Craig Rivet is the captain of the Buffalo Sabres. I love Craig Rivet. I'm really happy he's on our team. However, I must confess that for a long time (until, like, yesterday) I had trouble fully accepting Rivs as a Sabre. I don't mean "Sabre" as in just a player who wears a uniform and plays hockey. Clearly, he's been established as a player, but a Sabre in the way Ryan Miller and Paul Gaustad are Sabres, its more than just what goes on in HSBC Arena.
I can't really explain why I was hesitant to accept him. Its probably because he's the first player in recent memory to sweep into Buffalo and instantly take on such a huge role. He came out of nowhere and BOOM, he's captain. But, in spite of his difference making on the ice and his new leadership role, he wasn't part of the teams I'd grown to love so much from 2005-2007 so I didn't know what to make of him. Would he stick around? Would he make an impact off the ice too? Would he speak disparagingly of this city? Would he get Buffalo? I mean really get it? We need our captain to get it. Would Rivs?
Maybe its because he missed a lot of time and the Sabres were having some success without him. Maybe its because we all knew he was initially very unhappy with being traded here.
When I think of the Sabres as individual players, the list would fall roughly something like this: Miller, Roy, Vanek, Gaustad, Pominville, etc. when listing players in November or so, Rivet probably would've entered my consciousness somewhere between Pat Kaleta and Ales Kotalik. Important, but not central.
Lately things have begun to change. In the pictures and videos I've seen, he seemed to be having a great time at the Catwalk for Charity and that means something to me. It bothers me when I see pictures of players from around the league at events like that and they don't look like they're enjoying themselves. Why not? Get into it, these are your fans, be a part of your community. Earlier in the season he suggested that players should go to Women's and Children's Hospital and that speaks volumes about his character and about his attempts to connect with Buffalo.
After flight 3407 went down near Riv's home and he followed that tragedy with a huge three point night against his old team, it finally occurred to me that I hadn't fully welcomed him into my SabreHeart.
He was everything a Captain needed to be last night. He said all the right things in his interviews, he talked about the community and didn't once discount the importance of this game to the fans. He made the big plays and had the desperation pass of the night to tie the game and then almost put it away in over time. He didn't stop fighting for the team until the final buzzer sounded and the rest of the team rallied with him.
So, Welcome, Craigory. I'm not sure why it took me so long to fully accept you, but I have.