“Byron did it again!”
That’s the first thought that comes to Sagar Nathwani’s mind every time his phone is bombarded with notifications. That’s because every time Paul Byron scores a goal for the Montreal Canadiens, Reddit’s popular /r/hockey community acknowledges the 20 year-old university student and Calgary Flames fan with a simple message: thank you /u/galaxy91122.
It all began on January 29th, 2015. Sagar was at the Saddledome watching his beloved Flames play the Minnesota Wild. His team was in the midst of a playoff race and they needed a win. The Wild were leading 1-0 late into the 3rd period when speedster Paul Byron got on a breakaway (as usual) and failed to score (as was usual). Calgary would go on to lose that game 1-0. Close, but no Sagar.
Understandably, he was frustrated. He had watched Byron getting breakaway after breakaway, yet he was almost always unable to bury his chances. In his frustration, Sagar went home and looked for every single breakaway attempt that Byron had missed as a Calgary Flame. By the next day, he had uploaded a video titled Paul “Breakaway” Byron, sarcastically set to “Yakety Sax”, the Benny Hill theme song. It was a comedy of errors.
Today, that video has nearly 50,000 views, but two of those views were important above all others: one by the Montreal Canadiens, and the other by “Lord” Paul Byron himself. According to Eric Engels of Sportsnet:
“On a lot of those clips, I was skating so fast that my hands couldn’t keep up with the puck and then one little jump changes everything,” said Paul Byron. “It was just a matter of resetting the computer this year. [That] year was just unlucky.”
When the Calgary Flames placed Byron on waivers at the start of the 2015-2016, the Montreal Canadiens were intrigued.
“Speed kills,” explained Canadiens assistant general manager Larry Carriere with a laugh. “Our group saw the video (before they acquired him), and we knew about Paul Byron. Everyone was involved in the decision to bring him here.“
As the Montreal Canadiens management watched Sagar’s video, they saw beyond just a player unable to score during breakaways, they recognized somebody with the skating talent necessary to create those breakaways on a regular basis.
“I was a big fan of Byron in his time with Calgary,” said Sagar Nathwani. “As I’m sure you and all Montreal fans know, if he gets the puck, it’s like he’s shot out of a cannon. I loved the fact that he could burn defenders with his speed but I hated that he could never finish.”
On October 30, 2015, the Habs were in Calgary and Paul Byron was about to face his old team for the first time. The same club that thought they could sneak him through waivers, the franchise where he bounced around between the NHL and AHL for years.
When asked if he remembers against which team Paul Byron scored his first goal as a Montreal Canadien in serendipitous fashion:
“The Calgary Flames. I remember that vividly, he beat Mark Giordano,” he said. “‘Oh, of course he did!’ were my exact words actually. A shorthanded breakaway, which he had a ton of in Calgary and couldn’t finish, and in his first game back, he beats Calgary’s best defenseman with his speed and just buries that puck. That was storybook-like.”
Today, Paul Byron is enjoying a career year, having reached the 20 goal mark for the first time. As for what Sagar would say to Byron if he ever had the chance to meet him:
“I’m sorry for causing you to move across Canada first and and foremost, especially since you have a family,” said Nathwani. “You’re a heart and soul player and always gave 110% for the Calgary Flames every night. But I’m also very happy to see that you went to great team and a great fit in Montreal, and I’m overjoyed that you’re doing so well this season. The Habs have basically become my second team now.”