THE AGE-OLD QUESTION: "WHY?"
Brian Duff continues to look for answers to a difficult question
If it’s not the oldest question in the world, then it certainly ranks a close second. And it is forever a valid one.
Why does a power play with more than enough talent, and proven performers, struggle for incredibly long stretches? (And if you think I’m only looking at the Sabres, see Detroit – 0-for-33 on the road this year; and Boston – 11.4% during their playoff run of 2011; and Los Angeles, a meager 12.8% in last year’s Cup run)
Why - as a society - do we obsess over the weather?
Why does drinking and driving still happen, despite its known catastrophic consequences?
Why does one become so emotionally attached to a victim that he or she never knew?
The latter two are the real questions behind “why” I’m writing this today, in advance of a major fundraising event this Sunday from 2-6 p.m. at the Main-Transit Fire Hall in Williamsville, to benefit the Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation.
When Amherst teenager Alix Rice was killed in July of 2011, I was still working for the NHL Network and based just east of Toronto. But as many of you now know, I was always following along with what was happening with the Sabres, as I have been since the mid 1970’s.
In fact, I had just interviewed with the Sabres a couple of weeks earlier, for what would turn out to be my springboard into the organization: a part-time television role for the 2011-12 season. Maybe it was because of that, my desire to be keeping tabs on everything that was happening in Buffalo and not just the Sabres, that had me so emotionally invested in this tragedy.
An innocent teen with an unforgettable smile, just riding her longboard home from work when she was killed by a drunk driver.
And it continued. A summer with too many avoidable tragedies. A city and its surrounding communities left wondering … why?
For most of us, life would return to normal.
I started working part-time with the Sabres, my dream job, while juggling the final year of my full-time duties at the Network. But I could never separate myself from the tragedy on Heim Road that fateful night.
Then, in late May of 2012, came the verdict in the trial. A verdict, that at minimum, caused an outrage in Western New York.
And there I sat, during a commercial break in studio, on a dark night for NHL playoff action, following Twitter to get the outcome no one wanted. It was a numbness I still can’t accurately describe to this day. The pain I felt for Tammy and Richard, Alix’s parents, was agonizing.
So I promised myself that night that if ever there was a way to help them cope with their grief, and somehow keep Alix’s name alive in a positive light, I would do what I could.
Why? I don’t know. Because my wife and I have two daughters of our own? Because I desperately don’t ever want to hear of another drunk driving fatality? Yes, but I’m sure there are even more reasons than those.
So here we are, almost 10 months later, and thanks to Jon Fulcher, Fran Knab, and Alix’s mom, Tammy Schueler, my part-time job is now serving as Vice-President on the board of directors for the Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation.
And it feels like the right thing to do.
Why? Because there is so much work to be done in our quest to have a skatepark built in Alix’s name in Amherst, and I’m anxious to see it through.
And because I’m working for one of the most prominent organizations in city, I am able to connect with people that can help steer us in the right direction.
The Sabres have been truly remarkable in this process, allowing me to spread the word on all of their media platforms, and at the same time, going above and beyond behind the scenes to make sure our events run as smoothly as possible.
“Alix Rice left a huge impact on our community, even for those who did not know her personally,” said Rich Jureller, the Sabres Director of Community Relations. “We are proud to support any efforts that will keep her memory and spirit alive, especially the efforts of so many who are committed to making something positive out of her tragic loss.”
And when you visit AlixRice.com (tickets can be purchased on the site) and see the list of donations accumulated for this Sunday’s Silent and Chinese Auctions, that statement seems to be the prevailing thought of many others in Western New York.
The Alix Rice Memorial Skatepark Fundraiser promises to be an afternoon of camaraderie, positive energy, and best intentions.
Amidst live music, and plenty of food, our friend and former Sabres winger Andrew Peters will be on hand for a meet and greet. “I'm honored to be able to help build on an already great legacy of a young girl lost way too soon to tragedy,” said Peters.
I suspect he won’t be the only Sabres alumnus in attendance, but either way, we hope you have a chance to enjoy the afternoon with us, between 2-6 p.m. at the Main-Transit Fire Hall in Williamsville.
Why? To help us build a permanent safe haven for skateboarding enthusiasts. To make the greater Buffalo area more diverse in what it can offer from a recreational standpoint.
And to show Alix’s family that we still care as much today as we did the day she passed away.