Ahh the memories. While most of my stadium visits nowadays are confined to visiting places during the regular season to ensure a more true gauge of a facilities’ atmosphere, I have seen my fair share of special moments. Of course, even a game that is not expected to be ‘big’ can produce an amazing moment and that is the beauty of sports. As you would expect, my most memorable games are those involving my favorite team, but there are some other really good ones sprinkled in as well. Below are my Top 5, starting off with the video you see at the top…
1) Buffalo Sabres vs Pittsburgh Penguins – 2001 NHL Eastern Semifinals – Game 5 – HSBC Arena
How times have changed…My friend, Lee, and I bought tickets a few weeks prior for just $53…that’s right $53. The series was tied at 2 and this was an early Saturday Afternoon game, which meant that us 17-year old youngins didn’t have to worry about breaking the law by driving past 9 PM. The Pens went up 2-0 and then in the third period, the Sabres roared back and the place went nuts when the visitors took a penalty. That led to the tying goal and the most nervous I’ve ever been at a game. After an endless 15 minute break for overtime, it took 8 minutes and 34 minutes of playing time to get the result. We heard the ping of the crossbar’s underside post and a breathtaking roar as Stuuuu Barnes won the game. I will never forget those two sounds for the rest of my life.
2) Syracuse Crunch vs Rochester Amerks – 2004 AHL Western Quarterfinals – Game 7 – War Memorial Arena at OnCenter
This was the year of the NHL Lockout and as a result, the AHL was loaded and my hometown Amerks had a core group of future stars with Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy. Being only 45 minutes away at college in Oswego, I drove down to Syracuse for Game 1, which the Crunch took. The series continued with strange scorelines and it eventually came down to a Game 7. My fellow Rochesterian and Sabre fan, Tony, joined me for the game and it was a memorable night. It all started with us being sold tickets from the box office to seats that didn’t exist. Given that it was a sellout, an usher found us seats to use and by the time we got there, we were already sweaty as the old building was stifling thanks to the warm weather. The place was extremely loud and there were plenty of Amerks fans. With tensions running high, the game went to OT and a Syracuse miss went around the boards, leading to a 2-on-1, which the Amerks converted and sent us into hysterics.
Everything was going along like any other game. The Rams and 49ers were in a tight one and typical of about 75% of Division I college basketball games, the crowd was laid back in their following of the contest. I moved around a few times to different seats and as the game got down to the final seconds, I decided to video the ending as no one was around me (see link above). What I caught, was a Jamal Wilson put-back at the buzzer that reminded me of why I love sports so much.
Fresh off of the amazing ending in Rhode Island just a month earlier, I was in for another basketball treat. As opposed to the Power 5, I’m a bigger fan of low-mid major basketball and the conference tournaments in these other 25 or so leagues are terrific spectacles. I drove to Hamden, CT in a continuous heavy rain to see the Semifinals of the NEC Tournament as Quinnipiac hosted Robert Morris. The students had the place rocking and the game was down to the final seconds. After a roar-inducing video played on the scoreboard, I figured this would be another home team celebration. However, Velton Jones had other ideas and his ridiculous runner that went in with four seconds left sent Robert Morris to the title game.
5) Lehigh Mountain Hawks vs Yale Bulldogs – 2005 NCAA Football – Goodman Stadium
These teams let the ball fly and even though there were 103 passes thrown, the Division I-AA level means less breaks in play and better flow to the game. Lehigh came back from 21-6 down and even more impressive is they did it with their backup quarterback. With only four minutes left he led the Hawks to the tying TD and a beautiful 2-point conversion toss to the back of the end zone. In OT, Lehigh scored first and I had a great view of the action from the grassy hill behind the end zone. Yale had four chances to tie the game from inside the 10 and when their last attempt was stymied by a great defensive play, the Mountain Hawks rushed the end zone to celebrate.