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12:09 AM ET, 6/02/06
Buffalo curse lives on
Posted by E.M. Swift
It took till the third period of the seventh game of their third playoff series of 2006, but The Curse finally got to the Buffalo Sabres.
Some people, of course, will credit the Carolina Hurricanes for engineering the Sabres' downfall. They were the better team in the regular season, after all, and many experts' choice to win the Stanley Cup. But Buffalo fans know better. It wasn't Doug Weight, Rod Brind'Amour, or Justin Williams who did them in, erasing the Sabres' 2-1 third-period lead on Thursday night with three third-period goals that sparked the 'Canes' 4-2 comeback victory in Game 7, a thriller that sent the Sabres home and Carolina to the Stanley Cup finals. No, those goals weren't the real culprits. It was The Curse.
The dreaded Buffalo Curse lives on.
Sabres fans had every reason to hope, to believe their time had come. It's been a bad milleneum for curses, after all. In 2004, the Curse of the Bambino bit the dust, exorcised by the Idiots on the Red Sox. In 2005, it was the White Sox who ended a curse that had lived since the Black Sox scandal of 1919. But the only curse that mattered to the hardscrabble town from western New York was the one that has hovered over the so-called City of Gloom for years, perhaps forever. The one that forced Scott Norwood's kick "Wide Right!" in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XXV, the first of four straight Super Bowl losses for the Buffalo Bills. The one that caused NHL video replay officials to miss Brett Hull's skate in the crease in the third overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup finals, allowing Hull to score the Cup-winning goal on Sabres netminder Dominik Hasek.
No one knows when the curse on Buffalo sports teams curse started, or why. But no one who lives in that title-less town doubts of its existence. Too many strange and tragic things have happened over the years. Tim Horton, the future Hall of Fame defenseman, one of the first stars of the Sabres, died in a one-car accident in mid-season in 1974. In 1989 Clint Malarchuk, the Sabres goalie, had his jugular cut by an opposing player's skateblade in a freakish accident that saw his blood spewing like a fountain across the ice and fans throwing up in the stands. Malarchuk survived and even played three weeks later in the playoffs. The Sabres, however, did not. They were eliminated by the Bruins that year in the first round.
Then there was the time, two months after the Sabres new arena opened in 1996, that their state-of-the-art $127.5 million Jumbotron scoreboard crashed to center ice a few hours before a game against Boston. Strange goings on, indeed.
When the Rigas family, which owned Adelphia Communications, one of the largest local employer's in Buffalo, took control of the Sabres in 1998, the city rejoiced. Until the patriarch, John Rigas, was led away in handcuffs for fraud and the team had to file for bankruptcy protection. Thousands of employees lost their life savings, and several Sabres players who'd invested in the company stock lost a pantload. Curses, foiled again.
But the 2006 model was a new Sabres team with a new owner, Tom Golisano. A real team, without huge egos or big-name stars. The kind of group the city could embrace as their own. Overachievers who knocked off Philadelphia and Ottawa in the first two rounds of the playoffs and seemed on the brink of making history.
And then, enter stage right, comes The Curse.
First, creative forward Tim Connolly goes down with a concussion. Hey, it happens. Hockey's a rough sport, and injuries are part of the game. Then, in quick succession, three of the team's top five defensemen were injured in the course of 10 days: Dmitri Kalinin, Teppo Numminen and Henrik Tallinder.
Still, the gutty Sabres refused to buckle, tying the Carolina series on Tuesday night with a 2-1 win in overtime. Back to Raleigh they went for the deciding Game 7.
But The Curse had one more card to play. One last kick to the groin. Thursday morning Jay McKee, yet another of their stalwart defensemen, the team's shotblocker extraordinaire, awoke in agony with a staff infection in his shin. He was taken to the hospital and shot full of antibiotics, and while Golisano had his private plane at the ready to fly him down to Raleigh in the event McKee's condition improved, it wasn't to be. McKee remained in Buffalo, and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff had to dress, and play, three defensemen who'd spent virtually the entire year in the minor leagues, numbers 8, 9, and 10 on his depth chart.
This was a great series, and a great seventh game. Up and down action, wide open, well-officiated, terrific goaltending, and, when Buffalo's Jochen Hecht banked one off goalie Cam Ward's leg and into the net to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead with 4 seconds remaining in the second period, nail-biting suspense. The three rookie defensemen, Doug Janik, Jeff Jillson, and Nathan Paetsch, played well. Janik even scored the Sabres' first goal. But no team could have expected to beat a lineup as strong as the Hurricanes without four of their top five defensemen. Mission, impossible. The Sabres gave it everything they had, but some forces are beyond human control. In the third period they ran out of gas.
"It's not a curse," Ruff bravely said of his team's predicament. "It's the way we play. I fully expected to lose some guys to injury. Did I think we'd lose this many? No. But you've got to put your body on the line to win games. They've paid a price. The way they battled, the way they faced adversity, you can hold your head up. They're a special group of guys."
Yes, but not special enough to end a Curse that has strangled the full-throated victory cry for an entire region. Someday, perhaps. Somehow. But for 2006, the Buffalo Curse lives on.
Curse? The only curse I see is lazy sportswriting. After a while every franchise and every city goes through a slump. Philadelphia has just two titles since the Flyers went back-to-back, but none since '83. Are they cursed? If so, well, how about being good enough to lose two Super Bowls, two Worlds Series, five Stanley Cup finals (and a 3-1 lead in a conference final), and four NBA final rounds? That's a new shot at a title every two years for three decades. Some towns would dearly love that sort of a curse.
There are only four major titles to go around each year for the entire country. That's why it's hard to win and special when it happens - and why curses are bunk.
My friend...curse or no curse...Buffalo is still a fantastic sports town. I'd say network ratings are cursed by this result...while the games were beating the IDOL finale in the Buffalo market...they were barely registering a 5th of that rating in tobacco country. Canes/Oilers...a southern region that could care less and a canadian team that may as well be in the North Pole. Sorry OLN/NBC.
This is one of the most stupid articles ever written about Buffalo Sabres. First, you must remember that injuries are part of the GAME, not part of the "curse". Second, if you thought that the NY Yankees could flourish in their glory forever, you were probably also wrong. Canes won only because Buffalo defense was injured, but the truth is that they are an old club (not counting Staal and a couple of others). In fact, their victory is bitter-sweet - they won against a bunch of rookies defensemen, in Game 7 and at home! woo-hoo. OK, that's fine, they are a good club too, but for the young Buffalo team, making it as far as the semi-finals is incredible. If you call this a curse, what would you call "fortune", "success"? If this is a curse, I'd like to see it back in 2007 but with fewer injuries.
This was, and continues to be, a special team. The Buffalo Sabres represent everything that is right about Western New York. We love you guys, you absolutely played your tails off. Dug into a hole after losing 4 defensemen, I couldn't have asked for a better effort in a Game 7.
So, thank you, Sabres. I know I'll be seeing you guys back here next year, and I can't wait.
Whatever, Swift. You don't know the first thing about people from Buffalo. When did it become the "City of Gloom?" Certianly someone who never lived there and can't deal with a little snow 4 months of the year thought they were clever. There's no curse. They haven't been good enough yet. They'll get one eventually. But hey, thanks for bringing up all the other disappointments. We really needed to relive some of those today. What exactly is the point of that column? You know Buffalo fans are not going to enjoy it, and obviously no one else would care about what happens to us, we're just cursed losers from the City of Gloom, right? Maybe it makes you feel better about yourself to kick us while we are down. Well, enjoy it, but we'll be back. We always are.
Well, They played one heck of a season, and had managed to remain injury free... and we all know that does not happen in hockey. Sooner or Later the injury piper must be paid... Though I will remain and always will be a Buffalo Sabres Fan!!! B U F F A L O Let's go Buffalo!!
I'm from Buffalo and the idea that there is a curse is just wrong. Unlucky kicks (Superbowl), Bad Calls ('99 NHL Finals) and a incorrectly installed scoreboard does not comprise a curse; its just the breaks you get when you follow and love sports. Buffalo is a proud city in a economically depressed region and we fill our stadiums and arenas still every season. We will be back next year with our young, quick team and we will have the Stanley Cup held up over the Queen City. Good luck to the 'Canes and the Oilers.
To say that Buffalo lost because of a curse is a slap in the face to the Hurricanes. Buffalo lost, not because of a missed call, but because of a bad play by their defensemen. They lost because they couldn't overcome a team with superior talent. Buffalo didn't use an excuse in going down and you do them and their fans a diservice to suggest one.
If Buffalo has a so-called curse, why were Frank Reich and the Buffalo Bills able to overcome a 35-3 halftime deficit to beat the Oilers in 1993. Couldn't it just be that all Buffalo teams keep getting outplayed and there is no curse at all. Give other teams credit and quit feeling sorry for yourselves. Blame your teams, not some nonexistent curse.
No curse, just bad luck this year. Don't enable the people who are falling on this curse sword.
As a Cubs fan, I can tell you that people who have to hear about your "curse" every year get tired of you real quick. And, frankly, it's a slap in the face of a very fine Buffalo team that played its guts out and deserves the utmost respect, praise, and admiration from its fans and hockey fans in general. Calling it "cursed" is ridiculous and definitely takes something away from the team.
Yes, it is a curse, but the man who should get blamed for this is our beloved GM. At the trade deadline while CAR was adding Weight and Recchi, we traded a backup goalie for a draft pick. We added no players, even though every fan knew we were thin on D and would be in a tough spot if injuries happened. The GM owes it to the current team to do all he can to make a cup run and we did nothing.
You failed to mention in your article that the first goal by the Canes bounced off two Sabre players....how does that happen? Also, was Campbell "cursed" in the third period or is that just a terrible rule the NHL implemented to put the Canes on the Power Play?
The Buffalo Curse ?!? This is what you come up with to write about after what this team has endured this season. I'd love to see your preseason predictions for the NHL. You really show your lack of intelligence by going to the "curse" card 2 hours after the game. Nothing about the game, the season. You are a complete idiot.
I lived in the Buffalo area for 30 years and even I don't believe there is such a curse. What baloney!
The Sabres were heroic this year, and -- like most small market teams that cannot overload their roster with "sure things", they played over their heads. Same thing in 1998 -- that team rode a hot goalie through the playoffs.
Actually, that is the bigger story here. No hot goalie. Good, solid goaltending, sure, but at no time did Ryan Miller stand on his head and keep his team in a game despite all odds.
These games aren't as incredible as we'd like to think. Sabres fans are crushed, but the exit from the playoffs is always tough to take. Maybe it is easier to take an early-round defeat because you don't get to think of the team winning the Cup until you get close to the final.
Curse? Hey, maybe there was another team out there, trying just as hard to win. Do you think that might have been the case?
From a guy whose archive includes figure skating, it's not surprising that you go to the "Buffalo Curse" card rather than actual reporting about the team. Let's dredge up every Buffalo sports moment rather than dealing with the present, the fact that an extremely young team hurt by injury completely sacked up and played fantastically through the playoffs. By the way, E.M, would love to see your preseason picks. You are a friggin idiot who would rather go cliche that truly report on the action. You are doing a disservice to SI.com
Curse??? You are an inept sports writer if this is all you could come up with after one of the most exciting conference championships in years. Try doing your job and write about something tangible, like the blood and sweat that both teams put into this series. Why CNN/Sports Illustrated pays you to write this crap is beyond me or any other sports fan.
Curse...no, maybe 3rd grade writing skills with the way this story was written. Not a Buffalo fan and no where close to a Hartford...scratch that...Carolina fan, but the way the Sabres played through the playoffs was impressive loking at the teams they beat. A real curse is what the NHL will have to deal with this cup final.
This is the first time I can remember in the years of being a Sabres fan that I am incredibly optimistic about next season. I am so proud of our team and the way they fought to the end, I say we are blessed to have the team we now have, not cursed. Our time is just around the corner.
as a born and raised buffalonian i agree there is a curse over our city...a hundred years ago the city was one of the largest shipping cities in the world (largest inland port in the world)and was extremely wealthy...since about the 1950s the city has been on a rapid economic decline...it's not just sports it's a curse on the entire city of Buffalo, the Regis example is a perfect example, becuase that was a time period when Buffalo thought it was beginning an economic recovery, but little did we know.
we were plaged by injuries the entire season, but loosing 4 of your top 5 in the eastern conference finals is too much to take, there is only one force that can do that to a team and a city.
As I've said for every year of my life it seems, there's always next year, and with the Sabres next year is the year, GO SABRES GO BILLS
A curse? Are you nuts? There are no curses, hocus-pocus or any other type of supernatural events occurring in sports. I'm sick of sportswriters attributing lack of success to curses, such as the Red Sox "Curse" two years ago. This is a ridiculous waste of an article, you should be embarrassed.
I agree with most of the people here. There is no curse. Unlucky breaks, yes. I guess some people find comfort in saying there's a curse when you lose. But I don't think you can call 28 players who worked their butts off and gave everything they had a curse. I say we're lucky that we had the chance to support this team. I'm not mad that Buffalo lost another chance at the cup. I'm disappointed, yes, but I'm more upset that these guys couldn't win it for themselves. I wanted Buffalo to win the cup for the players because they deserved it more than anyone. We got quite a few unlucky breaks and that's sad because nobody deserved the cup more than them after all they battled the entire season. I can't even imagine trading one single player for next year. They all contributed something to the team to get as far as they did. I will be back next year supporting the team. Instead of blaming this on the curse, why don't you tell the story of the amazing guys that battled through everything "this curse," as you might say, threw at them. In the end, yes, they lost, but you have to admitt they are one hell of a team and deserve a lot of respect. Don't sell them short and say it's a curse, that almost seems a little disrespectful to me.
By the way, well said Jerome, short and sweet and I agree completely.
To that guys who said carolina "was superior".... well, if they weren't hurt, this series would have never gone 7 games. it took carolina 7 games to beat an ingury-plagued team. if connolly, kalinin, teppo, mckee, and henrik would have been in the series, buffalo would have won it in 5 or 6. carolina barely beat a bunch of scrubs on defense.
well you're naming off some depressing moments in buffalo sports history, lets not forget the "music city miracle", in which wychek clearly threw a forward lateral to win the game for the titans, who ended up going on to the superbowl that year!
You call Brindamour's comments classless? About the most classless guy in the playoffs? While his team is working their tails off he is making himself and them look like an idiot. He pulls this crap every year they're in the playoffs.
I'm a transplant - lived in Western New York for the first 24 years of my life, and have now spent almost 10 years in Raleigh. I root heavily for Carolina, unless they are playing the Sabres.
Carolina won because they were the better team (this year). One person commented that the Sabres are young, and the Canes are old - which is pretty much true. Both teams will be strong next year - the Sabres will be a force for many years to come.
As to a "curse".... The have been many curses made over the years watching the various Buffalo teams. Watching the Braves (NBA) leave town (curses to you, Snyder), watching a football sail to the right, watching a poorly executed special teams play (and poorly called officiating) against Tennessee in the playoffs, watching "No Goal" Hull score (again with poor officiating).... Lots of cursing there.
But there have been even more cheers. Many many more.
Staph (pronounced "staff") stands for staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Do your homework before you write and don't insult your readers. Staff infection would be something that a group of employees had, say like a sports team. It affects the staff's attitude (starting with LaViolette) until they reach a point where they really think they earned something rather than simply being given it.
Wowee -Hurricanes. You beat a team playing without a defense (in Game 7!!!). Really not a lot to be proud of but if I had to live in Mount Pilot, I guess I'd celebrate what I could too.
I have had just about enough of this "Whining and looking for excuses" from Buffalo fans, as LINDA RUFF so eloquently put it regarding the Canes. Yes, Buffalo, you had injuries. so did the CANES...see Eric Cole. You got beat, again, period. No curses, no excuses, just flat out beat! perhaps if you buffalo fans showed a little class and sportsmanship, the sports gods would take it a bit easier on you. Your behavior in Carolina was pathetic.
Is Buffalo cursed? Yes, but most of that is its own doing as the city has the WORST attitude of anywhere I've lived. The city has numerous abandoned buildings, outrageous tolls and taxes, unbelievable debt, an undeveloped waterfront and nobody willing to stand up for the good things about the city (universities, bioinformatic development, etc.). As far as the Sabres and Bills ... they're just guilty by association. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered since Edmonton will crush whichever team won the (L)Eastern Conference.
There is no curse, just some bad breaks. Congratulations 'Canes, you hung on to barely bunch of AHL kids. Maybe you should claim the Calder Cup rather than the Prince of Wales trophy. Brind'Amour was rather dissapointing with his comments about Lindy Ruff, considering how long Brind'Amour has been around, anyone that played with Gordie Howe should know that Ruff was deflecting attention off his young defense, not steal it. Brind'Amour proved he not only looks like a horse's "arse" he is one. So grab your walkers, wheelchairs, and 'Canes, Edmonton is coming. By the way Oiler fans, I am sure that there are still plenty of good seats available in Raleigh. What a great hockey town...
Brind'Amour's comments were dissapointing. Especially coming from such a great player that has been around since the Nixon administration. How was it playing with Gordie Howe by the way? Brind'Amour proved he not only looks like a horse's "arse", he is one.
Curse shouldnt even be mentioned in the sabres success this year. This wasn't a curse, it was a success. Most didn't even predict the sabres to go this far and you are calling it a curse because they can't get to the final games of the stanley cup. Heck, I think its almost a miracle on ice they got this far and it makes for an excellent story. The sabres are a bunch of young guys with a lot of talent and a lot of heart. It was heart and intense motivation which brought them this far in the first place. If they had a lackluster year this year, there would be no words of 'curse' coming from your fingers but because they got this far and ended just shy of playing in the stanley cup finals, its all of a sudden a curse.
I am begining to quetsion how much you SI writers really know about Buffalo.
Brind'amour's comments were completley uncalled for. They just won a hard fought 7 game series and all he can do is comment on the Sabres Coach. It just goes to show you that Lindy did get into their heads. And another thing... There is no curse on Buffalo. This article has to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. Apparently you did not watch ANY Sabre game this year. This team deserves a heck of a lot more credit then saying that they lost because of a curse. They played their hearts out and just had nothing left to give in the end. Sports fans everywhere should be proud of this team and thank them for a great run. LETS GO BUFFALO and thank you for a great season...
The Hurricanes just won a hard fought 7 game series and the captain of the team has nothing to say except that Lindy took away from his team by the comments that he made... Sounds like he did get in their heads! In any event, the Sabres deserve a heck of a lot more credit than saying that they lost because of some non existant curse. They played their hearts out all year and left everything on the ice. They lost because they had no more to give. Sports fans everywhere should thank the Sabres for their play all year. It was a great run and they will be back next year. Thank you Buffalo..
Hey, I'm a Buffalonian and proud Sabre fan, and I enjoyed this article. Look how much mileage Boston got out of its Bambino curse claims! It's all in good fun people... lighten up!
And let's all admit: McKee going down with an infected CUT on his shin and missing game seven along with 3 of his defensive stalwarts... if that's not a curse, then there's no such thing! Jeez, even Hollywood couldn't come up with such a ridiculous turn of events!
So let's have fun with it, look on in amusement while everyone talks about the Buffalo curse for the next 10 months, and then watch our version of the Idiots take it all next year. :-)
Brind'Amour is certainly a man...one not so nice looking classless one.
He should have taken the higher road by answering the question asked of him...what can you say about this Buffalo team? was the question - not - what's your opinion about the Sabres coach? He looked like a grandstanding celebrity using the media to tout his opinions.
It was cheap and he came out looking like the little punk.
Where do I sign up to be a sportswriter? This has got to be the easiest job in the whole world. Ten minutes of lightweight research, an hour of banging out an article... skip the proofreading, I guess (staff != staph), and then it's off to the bar for the rest of the day!
Meh, I guess I shouldn't complain though. My job's pretty easy too -- after all, I apparently have time to write nasty comments about sportswriters! :p (If only I could get paid to write nasty comments about sportswriters while at the bar...)