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As Boston sports fans, we grow fond of many players that play their heart out in the great state of Massachusetts. It is usually the professional athletes that we idolize. We buy their jerseys and adore them until management cuts them loose. As quickly as they go, another professional athlete comes into the picture and they become our new favorite.
The same thing happens on the college front. Whether it is Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Harvard, or even my school, Bentley University, players come and go every four years. These athletes come into our city, attend school and play their hearts out as long as they can possibly remain a student.
There are a lot of local alumni succeeding in professional sports today. We know how some are doing because they are succeeding at the highest level, such as Matt Ryan. However there are many players who we forget about because they either play on a small market team or they are stuck in the minor leagues. It’s not anyone’s fault that we stop following these players. Every year a new recruiting class enrolls at local colleges and become the new generation of student-athletes gracing our campuses.
I thought of a good way to bring these players back into your lives: a weekly alumni update. Each week I will write a new column about a local alum and give you an update about their success (or lack thereof) in professional sports. I couldn’t think of a better way to start this column than to begin with a player from my favorite hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres.
This week’s Alumni Update will feature Nathan Gerbe from Boston College.
Despite being drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Gerbe chose to attend Boston College instead of going to the Sabres organization. He was a standout player at BC. In three seasons as an Eagle, Gerbe recorded 122 points in 119 games. In the 2007-2008 season, he lead the Eagles to the National Championship in 2008.
After the 2008 college hockey season, Gerbe signed a 3 year, $2.55 million contract with the Sabres. He started the 2008-2009 season with the Portland Pirates, the Sabres AHL affiliate. Gerbe instantly made a splash with the organization, recording his first point as a professional, 50 seconds into the first game of the season. A couple days later he scored the first two goals of his career against the Springfield Falcons.
At the end of his fist season in the AHL, Gerbe had recording 56 points (30 goals, 26 assists) in 57 games. With that success came the 2008-2009 Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award, the rookie of the year award in the AHL. Gerbe joined current NHL stars such as Patrick O’Sullivan and Daniel Briere as recipients of the award.
Gerbe also received some playing time in the NHL that season. He played 10 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres after being called up as an injury replacement. In those 10 games, Gerbe recording no goals and one assist, finishing with a plus-three rating. Gerbe was later sent back down to Portland to continue his season in the AHL.
Going into this season, there was a lot of talk about whether Gerbe would stay with the Sabres or start the season back down in Portland. The Sabres’ front office ultimately decided that Gerbe would go back to the AHL. In 23 games with Portland this season, Gerbe registered 20 points (5 goals and 15 assists).
Gerbe was called back up to the Sabres in the beginning of December. On December 9 against the Washington Capitals, Gerbe recorded his first career NHL goal, as well as an assist, in the Sabres’ 3-0 win. Gerbe played one more game for the Sabres before injuring his groin. He remains with the club now, but has not dressed for a game since their December 11 game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
There is a long career in the NHL ahead for Nathan Gerbe. Despite being small, Gerbe is one of the fastest players in the game. He has modeled his game after Martin St. Louis and Daniel Briere, two of the games premier players. As long as injuries do not hold him down, look for Gerbe to be a playmaker in the National Hockey League for many years.