After the unthinkable happened this week at The Buffalo Sabres, the firing of longtime Head Coach Lindy Ruff, I got to thinking that what people say about someone after they've been fired says a lot about that person.
For months, thousands of Sabres fans have been calling for Ruff's head as a way to "right the ship" and get the Sabres back on a consistent winning track. Now it's happened. And the funny thing is, most of those people who called for his ouster are saying the Sabres did the right thing but, at the same time, are heralding Lindy as a "great guy" and someone they respect. Sixteen years as head coach and memories as one of the great former players gets you that.
I've listened to hours of coverage of Lindy's firing on both WBEN and WGR. I've read the columns and watched the local TV news. And I've heard what the national NHL media is saying about his firing. The theme is a common one. "The time was right for a change behind the bench", they all say, followed up quickly by their emphasis on the fact that Lindy is a great guy, a great coach and respected member of the Buffalo community.
There is something about this town when it comes to longevity. We hang on to people in notable positions for a long time. There aren't many places where a head coach gets sixteen years to prove himself. And there aren't many places where the mayor serves sixteen years and where the anchors of the local news and talk show hosts measure their stays in decades, not years. Buffalo is something special in that regard.
I encounter a lot of people from a lot of places across the country and often times the conversation turns to why people stay in Buffalo and Western New York for so long. In many cases, for life. Aside from all the complaining we do about the politics and taxes in New York State, there is something special about the area that keeps us here. For many it's family. For many it's careers. And for many, believe it or not, it's the four seasons. But for whatever it is, it's real. And it's rare.
My guess is that a guy of the caliber of Lindy Ruff will be standing behind an NHL bench or analyzing the game nationally in the near future. And he may even lead a team to the playoffs and the Stanley Cup. But I'm also guessing he and his family will keep Clarence and the Buffalo area their home.
And that's a good thing.