Forty: A Celebration of Hockey

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The Spectrum

Upon entering the upper level of the Albright Knox Art Gallery to see Forty: The Sabres in the NHL, a new exhibit that commemorates Buffalo's hockey team, one can't help but wonder how well the pristine and quiet walls of Albright Knox could possibly match the grit and excitement of the ice.

Then, the image of Dominik Hasek making a sprawling save in the Sabres goal crease makes the whole exhibit seem a lot more natural.

That image quickens the pulse of many Sabres fans, giving the feeling that the Albright Knox is not an art gallery but a shrine dedicated to the sport and the team that Buffalonians love.

Perhaps that is the best way to approach the gallery – not as an exhibit, but as a living monument to the 40 years of history that included the great careers of Hasek, Lindy Ruff, "The French Connection," and Alexander Mogilny.

As fans walk through the gallery, they are met with images of goal celebrations, fights, amazing saves, and locker room preparations. Thanks to the work of Bill Wippert, Ron Moscati and Robert Shaver, the city of Buffalo and its hockey team are brought to life through stunning black and white imagery.

One of the most resonating pieces in the gallery is a three-picture progression of what it means to be a Sabres fan. A gentleman goes from standing up and shouting to sitting down to cover his face as business as usual on the ice torments his emotions.

The faint shouts of Rick Jeanneret ring out from the three additional rooms apart from the gallery, and they make the moment all the more memorable. While the pictures in the exhibit have a certain depth, there are six flatscreen televisions to add a little motion to a mostly stagnant gallery.

When one stands in front of the TV, a motion sensor kicks on, and sound is imposed upon the viewer, which plays muted for much of the time to prevent Sabres fans from jumping in excitement while reliving their favorite moments. The short clips force the fans to experience the best moments in Sabres history all over again, and they wouldn't be complete without the unforgettable calls by Jeanneret:

"Jason Pominville, shorthanded in overtime! Oh, now do you believe? Now do you believe? These guys are good! Scary good!"

"Here's the shot, blocked in front, rebound. He scores! Buffalo scores! Chris Drury ties it at one!"

"Danny Briere! Danny Briere! On at least his 13th shot of the night! Danny Briere gets it in double overtime!"

It's these nostalgic moments, which make up some of the most important moments in Sabres history, that the gallery captures so well.

The room features a floor-to-ceiling projection of footage taken from helmet-mounted cameras during games that fans once saw from the stands or their television sets. From the bench to the ice, the fan experiences an explosive new viewpoint on the game of hockey.

That's the reasoning behind the gallery: bringing a new reality and a new emotion to the sport. Despite the Sabres theme, it has something for fans of all teams to enjoy. From black and white to living color, any hockey fan can appreciate the 40 years that have led up to this moment.

Forty: The Sabres in the NHL is open for hockey fanatics to enjoy until it skates off into the sunset on Jan. 9, 2011.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com