Sabres' O'Reilly remembers how nervous he was to meet Gord Downie

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - Like many of you, I'm part of a fantasy football league that takes itself way too seriously. Trash-talking fills our league message board daily, but on Wednesday, the tone was different. 
 
The news spread that Gord Downie, lead singer of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, lost his battle with brain cancer.  And the comments from my cohorts flooded in:

"Canalside 2011, front row with my brother. Best show I ever went to."

"Last summer he got the farewell tour he deserved. He's a legend. The Hip are in their own class." 

"Best frontman music has ever seen by far." 

It's abundantly clear just how influential the Canadian rocker was, even here in Western New York. 

In Canada, Downie was an icon. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wept as he spoke about Downie's passing. Around the NHL, players from teams on both sides of the border remembered the rock legend and his impact on music, culture, and hockey -- and that extended into Buffalo.

On Thursday, the Sabres returned to KeyBank Center following a four-game west coast road trip. Once they were done skating at practice, Ryan O'Reilly -- a music lover and proud Canadian -- remembered the man that was on the minds of many.

A man he was fortunate enough to meet. 

"You know, it's Canadian music, [they] sum up Canadian music," O'Reilly said of Downie when speaking with 7ABC. "It's just something we've all loved and grown up on, and yeah, the last few days have definitely been really sad."

O'Reilly, who is always happy to talk about music, explained how fortunate he was to have the chance to meet Downie just months before the lead singer's passing. 

"I [was] so privileged this summer, I went to a show for Explosions in the Sky in Toronto and I'm sitting with my brother and one of my best buddies and Gord comes in and sits beside us," he recalled. "It was just one of the coolest things and so we're watching the show, having such a great time and we can't stop staring at him. It's Gord Downie. It's the legend."

O'Reilly went on to explain how nervous he was to ask Downie for a picture. His friend wasn't so shy, introducing the Sabres assistant captain to the Canadian music icon. 

"[He] was just the nicest guy and you could tell he was just a good Canadian guy, just so down to earth," O'Reilly said with a smile. 

"Just for that brief little time, it was something that I'll never forget. I can remember the hat, the jean jacket he was wearing, he was just so cool. It's a really sad thing to see him pass. They definitely mean so much, and Gord was a huge, amazing, amazing Canadian."

When asked if he had a favorite album, O'Reilly admitted that he couldn't pick just one. As far as songs go, he was able to narrow it down to a few. 

"I love 'Wheat Kings' and I love a lot of the acoustic stuff that they do," he replied. "'Scared' is another song that I really love. It's kind of a pump up song, too. I listen to that a lot. It's a little softer but it's a really cool song that I always listen to." 

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