Posted in Buffalo, NY, travel

Train in Vain


I’ve been following the kerfluffle about a proposed new train station for Buffalo for sometime. I don’t have a real strong opinion about it as improvements are almost always good things and well, I finally have a good car. The current station is such a shack that it needs the Property Brothers to come to its aid or be replaced. There is a large amount of rail around the region that has been abandoned and forgotten about that you almost wonder if the fixings were possible to make the Metro rail more than the semi-straight line if we were fine with it going above ground more, but I digress. To call the current station a Fixer Upper would charitable.

It doesn’t exactly scream “Welcome to Buffalo.” It is such a hole that folks tend to wait in their cars and that was even before part of the ceiling gave way. The debate is interesting because there are positives and negatives to all sides in this. It leaves this semi-interested citizen hoping that reason wins the day. After watching Niagara Falls build a station and apparently then talk to Amtrak, I hope my city thinks thoroughly about where to drop much monies. I wasn’t really cognizant of the Exchange Street station until my daughter used Amtrak to get back and forth to school for a couple of years. When it was open, not many folks went in.

I don’t have any real strong opinions or preferences in that it doesn’t feel like we are looking to build the next Union Station or anything but you hope the folks who are signing off do what is actually best for the region, not just what is in vogue, popular or nostalgic or all of the above.

The popular talk centers on the old Central Terminal. I sort of liked that idea as it does reuse a building made for that very purpose and trains actually do still go by it. It might be a bit misnamed now as it isn’t central. My admittedly bleeding heart liberal inner-preservationist self would like to see it come to life and maybe give an economic engine to an area of the city that hasn’t one in years. But my pragmatic self thinks that it would need by in from our local transportation authority as a transportation center to make a go of it and I don’t think they are feeling it.

Other folks want to shove it into Canalside as that is an area enjoying on-going success. While I can appreciate that notion, I’m of a mindset that not everything needs to be shoved into the canalside area. It’s a recreation area, access to water, and generally working pretty well. The planned stage, merry-go-round, all good things. There is a museum going up soon as that is fine, leaving another plot of land to develop and somehow having the trains schlep on through there doesn’t work for me, not that it is up to me. You hope the area stays to true to experiences, letting Canalside be the spot for the good times (sort of makes it sounds like a casino). After all it wasn’t long ago that a youtube video taught folks how to find the place.

Again, not like Buffalo has a Grand Central Station coming, but you hope the committee is thinking ahead not just for right now. Let there be connections to taxi, buses, ride sharing with some place to park to pick up folks or drop off and things that get people to all parts of the city. Maybe a new facility should be put right where it currently stands, where all the taxi, buses, cars can get at them.

Wherever the landing place, it going to take some effort to get most local folks to not catch the train….in Depew.

Posted in Arts, Buffalo, NY, Commentary, Current events, Politics

Shenanigans


Can’t swing the proverbial dead cat without hitting some.

-The President Elect didn’t save jobs from Carrier. The state bribed them with tax breaks to not take them all. This is a strategy that worked out really well for Carrier in New York State where the only thing still functioning with the name Carrier on it is the dome.

-Saying you are “Draining the swamp” doesn’t preclude from the fact that you might just fool around and refill it.

-Coal jobs aren’t coming back. With wind and solar getting to be cheaper, it’s one of those industries that won’t dominate as it once did and for somebody to magically promise, without substantiation that the jobs are coming back is both exploitive and sad. But then again, so is believing that somebody.

-Did anybody ever take a more pained dinnertime photo than Mitt Romney? Whoever lit that table was editorializing in their own way. You can almost watch his soul leave.

-New York Times contributor Paul Krugman noted on Twitter that “Another metric: Trump would have to do one Carrier-sized deal a week for 30 years to save as many jobs as Obama’s auto bailout.”

-So the NFL decided to bust the Bills’ Offensive Lineman Seantrel Henderson for using medical marijuana…to treat Crohn’s Disease. First, just legalize it already. Look at the revenue that Colorado is reaping. Second, NFL? Really? Seriously? It’s not a performance enhancing drug, it’s a medical regimen. Good thing he isn’t beating anybody up. Oh, wait, you’re cool with that.

-The Affordable Care Act is a noble idea, but a flawed law. I think Congress wasted all those votes on repeal because they didn’t have to actually deal with the consequences of “what’s next?” Well, guess what, time to shine, obstructionists!

-Cutting Social Security and Medicaid, this confuses me a little, as they are things that we pay into, why would payouts need reduced? Oh yeah, because that pot of money keeps getting borrowed for other things.

-I’m not certain that Bernie Sanders would have won, but I’m glad the grumpy old man isn’t going gently into the good night.

-The recount efforts won’t change anything, but there is no harm in letting the process play out. I mean, unless you think it might not go your way, then panic on twitter.

-Nobody, and I mean, nobody ever gets everything they want or promise done once they get into office. That said, despite not being the most natural campaigner, Secretary Clinton was a pretty capable Senator.

-It would be good for our current President to take some action on Standing Rock, any action. And place his nominee on the court as a recess appointment. The court would be fully stocked for a year, while the obstructionists in congress publicly obfuscate, squirm and talking point their way around a nominee who actually meets their criteria.

-Steven Colbert was right, we are overpoliticked with the election. One of the worst mediums ever is the public comment sections of newspaper and tv websites. Laden with digital ninjas whose sole human contact is their moms yelling from upstairs to come up for breakfast, that style of uninformed, meme-posting, if you don’t agree with me, you must be a moron discourse is all over social media. I suppose this essay falls into that category, but it’s okay to disagree with me and I don’t live with mom.

-That said, everybody’s history has some poison in it. Every race, creed, color has a list of do-overs and we haven’t always come to grips with that. The naysayers who have issues with Black Lives Matter miss the point. All lives do matter and should matter, but the central point to me is that some lives haven’t mattered as much and correcting that takes time, time and recognition that a lengthy history of abuses, misconceptions and prejudice affects all involved and doesn’t magically go away. So, standing up for that is a good thing and that reminder very good.

So, another transition.

-The Buffalo Bills have me concerned. They had trouble with the 2-8 Jaguars at home and are going to play the Raiders, in Oakland, and the Raiders are pretty good again.

-It’s great that Jack is back, but should one guy….

It’s that time of the year where we act, mostly, like we should all year long. Let’s strive for less idiocy and realize that differing views don’t make the opposing parties morons. We can learn beyond facebook bickering.

 

 

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Current events, Music

A Good Night for a Ride


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When Bruce Springsteen’s current tour was announced earlier in the winter, I had a little anxiety. Our live relationship goes back to 1978 and I was a little concerned. At the time, I was between fulltime gigs and spending precious dollars on a show seemtwo hoed too much of a stretch. I’ve been ushering at the downtown arena for sometime and hoped to get the call. An vet of a number of Boss groups and collectives, I knew there might be a ticket drop of some kind, but the worry was alleviated when I got my usher assignment lists a few  weeks ago and it consisted of two hockey games and Bruce Springsteen

This seemed like nice karmic payback for sitting through cartoon characters on ice and faux-metal Christmas rock. I was a hired gun for my favorite. Like most folks with this affliction, I’ve been following the tour online and listening to a few shows. When it is your favorite, you pay more attention to everything when you report to work. When I checked in, the band was onstage soundchecking songs that hadn’t been played yet on the tour. All I could think was “wait until the gang on RMAS rebooted on facebook hears this,” momentarily forgetting that many of said group were going to be in the building.

I was curious where I would be watching the show, er, helping patrons from and the gods were smiling upon my pathetic fanboy self, with a good assignment, close enough and the corridor for the folks who were going to be standing closest to the stage got to enter. Seeing their joy and trading high fives, etc. was a lift, as was seeing my oldest pal – who 36 years earlier was my partner in crime in securing our tickets to the Buffalo date on the original River Tour. I got caught up with some other familiar faces and folks from my parents neighborhood, even bonding with a fellow usher type joking about our mutual plans to see the street businessmen about discounted concert shirts.

About an hour before the show began, a couple appeared in my corridor to survey their seats. He took a look then disappeared to get the obligatory $9.00 beer. She surveryed a little bit more and looked a little weepy. Me, being part bartender and usher, inquired if everything was okay. She asked if I was a fan. I said, of course, couldn’t wait for this assignment, and told what made it extra special on top of the band playing in great form, that of last year’s uncertain employment status, that it nearly amounted to me missing see Bruce and the E Streeters once more. She told me that it was her first show after the passing of her son, who had journeyed to a few shows with her and her husband.

She heard my story and that made her smile and she said “see, our faith got rewarded.” I replied yes, indeed, it was going to be a good night for a ride.

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I wanted to get the above poster to commemorate the experience. Like all concert merchandise, they were overpriced and scarce, and by the time I was finished for the night, they were gone to ebay.

34 songs and three hours + later and countless people who meandered during the ballads found on the River (some of the best pure musical moments of the show), it was indeed a good night for a ride.

While it is impossible to explain why your favorites are your favorites, they just do it for you. There is that extra bonus that those special moments not only happened, but they continue to still occur. Almost made me want to scramble for a Rochester ticket.

So, before I left the arena Thursday night, I did indeed order the download of the show.

Faith continues to be rewarded.

 

 

 

Posted in Animals, Buffalo, NY, Current events

Ice Road Trucker


So, I got a new gig. It’s a great job surrounded with folks who are concerned with doing great work. This was one of my goals, to be in a good spot. So, it is a really good place to ply my trade. The uniqueness behind it is the location, roughly 45 minutes from my apartment. That’s a pretty normal number, but I think we are a little spoiled with proximity in this area.

I had a similar route time north in my last position, but this is a better. It does take a little getting used to as roughly half of the jaunt is on a highway, the second half is up and down via country roads & valleys that wind up and down through some impressive hills at some high rates of speed and varying weather conditions.

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My first day on the job, it started to snow while I was moving up and down through the mountains and learning the nature of the roads. The downward descent reminded me about the old Elmer Fudd cartoons where Elmer’s car threatens to pass him in adverse conditions. I made it to the office on time after making the ups and downs of the six valleys you pass through. The snow I mentioned turned into the lake effect variety and a vendor appeared at our office to note that the road I took into work was closed.

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“Oh, really?” How am I going to get home I wondered? To google I went, and found an alternative route to get back to Buffalo. It was another jaunt through unfamiliar roads, that wove their way north to Attica, and eventually up to a road that takes one straight to Buffalo. I navigated through the side road through gradually heavier snow, following the lights and ruts in the snow of a car that had the decency to be taking the same route, north and to the west. I found the street that one can basically take into the city, but that was right at the moment was when you were driving straight into the blowing lake effect snow storm.

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I took the same route the next night home only to be greeted by blizzard and white conditions that made me consider my mortality. Made it home safely after about 90 minutes of white knuckle, borderline translucent driving, having navigated myself home and completing an intense upper arm workout at the same time. I took my alternative route during a storm last week and found myself behind tandem snow plows. That’s pretty sweet until the plows turn around you are left to keep going as if they were saying “We got you this far, now finish it, Stupid.”

The same thing happened coming home on 20A where a salt truck decided he was slowing us down. I didn’t mind, it was okay.  I like to think they were confident that we have this, but it was more likely that both were of the “Let’s get rid of these goofs” variety.

I drove the reverse in the next morning and was impressed at the view and some of the inclines that I didn’t manage to wind into a ditch, gulley, set of a horror movie, etc, thinking I’m pretty good behind the wheel. In the intervening weeks, one has to watch about getting too cocky, finding a happy speed, programming what trucks you want or don’t want to get behind. But it’s pretty. An former coworker apologized about the drive. We’re spoiled in Western New York by the twenty minute rule. Many in other cities routinely invest an hour or more getting to work. We got it easy, ignore the 20 minutes and behold what you might see in 35-40. I work in “Northern Exposure” but the route to and fro has some impressive sights

The work is great, but the commute view has me thinking go pro video would be something to see

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Cars

Racing in the Street


So, I bought a new set of wheels. I think it might have actually the right set this time. But the process one goes through in acquiring your car still astounds and is truly ridiculous. It is no wonder people hate the process as there is nothing good about it. It’s not a savory untaking and upon getting home after figure out what this button or that button does, along with where the hell is the aux port anyway, my first instinct was for a shower. The need for a snack and a nap won out.

I believe I got a good car. The deal was probably okay, but wasn’t “just a great deal” and more than a little patronizing.

People love cars. I know I do, but we are all conditioned to reduce the feeling of being screwed when acquiring one. The bells and whistles that get unnecessarily added have nothing to do with the customer experience. I didn’t give a crap about how big the dealership is. That means nothing….to any sane human being. It doesn’t make my deal better, it just pisses away my time.  Given that much time is wasted lugging between buildings, it wastes staff time. They seem to be okay with that, but me, not so much. It did prevent them from knowing what goes on in their own shop. Apparently many insurance companies demand a photo inspection for your purchase. “No problem” they say, just drive over to the body shop. You drive over to the body shop to find that those pictures get done between 10 am and 2pm? No, not really, helpful.

I didn’t ask for any accessories, but had to listen to the accessory lady give her spiel. Only to have the billing guy deny me the stuff I didn’t want in the first place.

By this point I needed to get something from my current car and had to ask to get my key back. I mean they were done looking for the low ball trade and I did need it to go home that night, it shouldn’t be a gimmick “we got his key, we got him…” The car I want is going to take another day to get prepped, put some value on my time and dignity and let me go home.

All this after waiting 15 minutes on a stormy night for an salesperson to emerge from the back office to give a crap for an appointment I had scheduled for a repair question. When we went for a ride in what I purchased, it took him another 15 minutes to find a license plate.  You’d think on a stormy night, they’d be a little more interested in business. Same thing happened to another woman, waiting for the sales staff to emerge from their backroom flapping.

I got a good car, but their sending me a coffee mug full of jolly ranchers isn’t the way to keep business. It can be simpler and should be.

 

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Commentary, Music

Golden Slumbers


It is thrilling that Western New York has been racking up major event level concerts at an increasing rate in recent months. I don’t know if it is the stability of the ownership at our major arena, but it is a good thing, as you can never have too much music. Paul McCartney and his great band are coming to Buffalo for the first time and I believe those who are going are in for a thrill.

I mean, pick your metaphor, Shakespeare the way the author intended, etc. When musical history walks among you or at least drives itself nearby, it would behoove you to do what you can to see the show. I took that in 2010 the last time Sir Paul was near this parts and it was worth the effort of schlepping up to Toronto to see him, at the surprisingly reasonably priced Air Canada Center, excuse me, Centre.

When some body of work has been part of your personal soundtrack for so long, and the guy who created it still has the goods to deliver, it is a pretty amazing experience, enough so that “Let ’em In” was a thrill to hear, and I didn’t think that was possible. He has a great band working with him, so I’m sure attendees are in for a treat as he has made music with this group longer than any other, including those chaps in the 60s.

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You are going to get that picture, proof you were there, something to remember by, something to brag from. I get it and obviously, I am guilty of that too, but stow the phone and savor the moment. The Eagles took some flack for on their recent tour having a no-phone policy, to the point of Glenn Frey even teasing a song introduction with “there is a story about this song, and I’ll tell it as soon as this guy down front finishing texting.” While jerky, he did have a point. It was a good reminder to savor the moment. The memory of hearing songs you’ve heard all your life come to life by the guy who created them will be more long lasting than any crappy video you want to share on youtube.  The above is the one picture worth taking from McCartney’s first night in Toronto in August 2010.

The band was in fine form and for a gentleman with some miles on him, Sir Paul was in fine voice. There were Beatles numbers, Wings tunes, and various McCartney solo hits that gave the audience a nice cross section from an impressive career, something even non-fans have to admit.

My son has a respect for a lot of old school British rock and it meant the world for me to bring him to his first major rock show and have it be a Beatle, I mean, a friggen Beatle. It’s pretty hard to top that. But here’s probably the best souvenir I will ever take away from a show and I’ve been to a bunch.

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He’s a lot taller and I’m a little grayer, but he still talks of the experience and unlike a lot of shows, I still remember it like it happened yesterday. I don’t have any other images, no bootlegs or crappy video. I got a pin and my boy got his first concert shirt. Part of that was the event, part of that was the idea of the event. Much was made when the show was announced for here how fast the tickets disappeared. Concert tickets for as long as I can remember have had a tough battle finding their way to fans. The screams for legislation on ticket distribution were pretty laughable to me. When you got that body of work and amazingly have never been here, there will be some demand.

I watched as a woman nearby stopped to film a few precious moments of the Eagles recent stop in her phone, complete with flash on fullbore. Why risk getting tossed out when the moment is there to enjoy.

McCartney’s appearance at the First Niagara Center is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime appearance.

Enjoy the show. Be in that moment.

 

 

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Current events, Weather

Rolling on the river


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There are power boats.

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And power boats…

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And boats for the powerful. “Yes, we can go rapidly, but we are against it, something might spill, thank you.”

Summer is beating a hasty retreat, but a last walk of summer canalside is still a treat.

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Got to get outside, soup weather is coming, but in the meantime, got to make a friend with a boat owner.

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Current events

Biker Gang


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“Sometimes it is good to a part of something bigger than you, it’s good for the soul.” That popped into my brain as i dove into the growing Slow Roll movement for a cruise through Buffalo‘s Elmwood Village and West Side. The Slow Roll has been a weekly growing event all summer long, but it was my first chance to partake. When you just like a nice cruise, but lycra purchases are bad notions this is ideal.

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This proved to be the biggest turn out for the slow roll yet, with nearly 1400 riders wheeling through the streets.

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If you are a serious rider, you should probably stay home. I think the top speed according to my map my ride app was about 8 miles per hour. You are getting some exercise, but the Tour De France doesn’t need to hold a space. It is an awesome spirit jaunt. You connect with some folks whose sole agenda is to take a good night for ride and go for one. It’s a trip to see the amount of people on steps and porches watching the spectacle (and it is that) go rolling past.

imageI’m not going to lie. I enjoyed having a police escort. Between the generosity of the Buffalo Police and the thorough organizing done by the Slow Roll volunteers (the “Squad”), it’s tough not to ride with increasingly silly grin as you wind through the streets and the only real thing to watch out is other riders. Everybody does a good job of giving each other space to minimalize chances of spills. A few have happened, but the general cluster of folks I was a part of did a good job of looking out for one another and unlike so many other public forums these days, realized that there were other folks in those spaces.

imageSo, it was all good for me. In the intervening couple of days, there was the seemingly inevitable bitching on facebook about the size of the group versus some smaller streets. One writer mused “I couldn’t get out of my street if I needed to.” It read to me like she was panicking over a problem that didn’t exist. There was an urgency earlier in the ride and Slow Roll Organizers moved swiftly to accomodate whatever the issue that might have been. I was a little further in the back so I didn’t see the details.

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I will be off to the next run on Monday evening. I think this time, I’ll drive to the take off spot and get the bike out of the car. As the trouble with biking to a biking event, you still have to ride home.image

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Commentary

Windshields are HD


So, I’m driving on Buffalo’s Highway 198 (the Scajacquada) at the new mandated 30 mph the other day and was passed by somebody who couldn’t contain his exasperation over the decreased speed and how crazy it was that I wasn’t moving faster. This, despite all the signs, and lights, bells and whistles about going 30. A few days later, coming up Ashland Ave, I spy a guy trying to parallel park a Honda in a cavernous space. Despite all the breathing room, he has a tough go as he chose only to look in his drivers side rear view mirror (no woman driver jokes are permitted to come from that dude). This, after I stupidly thought I had space making the previous turn only to pull out in front of a car that I didn’t see. No harm, just earned that motorist’s ire, deservedly

It’s a wind shield, not a tv.

That popped into my mind as the coverage over the terrible accident between a car that went off the highway and into Delaware Park, striking a family, killing one, as I write this. In watching the news coverage and watching the posts click onto facebook about changed that are perceived to be made, it does make you wonder. While barricades and lowered speed limits and well, taking steps are all good things, we haven’t cured anything truthfully.

We don’t look out for each other on the roadways. I mean, in simple ways, we overlook the little things that might make life easier. I live on a busy intersection, where there are numerous accidents each year. One last summer was caused by a driver who was going to fast and..wait for it, looked at her phone.

While the roads in the Delaware Park accident is deeply flawed, the calls for “returning it to parkway concept” ring a little hollow to me as a car careening at 40 miles per hour isn’t much safer, not that I’m clearer on what a parkway concept is anyway. Politicizing the death of a child in a horrible accident is already underway and unfortunate. The speed limit could have been 30 that day and not much would have been changed. The barricades are great, but we are missing the point in that you can’t legislate dumb.

Things do need to be safer, but we need to do better at looking out for one another. I’m as guilty as the next person to a little obliviousness and cacooned while in my car. I look at the way we all make left turns now and had I done that while taking driver’s ed in high school, I would have become very familiar with the sensation of my own cheek hitting the windshield as the driving instructor would have no problem slamming on her brakes.

Think about how we all treat somebody who attempting to parallel park. You are supposed to chill and wait, but pretty much everybody goes around….sometime into oncoming traffic as we are all in that imagined, yet false rush. I was riding in a car today and you could see folks in the left turn lane (provided they took the trouble to get their cars entirely into the left lane) and the bulk of those good folks are looking down, checking phones.

I was in taxi a few years ago and the driver was running a little amuck, traveling rapidly, too rapidly, at a brace for impact sort of speed up the FDR highway in Manhattan. Jerry Seinfeld once said of such rides, “It’s like it is happening on television, but you can’t change the channel.”

The folks wanting a slower road have a very valid point. It is a tall order to correct something that has generations of traffic going and there is much that can be done, but it wasn’t the culprit.

But we all need to be less buffoon like behind the wheel and at the handlebars. The truth is out there and so are other people.

Let’s be careful out there

Posted in Buffalo, NY, Current events, Sports

Tank you very little


As a lifelong fan of the Buffalo Sabres, and hockey in general, I can’t wait for this season to come to a conclusion. I can’t watch them, it, the abyss that is this team. You look at the BIlls, the other Pegulaville and you get a sense of a plan. While there might be one, the public notion is that Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel will fix the mess that is our hockey team.

So, yeah, i have a hard time “Embracing the tank.” It seems wrong, dishonest, a bit of an insult.

Love the game. When it is played well, it is a thing of beauty. I still remember an inconsequential game from the late 1970s between the Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens. The game ended in a 2-2 tie and everybody went home happy, having seen an incredible show of skating and skill. There wasn’t a penalty called. Watching Buffalo’s French Connection and all the late 70s heroes from the Canadiens’ great run (I think they won the Stanley Cup that year) was a thrill and it is games like that should be mandatory watching, the perfect primer for folks who don’t get hockey.

It’s a little twisted now that the Sabres and Coyotes are playing twice soon with so little on the line (for this season) and so much on the line for the June NHL draft. And even then, there are no guarantees. The NHL uses a lottery system  which waters things down more. If you finish last (what would Ricky Bobby say), you might not be first. How screwy is that? Perhaps if they borrowed a page from the NFL and last drafts first, second last second, and so on, it might restore a little sense of integrity, at least publicly.

Perhaps, it would make February and March hockey a little easier to take. It’s hard to even have my team on even as background noise, as you watch for disaster, like a frozen version of a Nascar fan.

I have hated this season. I have been to a couple of games this year, largely for the suite seats afforded me. I attended the game where Dominik Hasek was honored in a weird, awkward ceremony. When Danny Gare and Rene Robert skated on to the ice, I sort of wish they would have been handed sticks to help out in the equally awkward loss that followed,

Having been a usher there for five seasons, you get nostalgic for those “heroic runs” to the final playoff spot, because at least those had some fun. A come from behind win in overtime against the Maple Leafs a few seasons ago felt like VJ Day. It was exciting that a local guy bought the team a few years back, but after suffering since the Drury Briere cluster in 2007, I’m tired. I don’t want to watch the Blackhawks to see a good game (but dammit they are fun to watch).

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While this is funny, it’s also a pretty revolting development.

Can’t be that hard to get to the Cup, I mean I did.

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All you can do is hope Tim Murray is right. After a decade of “rebuilding,” it would be nice to have something to show for it. Like fun hockey to watch. Might take more than one 18 year old to fix it though.

Is that so wrong?