The 2005-06 Sabres

April 01, 2020 - 11:11 pm

A lot of us are watching these 2005-06 Sabres rebroadcasts during the current disruption. Many of us old enough to remember these games have specific memories of them, the season, and of each player.

What has struck me for years about that season is how fond of it I am. Most of us are softest about sports teams from when we were little, but when it comes to the Sabres this '05-'06 team is easily my favorite. (2006-07 may come in second, but Dumont and McKee >>> Spacek and Novotny. Sorry.)

I want to write about my favorite memories of each player as I watch one of these games. Some of them I never met, and a few of them I knew well. Some of these memories are hockey-related, and some are not.

At the time of this team's rise to power I was 33 years old and recently married. Most of the team was older than me. I looked up to Lindy Ruff -- and assistant coach Brian McCutcheon, who was the head coach in Rochester when I left there to work in Buffalo in 2000.

Now, the 2005-06 Sabres and how I remember them a decade and a half later.

5: Toni Lydman. He had this amazing ability to safely loft backhands high and out of the zone on penalty kills. Early in '05-'06 my newlywed wife and I identified this and labeled him "The Expert". He was on the show a few years later, I mentioned this to him, he laughed. We talked about how he loved heavy metal. ... He scored on a breakaway in Game 5 of the conference finals in Raleigh. Jeremy White sat next to me in the arena for that game, we hugged after that goal. So close.

8: Rory Fitzpatrick. I have to say, it's the third period of Game 7. I know he was from Rochester. We've never met, or spoken.

9: Derek Roy. Sat for an interview with us at Bob-O-Link. J.P. Losman was there. I don't think he was ever on the show. My co-host wasn't a fan.

10: Henrik Tallinder. LOVED talking to him about the first game of the 2006 playoffs, against Philadelphia. I asked him if he remembers how that game started, and he did -- with the Sabres bumbling around their net and Peter Forsberg barely missing a sitter. I may never forget his injury against Mark Recchi and the Hurricanes. Played for the Leafs.

12: Ales Kotalik. The Shootout Master. In March 2007 a few of us went to a game in Florida. I recognized two women I'd met, Carol and Liz. Carol was the biggest Kotalik fan. I'd seen her out a few times, and one time we were broadcasting at Dave and Buster's and Carol was there. I introduced my then-colleague Brad Riter to her. They're now married with three kids. Brad also introduced me to my wife.

13: Jiri Novotny. Don't have much. Never met, or spoke. He was traded?

17: J.P. Dumont. Many memories, and one is sitting with him at a golf course in the summer of 2006. The Sabres hadn't offered him a contract. We all agreed -- myself, Bulldog, Dumont -- that that was unfortunate.

19: Tim Connolly. Complicated! Once on the air called him the best player in the league. Once at a social function I bored him to unconsciousness with a story about Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia. In the beginning of these playoffs he was incredible to watch. His injury in Game 2 vs. Ottawa is one of Buffalo sports' worst occurrences. Be well, Tim Connolly.

20: Daniel Paille. Sitting with Paille and Drew Stafford at a kitchen table in the Sabres' media lounge before Game 1 in 2007. Awkward conversation, wasn't really interviewing them, just wanted to be around the team. That's it.

22: Adam Mair. Always liked him. He made a passing reference once to something Bulldog and I had argued about on the air, something not sports-related. I like when that happens.

23: Chris Drury. Two things. I remember being happy when the Sabres traded for him, hearing of it in Halifax just as an ex-girlfriend and I were heading out for dinner. Second, we did one interview with him before one of the series, maybe the 2007 first round. Bulldog was a Drury Guy, I was a Briere Guy. That'll happen.

24: Taylor Pyatt. He gets the puck to Dumont on the overtime goal in Game 3 against Ottawa. He had his moments. I don't remember a lot. Never spoke to him. Canucks?

25: Mike Grier. What Mike Grier goal do you remember most? For me it's in 2010, after he comes back, in Game 5 of the first round against Boston. I admired Grier, the player. Never met him. His brother is the general manager of the Miami Dolphins.

26: Thomas Vanek. Once in a rant ran off the road and called him the worst player in the league (OMG). Overall, a big Vanek fan. Somehow goals are underrated! When hosting The Hobby one Saturday morning the Sabres brought him in unexpectedly to deliver my season tickets. (Thank you, Mike Gilbert.) I was so happy that Vanek agreed to sit and talk for a few minutes. The guy had a great career.

27: Teppo Numminen. This is easy. I did a remote once in a cigar room at a smoke shop. Bulldog was not there. I had a nice, easy 20-minute conversation with Numminen. I will always enjoy how it ended. I asked him if Teppo was a popular name in Finland. His response, "It had better be." A few years later when he was a Sabres assistant coach we reached back out to him for another interview. He declined.

28: Paul Gaustad. This is easy too. We did a regular show with Gaustad. One time we were at Buffalo Sports on McKinley. Off air he asked us what we thought about how on the bye week before a playoff game Tony Romo went away with Jessica Simpson. I said that I had no problem with it. I think Bulldog agreed. Gaustad was incredulous, disgusted. How could the guy go on vacation the week before a playoff game? In retrospect, good point.

29: Jason Pominville. So many things. Pominville has always been great to talk to. When we asked him years later about his series-winner in '06, whether there was anything about the goal that people had missed, he said yes, that he was at the beginning of his shift. Other Sabres players on the ice had been on, so Alfredsson, Redden, etc., expected Pominville to dump the puck in and go off, not realizing he had just come on. He whizzed around all of them and scored ... the best goal in Sabres history?

30: Ryan Miller. A few good conversations, some pointed criticism when I thought Miller felt he'd become bigger than the team toward the end of his days here. Always appreciated his thoughtfulness and intensity. He made a point once about how hockey needs what football has, having fans talk about games days after they'd happened. I love that point. He has a big brain, and he cared a lot. Good goalie too.

43: Martin Biron. I've learned a lot from Marty. We all appreciate and enjoy his personality and sense of humor. One Halloween I was at a party dressed as Colonel Sanders and Marty didn't recognize me, which I loved. This year Halloween is on a Saturday, for the first time since that year. Halloween should always be celebrated on Saturdays. Way better.

45: Dmitri Kalinin. Always liked him more than most. Never spoke with him.

48: Daniel Briere. My favorite Sabre ever. It still annoys me that on Drury's famous goal against the Rangers in 2007, Rick Jeanneret said "Who else? Who else?". Briere maybe? He scored tons of big goals. Worthy of consideration? Anyway, I had my "who else" party when Briere scored with six seconds left to tie Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa. But the Sabres didn't win this one in overtime so...

51: Brian Campbell. Watching Campbell take over games that season was a sight to behold. I LOVED watching Brian Campbell. Congrats to Brian on a long, great career. He was in Rochester when I was. I'd like to catch up with him. I think my sister may know him, maybe I should catch up with her.

55: Jochen Hecht. At a party once I mentioned to Hecht that my wife, who was with me, spoke German. He then smiled and said something in German that she didn't understand. Awkward all around.

61: Maxim Afinogenov. He was dating Elena Dementieva, the former fourth-ranked tennis player in the world, and one night they played an exhibition at the Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club against my wife and her partner. Afinogenov was great. You see some of these guys in a setting like that and you'll never dislike them for their play. Dementieva and my wife then hit singles for 20-30 minutes in front of a packed house. What a night.

74: Jay McKee. His playoff OT goal against Philadelphia in 2001 is one of my all-time favorites. I've known him since he was a young Sabre and always have been fond of him. I was on the Grand Island Bridge when I heard about the staph infection. You just remember where you were for the big news stories.

76: Andrew Peters. Gonna be hard to top hearing him say on WGR how I didn't know anything. Nobody is always right. He has good radio instincts, and like all these guys, he played in the GDNHL.

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