With the call, here’s RJ

There are certain folks who just have a way with words. You know what is happening and are forming a mental picture based on their description. By way of example, I have never seen a “coffee-colored cadillac.” I know what it looks like from the way Chuck Berry sings about it.

Certain broadcasters have that gift. Outgoing Buffalo Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret has that gift. As he closes the book on an incredible run of 51 seasons, I am very appreciative he hung in there. The team is showing some signs of life, but the decade of meh hockey squandered time from one of the great enthusiastic voices. Both he and Ted Darling deserve eternal gratitude for their roles in building out Sabres hockey. Both fostered enthusiasm, belief, joy and fun.

Long before even he knew that mama hid the cookies on the top shelf, he spread the news.

When television was still a bid of an oddity and Sabres games were televised maybe a dozen times in the year, RJ painted an amazing picture and you saw it, you saw the expression on the face of the fictional kid from Peterborough who caught the puck as it went over the glass.

They used to have the regular sunday night starts and my clock radio brought many an epic battle onto my mental tv. You can take your pick.

I get that perhaps there might be some who might not be a fan, but the joy of the call of this one lives like it happened a few moments ago.

and got to have your cookies.

One of the best wastes of money I ever spent was dropping $10 for a copy of “Roll the Highlight Film” a cd filled with the best calls to that point by a seriously gifted broadcaster. I placed the contents on an ipod and now my phone as it is a treat to hear a song, then RJ describing a Gil Perreault led rush then back to the music.

His enthusiasm fed ours through great times, amazing times, even through the past decade where being a hockey fan wasn’t always very easy.

Thanks, RJ, it really has been fun.


Hockey Night in Buffalo

A lot of sports networks are broadcasting classic games with no live events to cover and MSG is no different showing Buffalo Sabres games from mostly within the past twenty years or so. I’ve looked in a little bit, but haven’t been hanging on every word. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always fun to see the Maple Leafs blow a lead and the good guys win, but beyond a brief look I haven’t been loitering until the latest game debuted.

Programmers dusted off the second game of the 1975 series between the Sabres and Montreal Canadiens.

Maybe it was the lineups, maybe the low camera angles, the advertisement free ice and boards, the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, but it was a different game in 1975 and played by those teams very well.

I was transfixed. My favorite Sabre ever is Gil Perreault and to look back and see him at his peak was a real treat. The shifts seemed longer then so you got a good look at your heroes. It was also fun to see Rick Martin and the complete game that he had as well as the way Don Luce, Craig Ramsay and Danny Care could frustrate the opposing big line.

The Canadiens were rock stars too. The following season they would go on a string of Stanley Cup wins, but I don’t think I had seen footage of Henri Richard playing since this game was played.

A season or two later, these two teams would put on the most exciting 0-0 tie ever played, no penalties, just people like Perreault, Rick Martin, Guy LaFleur, Yvonne Cournoyer showing off skills at such a high level it should be hockey fan recruiting film.

For the unitiated, you couldn’t buy a ticket to a Sabres game in the 70s. Happenstance took my dad and i to a couple of games then. When the Sabres made their first visit to the playoffs, my grandmother was visiting from football crazy Akron, Ohio and given that no major league played hockey there couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

She learned that Ken Dryden was okay, because his older brother Dave was the backup goalie for Buffalo in 1973, but that if your name was Mahovolich, we weren’t crazy about you.

It was a real trip to watch this the other night to see those things. It might have been Henri Richard’s last series. The Sabres later won the series, but from the look of the Aud and the nature of the game, longer shifts, wooden sticks, silver skate blades, the brown goalie pads sported by both Ken Dryden and Roger Crozier, I was fascinated, despite knowing the ending.

For this lifelong hockey fan, must see tv. For all the recent mediorce seasons, it was nice to be 11 once again and getting to stay up late to see the good guys win.


My Hockey is Broken

I started ushering at the downtown local Buffalo professional hockey arena in 2009. I needed the extra cash and this seemed like a way to have a fun gig to make that extra dollars and enjoy the assignment at the same time. They are my team.

When you take that posting, you are a building employee first so you are there for all kinds of events but the hockey ruled the roost. The Sabres made some noise in 2006 and 2007 and some of that still echoed off the walls when I started.

It was always a thrill, or at least it was. When the Sabres first started playing, there was something about it. So much so, that when the Sunday night games would start at 7pm, I would listen before drifting off and my brother at the end of the room wouldn’t mind. We both wondered how Ted Darling could tell that the puck that just went over the glass

Now understand, game day is always a thrill. You can’t help but have a bit of anticipation as the event starts to unfold. Behind the scenes is often more captivating than what is visible and I guess that part of the allure for me in assignments such as working an event.

Despite the differences between concerts, lacrosse, tournament basketball, hockey drives the train at that’s fine. For this lifelong fan/parttime usher, that’s alright but for far too long, my hockey has been broken.

There are always good parts. When working the lower portion of the arena and finding a practice puck that made it over the boards, you had a guarantee for brightening a little kid’s evening and making that experience that much more special. But the game would start.

It’s not that weren’t moments. For everybody that ever wrote (however, correctly) about the morgue like state of the fandom, I wish there had been more witnesses to a come from behind Buffalo win over Toronto in I think 2011. The home team came back from two goals down and won it in overtime. The building shook with passion. When the winning goal went in, you would have thought the war was over, deliriously happy strangers were hugging and high fiving, joy was pretty contagious without any assistance from Labatt’s.

When it is going good, it is like watching a game with a bunch of new friends and the wins would yield high fives and laughs that made the long day. When it was going not so well, you were watching the crowd with greater intensity, on Leaf nights to see if all the chemical serenity stayed serene.

I fear the Sabres are squandering Jack Eichel’s talents and what time Rick Jeanneret has left behind the microphone, tragedies both. They aren’t out of it, but to come off a nine day vacation and stumble all over yourselves while playing the worst team in the league (and losing) in your home building in such a zombified like state is a tough beat.

I stopped ushering after the NHL Draft in 2016. The long commute from my fulltime job and scheduling issues along some general exhaustion got to be too much. But when the concerts and other spectacles outnumber the memorable games, that is an issue, and one that still isn’t righted. I think of the overtime goal in 2016 Eichel scored with one second left, the Leaf game I alluded to, and concerts by Stevie Wonder, Further, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam. Roger Waters as the ushering highpoints.


The hockey should really outnumber the music. Hope only springs so eternal, but I can’t help but thinking Darcy Regier & Lindy Ruff weren’t the problem.

Fix the hockey, that will sell the jerseys, that will sell more drinks, that will make the good players stay here to be good, that will get people into what can be a great game. There have been great games here. There was a 2-2 with the Montreal Canadiens played 43 years ago that I still remember because it was such a thing of beauty.

I shouldn’t be watching for when pitchers and catchers report when there is still lots of hockey to be played. It would be nice if it was meaningful or even fun. The fun is drowning in the dispirited, lethargic results.

Fix the hockey, Sabres. My joy is disappearing.

Me, closer to the cup a few year ago, than this year’s squad

They are my team, I’m just exhausted from 13 years of shortcomings. He is too, probably.

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(from the Buffalo News)



As a long suffering fan of the Buffalo Bills, I watched the hoopla surrounding the New England Patriots unfold. I don’t have much in terms of special feelings toward the Patriots or Tom Brady, just a worldweariness of watching Brady beat the Bills at the time. It’s a sort of oh, geez feeling when you get to that part of the schedule. Folks looking for edges is nothing knew in sports. Hell, Gaylord Perry kept the Cleveland Indians interesting with his twisting of the rules in the 60s and 70s (and that wasn’t that easy).

How many defensive backs coated themselves in stick’em to annoy receivers before that was outlawed.

I think the thing that gets most of us isn’t that Tom Brady and the Patriots cheated. They did. They didn’t need to, as they are pretty good, but they dieI think the aloof, above the law arrogance and noncooperation is getting the rise out of people.

Brady and the Patriots basically kicked the Indianapolis Colts all over the playground during the AFC Championship game and they would have been them without any help, but….

It’s a game and ultimately isn’t going to matter one iota want anybody thinks. All the commentators in the word can vilify Brady, Belicheck and company and it won’t matter as they have drown out everybody by putting their superpower rings in their ears.

I’m enjoying reading all the give and take. There was cheating going, but I’m sure the Patriots aren’t the only ones looking for edges, they were just dumb enough to get caught.

But we’ll let Brady have the last word.


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).


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.


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?

The Big Orange

You don’t often get a chance to be a part of a spectacle, in a good way. When my moonlighting gig at the local arena listed the NCAA’s regional, I knew I kind of wanted to see some of it. I’ve long thought its good for your soul to lose yourself in something bigger than you and this seemed like one of those times. I’m not the biggest basketball fan. The pro game doesn’t do much for me. Just as I was starting to appreciate it, the Buffalo Braves were taken from me. 4 years at St. Bonaventure in the early 80s got you used to hearing how good Syracuse was and the games were more something to organize your saturday evening beverage consumption around. In a way, it was perfect training for a Mets fan.

But working the event is something, even if it was relegated to WTBS.

It’s kind of a big deal. I couldn’t fit all the media outlet trucks in the photo, but they were in such number, they enveloped the First Niagara Center.



Below is one of the invites for tourney fans to have a cold drink, which you couldn’t do inside at the game. Given that it took so long to get the two games in, that was a good thing. But no points for guessing what the first thing I did once I got dismissed.


The back of our downtown sports palace is a little warehouse like, depending on the event. With the basketball circus in town, backstage turned into a maze of makeshift draped corridors to accommodate the television networks, the schools, and other dignitaries, both real and imagined.


The souvenir offerings were a little lacking. There wasn’t much to commemorate the Buffalo locale or the schools involved. In a sense I understand that. Most of the stuff was promoting the final four, but in my guise as usherman, a few folks, mostly SU peeps, were looking for ways to part with their monies.



I took this one as it was the first view I had of the actual thing, never been involved with a TV show at the level before, and first time I’d ever been to a basketball game of any significance.


The tourney organizers brought Sabre covers for the scoreboard, guess they heard.


That’s the Orange pep band. Their polo shirts had a big blue stripe across them. From my vantage point, it initially looked like they were paying homage to Charlie Brown.


And this was where I was paid to watch basketball.


Got the basketball jones…..

Truth be told, with all the brackets getting busted on Thursday, I think that is why this one got played at night, and while I don’t watch much basketball, the Syracuse Dayton game wasn’t very good. The Uconn Villanova game was a little more entertaining, but I didn’t give it its due, because after standing in the same general turf for seven hours, they needed to be playing dodgeball to hold my interest.

But still, Buffalo doesn’t get many opportunities to play on this scale, so it was cool to play a part in it this one time.

As the Puck Turns

Got to catch up as linked in now reminds me how long it’s been since I have had something to say.

While working the past two nights at the downtown professional hockey palace, I’ve been enjoying the people watching and how it’s different depending on opponent. One of the common threads is that everybody, and I mean everybody, when they come to the end of the tunnel before ascending the steps to their seats, stops and poses before continuing to their chair. I had to laugh a little at the notion that given everybody has cell phone, people still look for another “Where’s Waldo” style peering at the stands hoping to see the person they are seeking. Nobody calls.

But that was nothing compared to the hullabaloo of the final Friday in February, as sharp eyed fans watching warm-up didn’t see the captain or the goalie (who was the face of the franchise) appear on the ice. And this is before the shenanigans that led to former star turned beloved execl eaving. I didn’t hear anything, and a few folks (and me) checked our twitter feeds to see what the skinny truly was. All became known as the team began to blow up, by trading the two guys most folks hated to see go.

While I was pondering the previously unheard of notion of too much hockey in a week, the hometown team was in the midst of turning into a soap opera. The idea that the principals involved in that won’t let anybody know what the scoop was is a little frustrating if you are a ticket holder or somebody who might say come play hockey here.

Folks hopefully might still do that.

At the Good Old Hockey game

To say the Sabres are going through some hard times would be a bit of an understatement. For us long time fans, it is a heavy cross to bear. When the Chicago Cubs referred to themselves as loveable losers, that seemed a bit of a stretch.IMG_0178

I mean, it’s not like you can’t have a little fun at these things a bit. I know it’s a bit of a stretch. I still remember my first Sabres game. I believe I was all of 9 and they were such a hot ticket (despite not being very good), that you had to wait for a ticket miracle to happen. I think one did in the form of my mom’s butcher selling her his pair for a night. So, my dad and I trekked up to the Blues in the Aud and enjoyed the Sabres, complete with Tim Horton, and the California Golden Seals. Good guy that he is, he smiled and said sure when I made clear I wanted to see the whole thing, and not be one of the fans headed for “the exits” as I would hear Ted Darling say on many a Sunday night broadcast. The sunday night 7pm games were great radio fodder.

This occurred to me the other night. I usher during the events there and it struck me that it’s a different world. One of the kicks is to see people of all ages seeing the place for the first time. Eyes get a little big taking in the whole site for the first time, even for more experienced fans. It’s even more fun watching young fans, who don’t remember the Drury-Briere debacle, laying their wide eyes on the home team in the flesh for the first time.

Struck me that while nobody should be satisfied with losing all the time, and most of the regularly winning teams win, so third jerseys and the like aren’t needed, but sometimes you got to relax a little. When the Sabres fell behind 2-0, I spotted a couple of grouchy younger fathers pulling their sons up and calling it a day.

Dudes!! Really? They weren’t giving out trophies for anything last night. Nothing was getting decided. The world was going to spin on its axis at the same regardless, and by stomping off in a huff, you missed a genuinely exciting finish with the home team storming back, with four unanswered goals, and Drew Stafford hit a guy! Like Brick and the Trident, only it was better because it was real.

The Leafs can’t come to town nightly, sometimes you got take what the schedule makers give you, realize there is no cup to won tonight, and just shaddup and enjoy. That, and let the kid finish eating his popcorn.

It’s a night out, you don’t beat the traffic, nobody ever has.

Stay or “Leaf”


Here’s a reason why some folks don’t like going to the stadium for a Bills game. If ever there was a reason to prove that it is sometimes better to be lucky than good, it’s this jamoke. Never understood the drink out of your skull mentality some folks seem to favor.

Don’t get me wrong, I like beer. It’s a good friend of mine, but when it shuts your brainpan down so far you do something so incredibly dumb like this flying wallenda wannabe, you might have sampled a few too many.

And speaking of high quaffing rates, the downtown hockey palace was aglow

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in anticipation of the return of a former star, a former coach to chart a new direction and the Toronto Maple Leafs. For a place that has been fairly quiet during a disappointing season, we’re lucky the joint didn’t achieve lift off as we got closer to puck drop. The place does get criticized for being atmosphere challenged at times and I think that reflects when things aren’t going ideally on the ice, because atmosphere was spilling out the door Friday eve. Had a largely entertaining time with the busloads of Leaf fans in my area of the rink.

I joked that it was a little like working Monday Night Football out at the Ralph with the Patriots in town, but the excitement was contagious and reminded one of why you do such things at times.


Even the press box was shiny.

And everybody stayed at their proper levels.

In the Sufferin’ Madness


A Power failure got a round of applause at the Sabres Wild game on Monday evening. Being a life long hockey fan, it’s easy to see why. It hasn’t exactly been a stellar start for the home team. More empty blue chairs showed for a game that was most noticeable for the former captain, Jason Pominville, scoring the winning goal. Maybe the Sabres should have shown his Ottawa goal and said welcome back. Sometimes, you got to do things for just to be a good guy.

The brief power failure was a metaphor.

On other ice fronts, Pat Kaleta got ten games for a hit and part of the reason for the punishment was the history. That is some twisted logic, because he’s been suspended by the same myopic system before, this punishment should be different. Punishment fit the crime, there, NHL. I’m not saying he’s a choir boy, but Phil Kessel repeated assaulted a Sabre with his stick and got three preseason games. I’m not arguing Kaleta was innocent, but a set standard would be a refreshing change of pace.

This is a great sport, but the people who run it don’t always seem to like it much.

The upshot of all of that is that it had me paying more attention to the baseball playoffs. Much like the Baltimore Orioles last year, it was fun to see the Pirates be in the playoffs after a long absence. Tv execs are praying for Boston to win today I’m sure for another Boston/St. Louis World Series.

Go Sox, there I said it.