Tonawanda News — A group of former Griffinites had the idea of buying and sharing a pair of season tickets a couple years after graduation. Tom was characteristically enthusiastic and jumped at the notion.
It so happened that our purchase coincided with the team's President's Trophy season and second consecutive appearance in the conference finals in 2007. We went to a playoff game together against the rival Ottawa Senators, Game 2 of the semifinals. Already down in the series 1-0 and trailing 3-2 late in the third period, we sat nervous as all hell in our nosebleed seats.
The packed arena was silent as the minutes ticked away. With six seconds left, still trailing by a goal, a puck wheeled in desperation from the near wall found its way to Sabres captain Danny Briere, standing alone at the far post. He tapped it in and the roof blew off the place. I've never jumped so high in my life. When my feet finally found the ground I grabbed Tom in a bear hug. We screamed and flailed with a euphoria reserved precisely for hockey nuts in ecstasy.
It is, to this day, my single favorite Sabres memory. I couldn't be happier Tom was by my side.
Alas, the jubilation was short-lived. The Sabres lost the game in double overtime.
As 19,000 wiped out fans trudged out of the arena, Tom looked around and said something so simple, so exactly right, I'll remember it for a lifetime of losses.
"There is no joy in Buffalo tonight."
That phrase encapsulates Tom Joyce as best I can describe. He was right. There was no joy. But only that night. There would be other nights — better nights — to come.
Tom's great gift was to deal with the world as it existed before him, good or bad — but always with the knowledge if it was bad it would or could get better. It was a secret he imparted to everyone he met and it's what enabled him to recognize and celebrate each person's uniqueness and worth. Though hardly a wealthy man, that quality made him one of the richest people I've had the good fortune to know.
As I and many more people mourn his death and contemplate his life and ours without him, I keep thinking of those words — but with an added bit of punctuation, his gift to me in more ways than one.
There is no joy in Buffalo. Tonight.Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.