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Mike Schopp's Blog

SCHOPP: Fans off the hook

A strange thing happened at the Sabres game tonight. I sat around people that talked about the game. One guy swore a lot. At first I thought it was annoying. Then I thought, you know what? This is what going to an NHL game should sound like. It shouldn't sound like Caillou. The guy made a point to loudly criticize Tyler Myers every time he turned the puck over.

When Myers sprinted up the ice and scored in overtime to win it, the guy was gone.

For most of this season it was sufficient to talk about what a letdown the team was. (Don't be alarmed, but with a dozen games to go there seems a reasonable enough chance that they will repeat last season's performance and make the playoffs after being written off at about 17 different mileposts.) But that got boring. The trade deadline came and went, and now what?

How about the fans? Yes, how about the fans.

It hasn't been enough this year that Terry Pegula's big spending wasn't enough to supply us a can't-miss hockey team. Adding to the letdown is that latest growing topic that the building just isn't alive enough.

Maybe it's true. Maybe it really is quiet in there. Maybe instead it's like my friend Kate Holzemer says that it's not so much reality as it is an effort (presumably a subconscious one) by the media to slip fans a recipe for their favorite dish -- self-loathing.

Some of that is just where you sit. I love my seats in 117. Excluding family members and a few cards, they are my most prized possession. But no one ever talks. I've fallen into this mode myself. I share my tickets though and often sit in 118, where the crowd seems more into the game. Maybe they're more into the game, or maybe they're more into the team.

Tonight in 118 it was all around me. Guys down in front chanting Let's Go Buffalo as if to challenge the Canadiens fans nearby to outlast them. Kids in the row in front of me talking about which players were the best. The guy on my right dancing to the songs just subtlely enough to avoid any chance of camera-time. It was fun to be around. And none of it was stupid or childish. Instead, it was suitable for the occasion -- a hockey game.

Here's to fans that have a good time at games. It's the way it ought to be. Sabres games are too expensive to just sit idly through. Get into it. Give these guys some positive energy to build on, to help them be their best. Some of it is on them, sure. They're not a work of art. But some of it is on us too.


(Photo credit: Rick Stewart, Getty Images)

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