Meeting Craig Ramsay
It was a cold winter’s night in Buffalo when I entered the world. Of course, it was snowing.
Craig Ramsay had just finished an illustrious career with the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League. The forward played all 1,070 of his NHL games with the Sabres (14 seasons), compiling 252 goals and 420 assists, and posting a +328 +/- rating. He also tallied 48 playoff points, including 17 goals.
My parents, avid hockey fans and Buffalo residents, liked the name. And so, they named baby me after Craig Ramsay.
It’s in my baby book and everything. Little did my parents know that 20-something years later, that baby boy would be working with the Sabres.
And everything came full circle, as it often does in life, when I met Craig Ramsay for the first time on Friday night (Nov. 7, 2014) at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. It was a thrill.
Now 63 years old and an Assistant Coach for the Edmonton Oilers, Ramsay was behind the bench for Edmonton on Friday as his Oilers staged a third-period comeback to defeat the Sabres 3–2.
I watched the game up in the pressbox, as I do every home game in my role as Social Media Manager for the Sabres, which I began in the summer of 2013 — some 42 years after Ramsay was drafted by the Sabres.
Timing is everything. And thanks to the help of the Sabres PR staff, I was lucky enough to meet Ramsay after the game, just before he took off with his team for New York City, as the Oilers face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Mike Gilbert graciously provided the introduction. He told “Rammer” (Craig’s nickname) that I was named after him. Mr. Ramsay lit up with a smile and shook my hand. He told me a brief story about encountering a “Craig” at a horserace in Peterborough, Ontario, and said to thank my parents for naming me after him and to say hello to them. He also appreciated the purple attire I was wearing for Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Ramsay himself is a cancer survivor, so it meant a lot to him.
I’m not sure I could have ever imagined this meeting. I never gave it much thought. After growing up in Buffalo, I moved to Rochester for college, then to Chicago for graduate school, then to New York City for a job. During that same span, Ramsay himself has been busy— working as a coach with the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning (where he won a Stanley Cup), Boston Bruins, and Atlanta Thrashers until joining the Oilers staff in June of this year. Life has a funny way of working out sometimes, and never have I felt more that I’m exactly where I should be — right at home — than that moment I met Craig.
Sometimes hockey is more than a game. This was one of those nights and it’s one I won’t ever forget.