For decades, the people of Western New York have been obsessed with their sports teams, including the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills. As the 2022-2023 seasons are currently underway, Hilbert students talked about their views on the teams and their expectations for the seasons.
The Sabres’ season began October 13th, with a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators, but anticipation for this year’s team began early last summer. In the 2022 NHL draft, the Sabres owned three first round picks, selecting Matthew Savoie, Noah Ostlund, and Jiri Kulich. During free agency they signed 6’2’’ defenseman Illya Lyubushkin and addressed their subpar goaltending situation with the addition of Eric Comrie. They even retained veterans such as Vinnie Hinostroza and named Kyle Okposo the team’s 20th captain in franchise history.
In addition to that, the Sabres are icing the NHL’s youngest team this season, with stars such as 2018’s first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, 2021’s first overall pick Owen Power, and other first round picks including Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, and Jack Quinn. Rounding out the roster, are leaders of the team Alex Tuch, Tage Thompson, and Jeff Skinner.
With a roster as promising as this, Hilbert senior Jon Heck shared his thoughts on the team. Heck, who has followed the Sabres since 2009, is knowledgeable on the sport, familiarizing himself with not only the Sabres rosters each season, but with other NHL rosters and junior players in the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL.
While Heck hopes for a Stanley Cup this season, his realistic goal for the Sabres is to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“I think they can very well compete for a wild card spot even though their division is stacked with good teams,” he said. “It would be a step in the right direction, given the twelve seasons without playoffs.”
It personally means a lot to him for the Sabres to succeed, given the fact that he’s never watched a live Sabres playoff game.
While Heck has high hopes for this current season, he sees better days ahead for the organization.
“This past draft was super exciting, with the three first rounds,” Heck said. “Even guys taken in the later rounds look really promising, and our goalie prospect pipeline is really good.”
Buffalo’s other major sports team is also booming this season, with even higher expectations. The Bills, who are 8-3 , are seen as a powerhouse team in the National Football League and were Superbowl favorites at times this season.
Last offseason, following their heartbreaking overtime loss to Kansas City, the Bills made several moves to solidify their position as a top team in the league. Most notably, the added outside linebacker Von Miller, who was fresh off a Superbowl victory in Los Angeles and drafted cornerback Kaiir Elam. At the start of this season, Quarterback Josh Allen led the team to blowing out the defending Superbowl Champions and defending top seed from the AFC. Their only loss to date was by two points to the Miami Dolphins.
Bills fans can be found all over Western New York, including Hilbert College. Junior Jamel Harris talked about his fandom, and what the Bills mean to him. Harris, who has been a diehard fan since 2017, is hoping for a Super Bowl this season. While talking about expectations, he said “Anything besides having a Super Bowl trophy at the end of the season will be falling short.” Despite quite high expectations, he believes its possible, as “they’re on track to lock up the number one seed, which is absolutely necessary to win a Super Bowl. I don’t believe a team can make it without a first-round bye.”
Compiled with that, Harris believes this year’s Bills is the deepest roster in the league. He said, “There are legit starters, with three to four quality players at almost every position on the team.” And so far this season, Harris beliefs are proving to be true, as key players such as Dawson Knox, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, and Tre White have all missed games at some point this season.
Sports will always be one of Buffalo’s defining points to the people who call it home, and those looking at it from across the country. Its fans are passionate, loyal, and tested. But the upcoming with current optimism and hope, it’s clear the future is bright in Buffalo.