It seems that the Buffalo Sabres are pretty good. Lots of people seem to think that this might be their year.
Seriously, this is the most excited I've seen Buffalo about a sports team ever. I can't really compare this level of excitement to the Bills' run of four straight Super Bowl appearances, because for the first three of those, I wasn't in Buffalo during the playoff runs. I was in college, in Iowa. So the Super Bowl run was a big deal for me, but in a different way; the Bills at that point were my main reminder of home, the way I "spiritually" kept in touch with Western New York. Those teams are special to me for that very reason. For three years I would watch the Bills play at Rich Stadium and say, "That's my home."
(I was back in the area for the last of the Super Bowl runs, but by that time the excitement didn't quite seem as real. I'm not sure that anybody really expected the Bills to be able to beat Dallas in that game; we were happy just to get back for the fourth time in a row, something nobody else has ever done. The iconic image of the fourth time was the guys at the stadium who brought the sign reading, "We're Back! Deal with it, America".)
So I can't say that the excitement surrounding the Sabres this year is similar to the Bills' run. Maybe it's more exciting, maybe it's the same. I suspect that it's most like the 1990 Bills run, which was the first of the Super Bowl appearances -- that was when it most felt like they were on the cusp of winning it all. And that's the feeling right now, that this is it, and that when this set of games is over, we'll all know what it feels like to live where the local team really has won it all. Let me tell you, folks: I personally have never felt this pervasive a sense of optimism around these parts, about anything. That means something. We Buffalonians are a hearty bunch, but optimism doesn't tend to be our strong suit. We tend to be the chip-on-our-shoulders types, the ones who find it advisable to give The Fates the finger before they give us the shaft.
But right now? None of that applies. It's a new season, and the team that wins sixteen games wins the Stanley Cup. So go Sabres, and get those sixteen W's. And to everyone else watching, this is the city of chicken wings, beef-on-weck, Sahlen's hot dogs, and Labatt's beer. When they win that Cup, we're going to throw a party for the Ages. The kind of party that Homer would have composed a 6,000 line poem about.