The Buffalo Sabres may have taken a few missteps as a franchise since 2015, but one area they continue to improve at has been their retirement ceremonies. On Jan. 19, the Sabres held the jersey number retirement and Sabres Hall of Fame ceremony for goalie Ryan Miller, who played for the team from 2002-2014.
Miller becomes the eighth player to have his jersey retired and the 43rd member of the Sabres Hall of Fame. During his time in Buffalo, he collected 284 wins through 540 games played, the most out of any Sabres goalie. He also holds the franchise record in saves with 14,847 and wins in a season with 41, the same year he won the Vezina Trophy.
The full ceremony for Miller clocked in at just under 43 minutes and included many members of the Sabres organization, both past, and present. Hosted by intermission hosts Brian Duff and Martin Biron, the ceremony opened with a video tribute played in the arena.
Miller was surrounded by his family, various personal friends, 18 of his former teammates, Sabres owner Terry Pegula and retired play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret, who had his own banner raised to the rafters of KeyBank Center the previous season. The ceremony also featured a video message from fellow iconic Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek. Hasek, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, had his jersey retired by the Sabres in 2015.
Hasek’s Lackluster Night
By comparison to the recent banner ceremonies for Jeanneret and Miller, Hasek’s was fairly lackluster. On Jan. 13, 2015, his ceremony ran for only about 15 minutes prior to a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
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Opening with a short introduction from Jeanneret, who remained in the press box and not on the ice as he was for Miller’s ceremony, Hasek did not receive the same amount of guests that Miller had, with only a brief appearance from Sabres legends Danny Gare and René Robert.
The bulk of the ceremony contained a speech from Hasek, followed by the introduction of Gare and Robert and the raising of the banner. A video montage of his best career moments was also shown on TV before the puck drop. While the difference in quality between the ceremonies seems slightly odd, Hasek’s was par for the course of the Sabres organization at the time.
Special Event Woes
The 2014-15 season was the same year that management was openly and unashamedly tanking for the chance to draft Connor McDavid, as they finished last place in the league with only 54 points.
The Sabres have also had some controversy in the past regarding their attention to detail during special events. During a 90’s night event during the 2019-20 season, the team famously gave iconic players from that era visibly obvious knockoff jerseys and even misspelt some names on the back such as Mike Robitaille and Dave Andreychuk.
While Robitaille and Andreychuk took it in stride, it was still an embarrassing moment for the Sabres organization, especially in the midst of another miserable season. However, within the past two seasons, or at least since the hiring of head coach Don Granato, they have managed to create a much better atmosphere around the team, and the events have followed that trend.
Last season, the Sabres held the retirement ceremony and banner-raising for Jeanneret, an event that was advertised and hyped up throughout the entire season leading up to it. For Miller, the Sabres advertised the ceremony with 30 days of giveaways on their social media channels and arguably outdid their work done last season. As the current team remains the best we’ve seen in years, the trends within the organization seem to have followed suit.
Hello! I’m a third-year journalism student at Kennesaw State University. I’ve been a fan of the Buffalo Sabres my whole life, and I am super excited to have the opportunity to cover them for The Hockey Writers. Most of the time you can find me on Twitter @skinnerskating or @buckfelderbrie, where I yell about the Sabres, Bills, and anything else happening in my life.