Toni Lydman -- All Photos by Jeff Barnes

by Joe DeGweck

On January 1, 2008, our Buffalo Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first ever Ice Bowl played in the Western New York area.

This is an honor they have earned through their spectacular and exciting performance on the ice over the past years. It is an honor they share with all of us and bestowed upon our community. I have yet to meet a Buffalonian or a Western New Yorker who is not proud of their Buffalo Sabres. From the end of September through the middle of April, fans and all hockey lovers alike are glued to their television sets to view the most electrifying games presented by the National Hockey League.

Three to four times a week, for 26+ weeks, and often more when they make the playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres display a constant spirit of hopefulness and an attitude of sanguinity that perpetuates promise and fosters assurance in our community.

But this article is not about their play on the ice. It is not about the character of warriors that they exhibit as they compete. After 50 News would like to pay tribute to our Buffalo Sabres for all that they do after the game is over; for all the hope that they bring to so many Western New Yorkers in need of support. The stories are almost endless and their efforts are far too many to mention all. But today I would like to share just a few contributions made by some of the Buffalo Sabres.

Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder have bought a suite at the HSBC Arena for the purpose of sharing it with children and families throughout our community. Their generosity offers opportunity to hundreds of Western New York families whose children are afflicted with life-threatening illnesses. Members of Stones Buddies from Women and Children’s Hospital, and Carly’s Club from Roswell Park are often invited to attend a game. It is an encouraging event that provides a network of support for so many young children and teens.

Ryan Miller is involved with The Steadfast Foundation as well as other support groups affiliated with Roswell Park. The Steadfast Foundation was founded by Ryan and his father. It is in response “born out of his own family’s experience battling cancer.” In his mission statement, Ryan Miller emphasizes that “our goal is to provide patients and their families support to help develop and maintain positive attitudes and help nurture an environment conducive to effectively battling the disease.” Tireless and dedicated, Ryan Miller stays committed.

Maxim Afinogenov is involved with SABAH, the Skating Association for the Blind and Handicapped. This acronym is often termed “Skating Athletes Bold At Heart,” and rightfully so. Their members are children with disabilities that enable them to challenge themselves into achieving goals that they might have at one time never felt possible. Their spirit has raised them to a new and victorious level of accomplishment, which renders them with a sense of victory over their handicap. He also has dedicated himself to the well-known and incredibly successful agency, Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Paul Gaustad has dedicated his efforts toward raising money for Camp Good Days. For over 25 years, Camp Good Days has been providing summer camping experiences and year-long outdoor activities to families whose lives have been changed by cancer. Paul Gaustad helps make their efforts more enjoyable through his presence at many events.

Adam Mair supports the untiring efforts of the SPCA. Drew Stafford helps with the Sled Hockey. Brian Campbell is involved with The Summit Foundation of WNY. The list goes on. All of the Buffalo Sabres are out and about in the community, offering support and care for those in need. Mr. Golisano “reinvigorated” The Buffalo Sabres Foundation in 2004. This foundation is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Western New York by striving to work along with organizations that provide services for children and families in need.

So as you watch our beloved Sabers skating and striving for victory and success in every game, remember that they are bigger than what they appear on the ice. They are bigger than the professional athlete that they have trained to aspire to be. There is more than what you see.

Their hearts and souls are committed to the people of Western New York. They do not only entertain us, they allow us and our children to envision a spirit of hope, not only for making the playoffs, but hope for overcoming the obstacles that life places in our way. They achieve, and in so doing, we conquer. For remember, that it is the sense of the challenged transcending toward victory that inspires.

Please take the time to join these athletes and assist in their cause in order that Western New York will continue to be a haven and home for all to appreciate and for all to enjoy. After 50 News thanks all the professional athletes who contribute their time and resources to our community to make this a better place to live. Have a great and prosperous New Year.

Ryan Miller  
Maxim Afinogenov    
Paul Gaustad    
Brian Campbell    
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