It is, I think, time to come clean to you, Gentle Reader, about where my affections lie. Of course my heart beats red-and-black, and the Devils always, always, always trump all. But there is one certain player, a lone representative of a different Eastern Conference team, who has bewitched me to the point where I lose all capacity for rational thought. That player? Is Ryan Miller. Reader, I feel such an unburdening to have just written those words. Because really, loving Ryan Miller when you’re not a Sabres fan by birth is a truly embarrassing thing to have to carry around with you.
Here’s the thing. We occasionally pay a modicum of attention to the ranks of college hockey when the Devils have a particularly well-regarded prospect who’s kicking NCAA ass, and so we were cognizant of Miller during his Hobey Baker year but we never actually saw him play. Then we paid a shred of attention to his comings and goings between Rochester and Buffalo during his lengthy slog towards becoming an NHL starter, but really, he didn’t register much with us. I mean, they were Buffalo. They sucked then. Who cared? Then along came last year’s playoffs, and after the Devils lost Pookie and I cast about to find a new team to cheer for. The easiest way to warm to a team? Finding a hottie. So we hunkered down one evening in front of a Buffalo game and the following exchange occured:
Schnookie: “So, who on this team is cute?”
Pookie: “For some reason I’ve thought for years that Ryan Miller is, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen him.”
Schnookie: “I have also been operating under that assumption. I guess he must be hot, then.”
[The television suddenly shows footage of a maskless Miller doing his pre-game “meditation”. We both recoil in horror at the sight. A pained silence falls on our living room, as even the crickets that would be chirping to great comedic effect here are repulsed by Miller’s terrible visage.]
Pookie: “I guess that answers that question, then.”
Schnookie: “I think I’m in love.”
Pookie: “You have got to be kidding me.”
I’m not proud of it. But I have a long history of falling for ugly, talentless goalies. Mind you, I am not one of those chicks who digs goaltenders. The primary reason I hated Rachel Gibson’s execrable hockey romance novel “See Jane Score” was because I just don’t truck with the goalie thing. So I can’t explain why I always seem to have an irrational favorite non-Devil player, a guy in whom I can see no wrong, and that guy always seems to be a crap-assed goalie. First it was Eric Fichaud. Then when he fell off the face of the planet, it was Steve Sheilds. (This just keeps getting more and more embarrassing for me, doesn’t it?) And now it’s Ryan Miller. Every time he is justifiably criticized for giving up soft goals, or having a bloated GAA or a shameful save percentage, I cry foul and think, “Poor Ryan. He needs my tender loving!” Then every time I actually see him on TV I wonder, “What in the hell is wrong with me? This guy hit every branch on the way down the ugly tree.” Then I cringe at the insult he just suffered and mentally race to his aid, thinking again, “He needs my tender loving!” Watching Sabres games with me is painful for Pookie, because with each goal he gives up (and they are frequent), I wail, “Oh, Ryan!” and try to blame the skaters in front of him. I’m pathetic.
But I think it’s important for me to share this, because I’m hoping, in the likely event that Marty Brodeur doesn’t remember how to be a big-game goalie, that the Sabres will give me a bandwagon to jump on and ride to a Stanley Cup. And along the way I’ll be here making IPB look idiotic as I ardently defend my ugly, ugly sweet Slug honey.