10 years later...
February 22, 2007.
My 15-year old self was heading to the Sabres game with my father at the HSBC Arena. The opponent that night: the Ottawa Senators.
The Sabres were the NHL's top team heading into a matchup with their top division rival, who they had beat the season before in the Stanley Cup Playoff. It was their seventh(!) meeting of the season with the Senators winning four of the six matchups.
It is a tradition for my father and I to go out for dinner before every game we attend, and this night was no different. While sitting at our table waiting for our food, I told my dad about a fight that Senators goalie Ray Emery had gotten into when he was playing with Ottawa's farm team in the AHL, the Binghamton Senators. Emery had jumped someone from the Philadelphia Phantoms (Flyers old AHL affiliate) in front of the net, which sent goalie Neil Little down the ice and flying into the pile.
In all, 371 penalty minutes were handed out between both teams that night.
After telling my dad about the fight, he jokingly asked me, "You think [Marty] Biron or [Ryan] Miller would fight Emery?" I laughed sarcastically and told him, "I don't think so."
The Senators got on the board first with two goals less than two minutes apart halfway through the opening frame. Buffalo responded with a goal from Chris Drury right before the end of the first period.
The building ignited in the second period with two early goals just three minutes into the second period. Thomas Vanek ties the hockey game on the powerplay on a tip from a Jason Pominville shot. 39-seconds later, Vanek scores again to put the Sabres ahead.
Then comes the boiling point.
Shortly past the five-minute mark of the second period, Drury throws a shot on Emery from the top of the left faceoff circle. Nearly a full second later, Senators forward Chris Neil comes across and delivers a high, blindside hit to Drury leaving him bloodied and woozy. Drew Stafford responds almost immediately to his captain going down by dropping the gloves and fighting Neil.
The building erupted in boos and anger after the announcement was made that Neil did not receive any other penalty besides a five-minute major for fighting Stafford. Head coach Lindy Ruff was incensed, using sticks to get the referees attention to plead his case for his fallen captain.
How did Lindy Ruff respond? By sending out a line consisting of Andrew Peters, Adam Mair and Patrick Kaleta to go up against Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Comrie. Before the lines are able to line up outside the Senators blue line, the crowd rises to their feet knowing what was to come.
The fans who weren't standing stood after Kaleta, who played in his first NHL game that night, was in a shoving match with Heatley before the puck was dropped. Once the puck dropped, chaos.
All three Sabres forwards look for partners to square off with while Ottawa's forwards just try to avoid getting mixed up with Buffalo's enforcers. Fans are now standing on their seats and cheering for the all-out line brawl that has broken out. It looked like something that came out of the movie Slap Shot.
Then the unthinkable happens - a goalie fight.
As much as he may have not been ready for it, Biron skated out to center ice with Emery, stripping themselves of their equipment to join the brawl. Emery, the boxer during his offseasons, landed a couple of blows to Biron, but luckily Biron came away unscathed.
Away from the goalie fight, Peters is skating around looking for a dance partner but no one from Ottawa is willing to fight, arguably, the toughest player on the Sabres roster. The only one who would be able to trade punches at the time was Emery, who was tangled with Biron.
After Emery and Biron separate, in comes Peters and the main event is underway.
The building gets so loud at that point it became harder to just hear your own thoughts. Peters throws a few punches that didn't connect, a few that did, and the city of Buffalo was in a frenzy.
But it didn't stop there.
Senators coach Bryan Murray stands on the boards near where Rob Ray is stationed for every Sabres broadcast, calling out Ruff for sending out his goons against his best players. Ruff obliged by returning the favor with some colorful words of his own for Murray.
After nearly 20 minutes of sorting things out, Peters, Biron and Emery all hit the showers early with game misconducts. 100 penalty minutes in all were handed out after a brawl which last maybe three minutes.
Fans remained on their feet throughout the entire delay waiting for the verdict, and the building was charged with energy throughout the night. Buffalo would eventually go on to beat Ottawa 6-5 in a shootout, but that seems like a blur after the events that unfolded in the second period.
In the win, former Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur scored his first career NHL goal and Stafford ended up scoring the winning goal in the shootout.
10 years later, the brawl remains one of the most memorable moments in Sabres history. It was also just another chapter added to the Sabres-Senators rivalry of that time which has since cooled off.
That Thursday night in Buffalo was an example of what makes hockey so great. Scoring was a plenty with 10 goals scored before the shootout, the pace of play was fast and energized, and the brawl was a fun added touch to a great game.
It still remains as one of the best game that I have ever attended, and one of the most memorable moments I share with my father. And like many others, any time that you hear the highlights with Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorentz, you feel the chills go up and down your spine.
Oh yeah... If you don't remember what happened that night outside of the brawl, this may help jump-start your memory:
Feel free to give us your thoughts of that memorable night below in the comments section.