Thomas Vanek spoke today about the origin of the idea for the Sabres to join the Bruins on the ice for a salute to the Boston fans at the end of the game wasn’t just his idea.
Vanek said that he, Steve Ott, Drew Stafford, equipment czar Rip Simonick and trainer Tim Macre all collaborated on the idea. Vanek said that he presented the idea to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara during warm-ups and it was decided that the two teams would show solidarity for the fans.
A very classy, thoughtful idea indeed.
Vanek made sure to say today that the salute was not intended to be a publicity stunt. It came from the Sabres’ heart.
“I think as we talked about it, we didn’t think about, I guess, the publicity its getting. It was just to appreciate the people that came. The atmosphere was UNBELIEVABLE. Even for us, it’s a few hours away from something, to not think about. It was good for everyone”.
Vanek said that the trek down Boylston Street was very emotional for he and his boys.
“A few of us walked around. Seeing it on TV and seeing it in person is a lot different. Being there. People were upbeat and positive, and I think that goes a long way”.
Vanek is a father of three. A husband. A son. He’s not just a hockey player. Boston event made him pause and reflect upon his own life.
“Anytime stuff like that (terrorism) happens, you put hockey and whatever you’ve got on the side, and you think about your own family and the other families… it’s a tough thing”.
Vanek has heard and been witness to many Rene Rancourt national anthem presentations in his NHL career in Buffalo. However, he’ll remember Tuesday night’s anthem for a long time to come.
“It was unbelievable. It was cool It was one of those moments that I’m happy we were a part of it. The atmosphere was electric. The visiting team.. It seemed like one big, happy crowd. It was a good game. One I won’t forget and I’m sure the other guys won’t either”
Thats the kind of heady stuff that captains of NHL hockey teams are made of.
No player in the Buffalo Sabres room can stand in the pocket and deliver like Steve Ott. He’s the heart beat and pulse of the Sabres room. After today’s brief skate at the Northtowns Center, Ott captured the essence and the raw emotions associated with the tragic events that transpired in Boston on Monday. Nearly twelve hours after the Sabres had left Boston, Ott was still genuinely moved and affected by the entire experience.
“ That was probably the most emotional game that I’ve ever been a part of. For so many reasons. The way the Boston fans and community with what they’ve been going through its obviously been a horrific 2, 3 days. For them to come out there and at least cheer, and put some smiles on their faces just for a couple hours was the least we could do to just try to battle for the fans and show the pride of both teams".
If you watched the NBC Sports Network post game show on Tuesday night, you saw the Buffalo players join the Boston players at center ice in a uniquely touching show of solidarity towards the fans of the Bruins. “Thanks foir coming and have a great day tomorrow and the next day” seemed to me to ne th emessage that Ott, his Sabres brothers, and the Bruins players were intending to deliver to the 17,000+ Bostonians in the house and the millions watching at home around the U.S. and Canada.
“I think Van (Vanek) and Chara during the pregame skate, I believe, you know, the “pre-skate” or whatever you want to call it, went to center ice and talked about doing something special for the fans. As I stated, we were all playing for Boston last night, and that was the case. It basically puts in perspective when you are a hockey player to be able to live through that experience and the game, it was absolutely surreal”.
Thanks, NBC Sports Network
Tuesday at supper time, Ott and a few of his Sabres teammates took a walk from their hotel to Boylston Street, the scene of the carnage and chaos. He said that the experience was emotionally moving.
“You know, when we got in (to Boston from Buffalo) and bunch of us went over there and kind of paid our respects and walked through it. Obviously the chaos that the whole city was going through, it was almost like a movie there: National Guard, police officers and machine guns kind of everywhere. it’s a crazy world we live in some days, and it doesn’t make any sense but at a time like that you try to pull things together. You know, I think that’s the great thing about sports is that it can bring a community together in a hurry”.
Ott said that listening to Rene Rancourt hand over the national anthem to the tens of thousands of fans singing a capella in the building was special. He felt the raw emotion and the pride of a hurting community trying to heal itself.
“You’re welted up from the ceremony, right away it was tough. I think every single guy who watched a news network the past couple days, just seeing whats going on there (Boston) and witnessing the tragedy and to be honest with you, you watch the memorial and you see that little eight year old boy with a Boston Bruins jersey on and just see the support of the community through everything, it was tough. It was great to see the fans soloud, cheering “We Are Boston” and the pride in their community and the Bostonian people it was really first class”.
Ott’s impressions of Boylston Street:
“It was eerie. I don’t even know the right words to explain it because it wouldn’t do it justice of the feeling. Ya know we ate (supper) a block away, right after that and dinner was quiet and awkward for so many reasons… it truly was surreal”.
It was just one week ago that many of the Sabres haters gave them up for dead. After the team's 5-1 shellacking at the hands of PK Subban and the Montreal Canadiens, the players held a lengthy meeting while the media waited outside the locker room door. The players will never divulge what was said behind closed doors that night. Whats said there, stays there. The team is 3-0 since that nigh tand is surging towards the eighth and final playoff spot while teams like Carolina continue to circle the drain. Not the Sabres. They traded Leopold, Regehr, and Pominville. Tyler Myers is done for the season. Amerks are now Sabres and are playing huge roles out of necessity.The team has found its winning ways. Its uncanny how their fortunes have changed. How much of a lift does the Boston shootout win give this re-tooled Sabres team with four games remaining and their playoff lives on the line?
"Truly, it really turns out to be a big win. I mean, we knew we had some tough games ahead, obviously tomorrow night's game (Rangers) is pretty musch our season in the aspect of where we are and continue this push. Its a huge game that we all have to be ready for as if it were the last game of our lives. For us, thats the mindset we have to take. That "one game" mentality is a cliche, but its so true at this point", Ott said.
Teams that have failed so miserably, and have subtracted so many key contributors and suffer so many losses to injuries, usually pack their hockey bags and head home for the Summer. Not these Buffalo Sabres.
Otter says this Sabres team is unique. There's no quit in their group.
"Usually, it is, but there's so much to play for in the dressing room. I've said this many times. Obviously, playoff is an aspect of all of us. We all want a chance at the dance and thats something that we've been committed to each other for since day one. We said thats what we want to be, a playoff team. It doesn't matter if you are a minor league guy called up, or a guy staright out of college, you all want that same goal to play. There's so mush to play for, for a lot of pride in that dressing room. Guys playing for contracts next season, just just playing to be in the lineup, and in a Buffalo Sabres uniform. There's a lot going on for a lot to play for".
All Sabres players will be cheering on the Florida Panthers tonight.
"Absolutely. We need help. With us having games in hand (on Rangers and jets) we need help. We need to win our games and let other teams hopefully take care of themselves", Ott said.
Ott's plan is manifesting itself. He called his shot weeks ago when he said that his team has a lotto play for. He believes in his boys, and his boys believe in him. The only thing different is that the haters are breaking their ankles jumping back on the Buffalo Sabres bandwagon.