Nathan Gerbe might not exactly be a household name, but thanks to some unexpected exposure on prime-time television, the Buffalo Sabres left-winger has gained a small measure of notoriety away from the rink.
For those who missed it, Gerbe was mentioned in an October episode of NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
The episode centered on a Buffalo family whose car was stolen with a baby inside. It had the makings of some great television, but it only got better when the baby’s aunt explained the origins of the child’s name.
“She wanted to name the baby Ty,” she said. “But he wanted Nathan, for Nathan Gerbe.”
The one officer, played by rapper Ice-T, had a puzzled look on his face until his partner explained, “He leads the Sabres in penalty minutes.”
All this was news to Gerbe who had been off the coast of South Florida on Sabres’ owner Terry Pegula’s yacht when the show aired.
“It came as a complete surprise to me,” Gerbe admitted. “I checked it out and thought it was pretty cool, although I had to laugh a little about leading the team in penalty minutes. There must be a Sabres fan that works with the show.”
For Sabres fans, the Oxford, Mich., native has created something of a cult following since cracking the Sabres lineup. In 2010-11, during his first full season in Buffalo, Gerbe scored 16 goals and 31 points. It was proof that the former Boston College star has what it takes to find a home in the NHL.
“Last season, I finally established an identity for myself,” said the 5-foot-5 sparkplug. “I found out what my role was to be on the ice, and I filled that role. That’s why it was much easier for me to come into this season knowing that I had to do.”
Sabres head coach, Lindy Ruff, explained that role a bit further:
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“If someone takes a look at him physically, it would be tough to imagine him playing in the NHL,” said Ruff, the longest tenured head coach in the NHL.
“But I’ve watched Nathan develop as a player over the last four years. He’s a tough, in-your-face player. He can be a pain on the ice to opposition players. He has a lot of heart and isn’t afraid of anybody. And he’s done everything I’ve asked him to do on the ice.”
If there is one thing that has stuck out about Gerbe throughout his entire hockey career, it is his size. And he’s been hearing it about it for a long time: On the Sabres. Playing for USHL’s River City Lancers and during his two years with the National Team Development Program. He couldn’t shake it at Boston College in spite of leading the Eagles to an NCAA title in 2008. It stuck with him as a member of the Portland Pirates, the Sabres’ one-time AHL farm team.
“I’ve ignored it most of my life. It’s never really bothered me,” said the 24-year-old Gerbe.
“I’m very happy with where I’m at and who I am. I know going into each game that I have to battle my way through it. I know I have to work harder and be stronger than my opponent. It’s been the same no matter where I’ve played.”
For the time being, Gerbe is happy to continue to fill whatever role is expected of him, from being an energy guy, killing penalties or stirring up hate and discontent all over the ice. No matter what role, the Sabres and their fans know they will get everything he has.
And as he said, “If you put the work in, the results will follow.”
Slapping stickers on hockey helmets is a popular pastime among youth hockey players. Actually making the things — developing a product, researching it, forming a family business that distributes them throughout the country — well, that’s not really something you hear about as often.
But then again, you probably haven’t heard of Greyson MacLean. A few years ago when the Peewee goalie from the Arrowhead Youth Hockey Association was frustrated with the permanent stickers that came with his Legos, so he suggested the idea of BrickStix to his mother.
What started as something of a family joke has since taken off around North America. The product, which uses static cling rather than any sticky adhesive, are now distributed throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada and have earned Greyson a nomination as the Young Inventor of the Year.
“I have learned that it pays to be patient,” says Greyson of having to wait for patents to be filed and lead testing to be completed. “Nothing happens right away. It’s all very slow and gradual.”