Olympic Wrap: Ryan Miller is king…Hockey may have an opening..Don’t f#$k this up, Darcy..and more

I don’t really have the words to describe what I saw over the last two weeks. I saw hockey at its finest. I saw NHL players cry and leave it all on the ice. My heart bleeds for Ryan Miller and Team USA. I even got emotional when Lindy Ruff shook Ryan Miller’s hand and whispered “good job” into his ear.

However, Team USA shouldn’t hang their heads down in defeat. After being an afterthought before these games, they were able to steal the collective heart of a nation for one week. Chris Drury said it best, “No one knew our names. People know our names now.” Indeed they do. For Hockey fans, there were no losers today, only winners.

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I have to admit, I didn’t think Ryan Miller would become a household name if Team USA went deep into the medal rounds. I was completely wrong and underestimated the popularity of the Olympics. Miller played out of his mind during these games. Hopefully, he gets rewarded with some endorsement deals and maybe gets an upgrade on the Hollywood actress girlfriend…whatever her name is.

All kidding aside, I have never been prouder of an individual player with Buffalo roots. I’m talking along the lines of what Frank Reigh did during the greatest comeback game. Over my years as a Buffalo fan, I’ve always been trained to mainly cheer for the front of the jersey, rather than the back of it. I’ve also never been the type of fan to cheer for someone just so I could feel good about my city. For this week, I think I can make an exception for Miller.

I think you can put him with the likes of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Gilbert Perreault in the annals of Buffalo sports prestige. It was so cool to get messages from people who don’t watch hockey to say “Wow, that Miller guy plays for you?” Hell, yeah he does! If anything, these games taught me not to take anything for granted when you have stars playing for your home team. I’m definitely going to enjoy watching Miller play for the next seven years in the blue and gold. I’m never going to roll my eyes when the Sabres play a 2-1 boring ass game. OK, that’s a lie..but I’ll look more closely towards Miller to be my entertainment value.

But you know what the best part is? Even if Miller was torched in the Olympics, he would have still been able to come home to Buffalo and get a huge ovation against the Capitols. However, after this performance, Miller went from being the most popular player in town to being the third franchise in Buffalo…and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who I’ll be rooting for the most.

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One more retract on my end: As much as I think the Olympics should be for amateurs, these NHL players kind of work for me. Hell, the Flying Tomato guy has made millions of dollars for being a professional and gets to play. I think after these games, I’m for college kids staying in school and learning calculus.

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I’m real happy that Ryan Miller was able to stay for the closing ceremony. You wouldn’t be able to tell from the expression on his face that he just started the biggest game of his life and lost. It’s definitely a moment in his life that he won’t ever forget.

BTW-couldn’t the NHL decide to go back to work on Tuesday instead of Monday? Talk about raiding the party too early.

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Look, I understand the reasons why Gary Bettman may NOT want NHL players participating in the 2014 Games. Besides the work stoppage, you would be watching live hockey games at 3:30 in the morning. Plus, it’s not like NBC is putting their best foot forward in promoting hockey. Hell, they can’t even distinguish Ryan Miller’s real voice. Better yet, they couldn’t even present Miller a trophy for being named the MVP of the tournament. I guess they must have had a private ceremony at the airport or are in the process of FedExing the trophy to his home.

However, how can you NOT send over the pros to Russia? Olympic Hockey in the USA took a huge step during these games. How many times did Ryan Miller become the number one trending topic on Twitter? Finally..the Olympic audience was watching something on ice that didn’t involve dancing or bad costumes. It’s not about marketing the NHL, Gary. It’s about having the biggest platform in the world to watch the greatest hockey players. It’s about the fans to be more precise.

The American fans’ lasting memory is going to be Sidney Crosby scoring on Ryan Miller. I don’t think seeing a bunch of college kids getting destroyed in 2014 will erase that memory. Trust me, you can totally market the games in 2014 as “unfinished business” for Team USA. Don’t try and be a bad cop here, Gary. The IOC can sell the Olympics on Ice dancing and the Flying Tomato without the NHL’s help.
BTW-Real classy of the Vancouver Sun to put a photo on the front page of Ryan Miller laying down on the ice after letting in the game-winning goal. If you ask me, that’s bulletin board material for the Games in 2014.
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Now, did this year’s Olympic hockey tournament make the NHL more popular? I’m willing to say no..for now. Look, I’ve said all along that American fans have too short of an attention span when it comes to sports. There are just so many options to choose from and it’s only going to get tougher with the NCAA Tournament and MLB starting. I just don’t see Team USA’s performance as motivating the casual fan to turn on a Panthers vs Blue Jackets game. Lets also not forget that the games will be on Versus, which still doesn’t have a deal with Direct TV…which is probably the least of the network’s worries.

Plus, look at the type of hockey we just saw. You’re going from seeing HOF talent on four lines for the Canadians to seeing whoever the Florida Panthers have to roll on the ice. God help someone who decides to tune in for a Sabres vs Devils game. Sorry, but it’s a step down in play if you ask me.

Look, if there’s a bright side, it’s that the NHL and Team USA are extremely young. It’s not like the 2002 Silver medal USA team that had aging stars, like Mike Modano and Jeremy Roenick. Youth definitely sells in sports. The NHL needs to do what the NBA did for Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. They have to shove guys like Crosby, Miller, Kane and Ovechkin down our throats. I don’t care if it’s seeing Ryan Miller on Celebrity Apprentice or Patrick Kane getting arrested with Vince Vaughan in a taxi cab. Just get these guys in the spotlight.

The NHL isn’t going to become an overnight sensation, but the Olympics were definitely a step in the right direction. So please, NHL..Don’t screw this up (Or just don’t have Tampa Bay vs Calgary in the Finals again)

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Sabres thoughts:

1) I don’t want to hear about the Olympics effecting Ryan Miller down the stretch. Hell, he just lost the game of his life and was laughing like a little kid at the closing ceremony. He’s going to be just fine. Besides the two games against Canada, Miller didn’t really break a sweat against the opposition. If anything, this could work for him. I’ve always had some doubts about Miller’s psyche when it came to handling the burden of his team’s fortunes on his shoulders. Sorry, but the pressure of playing against Canada in that environment proves to me that he can handle a nuclear or economic crisis. Miller’s performance in the Olympics should give him nothing but extreme confidence for the rest of the season.

2) I wouldn’t want to be in Darcy Regier’s shoes for the next 48 plus hours. He may be under the most pressure ever to make a trade at the deadline. Within the last two weeks, Sabres fans have gone from thinking that this team had no shot at making a legit run to thinking that if Miller can do it for the USA, why can’t he do it for us? It’s not about building your youth, Darcy. It’s about building a legit team around the best goaltender in the world. Lets give the guy a little help.
If you need some advice Darcy, I’m here for you:

Memo to Darcy I: If you want to resign Henrik Tallinder, that’s fine with me. However, don’t go on TV and claim that resigning him is equivalent to a deadline deal, like you did with resigning Tim Connolly last season.

Memo to Darcy II: You better not tell me that Pat Kaleta returning to the line-up is your trade deadline move.

Memo to Darcy III: Save the Dominic Moore and Bob Corkum-4th line trades for the offseason.

Memo to Darcy IV: Sorry, but I’m not for Marty Biron or any other back-up goalie coming to Buffalo. I know fans will jump for joy to see Biron’s smile and hear his 40 minute interviews. Lalime is just fine in my humble opinion. Lindy just has to stick to a legit schedule and play Lalime once every 5-6 games. Lets not forget that Lalime gave up just one goal against the Penguins and Blackhawks.

Memo to Darcy V: Lets NOT repeat having an elite goaltender demanding a trade because you failed to provide the tools to win. Look, everyone can have their issues with Hasek all they want. But when you have players like Brian Holzinger and Dixon Ward on your team, you definitely have a legit beef. Of course, Miller doesn’t seem like the guy to demand a trade, but he did say that his teammates played like fragile kids. I think Ryan’s trying to tell you something, Darcy. Lets not try and waste Miller’s career by having him play with mediocre talent like you did with Hasek. For god sakes, just look at how sad Miller was after losing…do it for him at least!

Memo to Darcy VI (I’m sure the fax machine is jammed):
Call Toronto and see if they would be willing to offer Tomas Kaberle. Just tell Ron Wilson and Brian Burke that if it wasn’t for Ryan Miller, they would have came home with nothing but a couple of free t-shirts and an autograph from Donald Sutherland.
BTW- How much do you wanna bet that Tom Golisano makes a cameo in the owner’s box on Wednesday when fans welcome back Ryan Miller? We all know that Tom’s never missed out on a cool photo-op. I’m just saying.
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