As we all know, on July 1 of last year Buffalo Sabres co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere both bolted from Buffalo and signed major free agent contracts with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, respectively. What I didn't realize was that apparently Sabres fans at Geneseo have also "signed" with apathy after realizing that the Sabres will not be the Eastern Conference power that they were last year.
Although the HSBC Arena continues to be packed on most game nights, the abundance of students wearing blue and gold around campus has disappeared. Sure, on a given day you probably will see a few hats, shirts and jerseys with a big yellow banana slug on it, but when you compare the amount of kids wearing Sabres gear from last year to this year, you would think the team had moved out of Buffalo.
Granted, Buffalo's management has not helped the situation at all. Allowing Drury and Briere to walk with nothing coming back in return was despicable. Owner Tom Golisano has refused to let General Manager Darcy Regier sign any of their stars to long-term deals, which turned last year's President's Trophy-winning team into a squad that has struggled all season. Since trading All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to San Jose last week, the team's playoff hopes look slim.
Regardless of the team's current situation, the fact that "fans" around Geneseo seem to have disappeared is very discouraging. As depressing as it can be to see your favorite team fall from having the most points in the league to likely falling just short of the playoffs, fans still need to support the team. Remember, fans in cities such as Hartford, Quebec City and Winnipeg have all lost their teams in the past 15 years, and a few years ago the same thing almost happened to the Sabres before Golisano bought the team in 2003.
Despite selling out most home games, the atmosphere hasn't been the same. At recent home losses to the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings, visiting fans made the contest sound like a road game when their teams scored. Sabres' fans have been known to be abundant at road games, especially against teams with small, unenthusiastic fan bases such as Washington, New Jersey and Florida. Seeing it happen at home games in Buffalo is depressing.
Supporting a team when they aren't having success can be very frustrating. Despite that, true fans will support their team regardless of their record. In New York City, seeing Rangers jerseys and hats on the street was not uncommon even when the team missed the playoffs each season from 1998-2004. Toronto fans are among the most rabid and dedicated fans in the league despite the pathetic state of the Maple Leafs.
There are many dedicated, true Sabres fans who have continued to support the team this year. To all of you: kudos and keep it up. To those who decided to jump off the wagon when Drury and Briere left, just do us all a favor: When the Sabres start winning again, don't come back. We don't want you.