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Writing Your Own Story
Craig Anderson got to call it a career in the story book ending kind of way.
BUFFALO — Everyone wants to have the perfect ending in their career and for Craig Anderson, he was able to craft the story book finish people dream about…with help from the Buffalo Sabres teammates he’s played the role of mentor for the past two years.
Casey Mittelstadt’s overtime winner gave Buffalo a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators and the celebration of Anderson’s 20-year career began the moment the goal horn sounded.
Sabres players poured over the boards to swarm Anderson and the Senators waited by their bench to give their former longtime goalie their own congratulations. Although it was a game between a pair of teams who won’t head to the playoffs, being able to congratulate a player who’s meant so much to both franchises was worth it.
“I think I left it all out there,” Anderson said. “You know, at the end of the day, I did everything I possibly could to make sure that I was competitive and gave the team a chance to win. You’ve got to be honest with yourself and that’s the way the game goes. Father Time catches up to you, but, you know, I’ve been fortunate to take from this game as much as I have and I’ve always wanted to give back as much as I can.”
Anderson was embraced by Sens captain Brady Tkachuk and alternate captain Drake Batherson, two of his former teammates from his time in Ottawa. Tkachuk and Batherson were rookies when Anderson ruled the net there and their show of respect and adulation surprised him.
“Even though you don’t think you have an impact on guys, at the end of the day, how you treat people and what you say to them, it goes a long way and I think that’s the kind of respect that they gave tonight,” Anderson said. “I didn’t know I had that much influence on those guys, but to this day they’re still thankful for me being there and being part of their entry into the league.”
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Batherson told me a story before the game about Anderson and something he did for a guy new in the league that went a long way. It feels like a common occurrence that something small that someone does for you along the way up goes so far in making an impression that lasts through a person’s life. There’s no doubt the Sabres’ young players have stories like that where he does something nice and it will stick with them.
The appreciation for Anderson following the game was beyond evident. For a team that had their hopes of making the postseason dashed just a couple days earlier, you wouldn’t have known it because everyone was all in on giving Anderson the kind of sendoff he deserved.
“If Craig wasn’t on your mind, I don’t know what you’re doing today,” Alex Tuch said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m so happy for him. I’m just honored to be his teammate. The memories that we shared over the past couple of years, I’ll never forget. Just the type of person he is and how much the game of hockey means to him is something that I hope to aspire to someday. He’s put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this game. He’s sacrificed a lot to be where he is today and to have the success that he’s had today. He’s the ultimate pro, he’s the ultimate teammate and I’m’ lucky enough to call him my friend.”
There will be plenty of dissection of the Sabres season to come in the next few days/weeks/months and there will be plenty of questions asked about the progress of this team, if they’re on schedule, wondering if they missed an opportunity…all of it, positive and pessimistic, but Anderson’s presence as a guide through the rigors of the NHL schedule and life as a professional and the impact that carries on the young core of the Sabres will strengthen the group as they move ahead into a world of vastly greater expectations.
“He just provides an articulate, clear path to success, and he’s been around long enough, he’s been on good enough teams to be able to share that and not do it in a selfish manner,” captain Kyle Okposo said. “In this industry, everybody to a certain extent is looking out for themselves and at the point in his life and point in his career and everything he’s gone through. He was just so invested in the team and doing everything he could to make this team better. That’s something that makes our whole team special is we really care about each other, and he really embodies that.”