The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes are the two teams with the worst records in the NHL. On Thursday night, those two teams faced each other in Buffalo. Yet, the cheers from the crowd made it seem like a home game for the Coyotes — especially when Arizona won in overtime.
Why? Because Buffalo fans want their team to finish with the worst record in the league. The way the NHL draft lottery works, the team with the worst record is guaranteed one of the top two picks. That team would then have an opportunity to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, two of the best NHL prospects in years.
That’s why Sabres fans booed when their team tied the game at 3-3 with less than four minutes remaining in regulation. It’s also why they reacted positively when the Coyotes’ Sam Gagner scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
“I’ve always spoken extremely high of our fans,” Weber said, as transcribed by Barry Petchesky of Deadspin. “I don’t even know if disappointed is the word. They score that first one, our fans are cheering. Late penalty, they cheer. They cheer when they score to win the game. I don’t even know what to say.”
Sabres fans even took the liberty of labeling Thursday night’s game “Tank Night.” Many of them held up signs with tanks on them while others taped Coyotes logos to the front of their Sabres jerseys.
From a fan standpoint, there is no benefit to finishing with the second-worst record in hockey. Your team already is out of playoff contention, so you might as well root for the future. Weber doesn’t want to hear it.
“This is two years in a row now. Physically, mentally, this is … this sucks,” he said. “To compound things, you have your home fans cheering against you, kinda. Again, I’ve never been a part of that, obviously, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I guess, but this is a whole new low right now.”
Sadly, the most exciting things to happen in Buffalo over the past few days are the Sabres losing and a Coyotes announcer going on a rampage at a casino. Such is life when your team is horrendous and there are two weeks remaining in the season.