It's all Buffalo Bills fever in Western New York right now. The team's always been at the top of Buffalonians' minds but over the last three seasons, it's grown even more, to the point it's unavoidable.

The Buffalo Sabres on the other hand, have gone the other direction. That's what 11 straight years without a playoff appearance will do.

But back in the late '90s and mid-2000s, the Sabres were almost neck-and-neck with the Bills, even surpassing them in 2006 and 2007.

I used to be an even bigger Sabres fan than a Bills fans growing up. My first hockey memory was the 1999 Stanley Cup run. Then, two more playoff appearances after that. I just assumed that was how it would always be.

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Then the Sabres went into turmoil as their owners, the Rigas', were taken away in handcuffs and the future of the team in Buffalo was uncertain. There were thoughts of moving the team, but the NHL took control of the franchise and refused to let them leave Buffalo. Tom Golisano eventually bought the team in 2003.

I didn't get a chance to run into Sabres players very often, but one time I did as a young teenager in 2003, the night or two before the NHL Trading Deadline.

The Sabres were one of the league's worst teams that season, but they had star forward Miroslav Satan on the roster. The thought was they didn't want to lose Satan for nothing, but as it turns out, he was not traded away in 2003, nor in 2004. He left the Sabres after 2004.

That deadline, the Sabres acquired Daniel Briere in exchange for Chris Gratton.

I went to Transit Lanes to bowl with my dad the night or two before the deadline. When we walked up to the front desk, we saw Miroslav Satan and then Sabres defenseman, Radoslav Hecl there.

Hecl played just 14 games for the Sabres that season (Rochester Amerk call up), but like Satan, he was a Slovak hockey player and they were evidently having some bowling fun on an off night together.

I remember the guy behind the desk was joking to Satan, "so, am I going to see you on Tuesday?" which is when the trade deadline was. Satan joked and said he didn't know.

I remember Hecl just kind of keeping quiet and letting Miro do all the talking. Satan said hi to me, and after a few second of talking he went on his way.

I'm not sure why, but that moment always stuck with me. Running into two Sabres players like that, in that circumstance, was pretty cool.

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