associated with the organization. I couldn't imagine telling the story without getting Adam Mair, Andrew Peters, Patrick Kaleta and Martin Biron together in a room to relive that night. 

Video: BBG Bonus: What was Marty Thinking?

It didn't become a very special episode until I started going through the game tape and remembered all of the context that was worth exploring: 

  • Buffalo boy Patrick Kaleta's first game. 

Video: BBG Bonus: Kaleta's 1st Game

    • Ray Emery as a fighter (it didn't make the final cut, but he was fresh off a three-game suspension). 
    • Rob Ray between the benches in the early days of his broadcast career. 
    • The intensity of that rivalry with Ottawa. 
    • Chris Drury as a hero. 
    • Chris Neil as a villain. 
    • Drew Stafford being the only player to go directly after Neil, and then winning the game in a Ryan Miller-dominated shoot-out. 
    • The fans and a local pizza place raising money to pay Lindy Ruff's fine. 
    • Marty being traded five days later. 

    Video: BBG Bonus: Biron's Last Home Game

    And then there's, you know, a fight that involved both goalies and coaches. 

    Thanks to some good timing with the Sabres' hockey schedule, we were able to secure interviews with Ruff, Miller and former Senators head coach Bryan Murray. Soon after, our round table interview with the brawlers went for two hours and fifteen minutes. 

    The guys had so much fun talking about that game and those years that we could have produced a feature-length documentary. 

    Heck, we could have run that discussion raw. 

    When I added it all up, it was obvious that this story could not be told in BBG's standard four-and-a-half minutes, or even in two parts. 

    The most compelling piece of information to come out of the round table was that it was Adam Mair - not Ruff - who made the line change. So that $10,000 fine Lindy received for putting his tough guys out on the ice against Ottawa's top line? As Peters put it: "That should have been Mairsy's fine." 

    If I had another five minutes of run time, I would have spent much of it on this topic.  

    Peters described Ruff as being "preoccupied at that moment" (screaming at the ref that Neil hit Drury with an elbow and should have been penalized), but Mair went on to say that for his eight-year career with the Sabres, to his knowledge, Lindy "never sent a player" after an opponent. The players "knew their roles" on the team, Mair said, and made the decision to go out and defend their captain. 

    Even if he didn't directly send the guys to the ice, did the coach encourage his players to "go out and run 'em"? No one remembered Lindy saying anything to the team, although Biron mused that it would have been more likely for Lindy to send a message to his bench by yelling at the ref, "If we go out there and run their best guys, it's on you!"

    Still, the only four words said that anyone is positive of before the enforcers jumped over the boards came from Adam Mair: "There is no puck." 

    This revelation came after we had already interviewed Lindy, so it was too late to follow up with him. It's not hard to guess why the head coach would take responsibility for the line change, but my one regret with the piece was not getting his perspective on this point.  

    Hopefully we'll get the chance to ask him in a future interview as we continue to explore some of the greatest moments, games, series and figures in Sabres history. 

    And as we dig beyond the surface, who knows what untold story we'll find next.

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