Buffalo - November 27, 2013
We’ve made countless trips to Buffalo since beginning this Road Blog, but one of the spots we hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit was the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Built in 1973 in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, NY, Ralph Wilson Stadium is one of the oldest facilities still in use in the NFL, and remains one of the few stadiums in which spectators are privy to being as close as possible to the action on the field. Bills fans are widely known as some of the most passionate in the league, braving trying temperatures from November onward to watch their beloved team. If you think that we managed to escape the snow in Montreal by traveling to New York State, you’re wrong. Mother nature greeted us with a fresh coat of the white stuff in Buffalo, one that covered the playing field overnight. Fortunately, Bills players won’t have to deal with the snow this coming weekend because they’ll be playing their next game under the dome at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Sunday.
Like every other NFL team, the Bills are all about ensuring that their players remain in peak physical condition. The equipment made available in the team’s state-of-the-art gym is both impressive and somewhat intimidating, especially when you make the short walk over to check out free weights that generally weigh more than the average human. Needless to say, you’ve got to be a brave soul to step out onto the gridiron against players who boast superhuman strength like this.
In an effort to inspire his troops and help them understand the historical significance of Buffalo Bills football, head coach Doug Marrone insisted that commemorative banners be hung inside the team’s training complex to honor the organization’s on-field achievements, including its four AFC Championship titles in the early 1990’s. A large-scale replica of the Lombardi Trophy hangs proudly above the field as a constant reminder to players to always keep their eyes on the all-important prize that comes with being crowned the NFL’s top team. Marrone believes, however, that reaching the NFL’s Promised Land is all about converting hard work into results, one of many inspirational messages that line the walls of the practice facility.
One of the main reasons why we decided to head out to Ralph Wilson Stadium is because the Canadiens boast one of the biggest Bills fans you’ll ever meet in captain Brian Gionta. A Rochester, NY native, Gionta grew up about an hour outside of Buffalo, and he isn’t shy to show his love for his favorite NFL team. That’s why when we asked him to participate in this edition of the Road Blog by posing with a Bills jersey, the Stanley Cup champ was quick to agree. The fact that the jersey features the number 21 didn’t hurt either!