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The Best of a Bad Situation. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
The Best of a Bad Situation.

Late yesterday, the news came out: the Buffalo Sabres were trading their captain, along with their Olympic-hero goalie, in a fire sale before next week's trade deadline so they wouldn't walk without compensation in July when they become free agents.

The return, from the St. Louis Blues, was decent, and may lead to even more wheeling and dealing over the next few days. It marks the end of an era of Ryan Miller as the face of the franchise and will be remembered, by us as well as him, with much bittersweetness.

But that's not what I came here to tell you about. I didn't even come to talk about the draft. No, it's the side story that will pale in insignificance come playoff time and in future years, but is pretty damn amazing right now.

You see, the Sabres only carry two goalies on their NHL roster.  The league requires that two goalies dress for each game.  If this trade had gone down earlier in the week, or even in the day, they would have simply called up a goalie from their Rochester affiliate- but this one came so late, and the Amerks were so far away, that the normal drill would not work.

So instead they made a dream come true:

Ryan Vinz... made his NHL debut tonight as the Sabres’ backup net minder to starter Jhonas Enroth, pressed into service about 6pm when the blockbuster trade sending Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues was made official.

The diminutive Vinz, who is listed at 5′ 8″, played as a goaltender for Clarkson University and now works for the Buffalo Sabres as a scout, and also serves on the HarborCenter staff as Director of Hockey Technology. He was leaving the office after a day’s work, and was planning to join his brother before the game and then catch the action in the stands, a routine he had followed on many a game night. Little did he know that his life was about to change in a big way.

Vinz gave a glimpse of how this all came together just an hour before puck drop. “Luckily I was still in the office and I had my equipment with me, so it worked out pretty well.” Indeed, with the game about to start, the Rochester farmhands hundreds of miles away playing in Chicago, and the Sabres desperate for a back up emergency goaltender, Vinz was handed the opportunity that many can only dream of. A chance to suit up and play a real game in the NHL.

He was asked tonight that had the Sabres been nursing a 6-1 lead and it was late in the game, would he have gone in? Vinz laughed and replied, “Naw. This was about as good as it gets as far as an experience for me.”

He admitted that he didn’t play too much hockey during his days at Clarkson. “Pretty much held the door for the others. And had an awesome view,” Vinz replied. “But getting to do this at the NHL level? Yeah. Psyched.” Vinz admitted that this was one of his proudest hockey moments ever. “I was very surprised about everything. And really nervous. But it was very exciting.”

I heard him being interviewed earlier this morning: he was signed to a one-day tryout contract, and made nothing for the roster designation because he didn't get in the game. But the thrill of being in official records, and having a uniform with his name on the back, would seem to more than make up for that.

I'm not into high-priced major-league merch- I buy t-shirts and the occasional long-sleeve-touque combo when it's really brutal- but if I ever see a VINZ 35 jersey on a clearance rack, I'll probably buy one. Because if anyone captures the current spirit of this team- underqualified but ready for anything on a moment's notice- it's this guy.

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