May 23 12:39 PM
The Lady Luck and the Buffalo Sabres
Published in Sports
By Ismail Lagardien
It seems ridiculous to speak of luck in sports. We often hear that some team or player was lucky or of a ‘lucky bounce of the ball’, or that a team has been unlucky. One is tempted to dismiss such claims as nonsense, especially since players in, say, hockey, are taught to shoot at the goal because a deflection or a rebound may create a score. In other words you are trained to shoot at the goal. It is therefore hard to understand how anyone can say that the puck took a ‘lucky bounce’ and ended up in it.
So as a rule it is difficult to speak of luck in hockey but we might make an exception for the Buffalo Sabres. The team that Hockey Digest once referred to as “The Bad Luck Sabres” have endured some bizarre outcomes to their seasonal quest for the Stanley Cup.
Before being eliminated by the Ottawa Senators from the Eastern Conference Finals last Saturday the Sabres were one of the favorites to go on and win what is generally considered the most prestigious trophy in professional sports. (Some of us may think that of the FA Cup in English soccer, which was won by Chelsea, also on Saturday.) Buffalo won the President’s Trophy for the best record in the National Hockey League this past season with 53 wins 308 goals. Entering the playoffs Buffalo eliminated the New York Islanders in five games, and the New York Rangers in six, before being humbled by the Senators in four. The Senators will go on to play the winner of the Detroit Red Wings – Anaheim Ducks series.
This was not the first time in recent years that the Sabres were eliminated from the playoffs; most recently they were dumped from the race for the cup by some of the most absurd decisions, goals and other events. In the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals they were eliminated by the Dallas Stars when Brett Hull scored a goal that is to this day disputed. At the time it was illegal to score a goal if the offensive player’s skate entered the crease (the space immediately in front of the goal delineated by blue paint) before the puck. Replays showed the Hull’s skate was in the crease when the goal was scored.
In the playoffs of the following year, the turning point for the Sabres came when John LeClair scored the winning goal for the Philadelphia Flyers – despite the fact that replays clearly showed that the puck had go through the side of the net. Later, in the same series, a freakishly quick whistle cost them a goal.
At the end of the 2001 season the Sabres sold their goalie, Dominik Hasek– still the best goaltender in Buffalo’s history– to the Red Wings, and their captain, Michael Peca, to the New York Islanders. In 2002, without Peca and Hasek, the Sabres failed to make the playoffs; Hasek won a Stanley Cup with Detroit and Peca lead the Islanders to the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
But here’s the kicker: when the Sabres won Game 5 in Ottawa last Wednesday, one of their die-hard fans was brutally assaulted by a bunch of thugs after the game. Her name: Renee Luck.
Posted on May 24, 2007, 7:43 AM from IP address 126.96.36.199