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)


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?

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.

Holiday Leftovers

So, I passed on Black Friday nonsense, and on Thankgiving? I celebrated with a couple of stops laden with good food and laughs that are more valuable than any flat screen sale.

I heard the argument made that since movie theaters and restaurants opened on the holiday, why couldn’t retail stores? It was the big box folk who did? And one depressing watch of the news saw people fighting, pushing, shooting, brawling over stuff we don’t really need. One talking head from one of the major chains said something that 15,000 people came to his place over 11,000 who showed at midnight the year before, so that justifies it. Bizarre. If they are open, people will go, even though tv deals are probably a little better closer to the Super Bowl. One day, you’d hope people would realize that being the first to get something doesn’t really come with a prize. Preferred the good times of my non retail laden Thanksgiving.

Elsewhere, fanmageddon (Leaf fans visiting the Sabres) occurred to highlight Black Friday. Neither team is going much of anyplace this season, but there is always atmosphere when the two meet up. The Sabres prevailed with a good game, and mostly because they dressed better (normal jerseys). I worked as an usher for the affair in the Student Surge section where a few students were surrounding by an affable section of chemically serene Leaf fans. One of whom spent the latter portion of the third period talking to me. I sort of like that as you are just talking, it’s okay to be a bit of a hockey nerd. Even though he went home disappointed, we fistbumped in our brilliance as we discovered what the Buffalo Bills need to do in Toronto. If we are going to play there, let’s open that roof. The stadium up there has a retractable dome, so retract it, and let’s get some football weather in the room. Might feel more like Bills home game with some Bills wind chill up in that joint. Genius, right?

Anybody notice, a big box credit card is the sponsoring entity of Small Business Saturday?

Going out to one establishment, but bringing my cash as I’m thorough like that.

Might stop by the real job on the way back because two valued colleagues are celebrating a special occasion.


They’re one!

Right Field

The link on Linked In reminds me that I haven’t said anything here in a week. Heaven forbid I slack. It’s been an interesting, and exhausting time since.

Hillary Clinton came to UB this week and I kind of wanted to go to hear what she had to say. I’m an admirer of what she’s been accomplished and if she runs in 2016 I’d most likely vote her way, most likely. Predictably, some galoot yelled “Benghazi!” during the program. While it is important to understand what all was done wrong (and there seems to be enough fault for everybody), I can’t help but wonder where that jamoke’s righteous indignation was during Beirut in 83, Nairobi later on, and so on.

I don’t care about the Ipad air (sorry)

After working out in the elements, I watch game 3 of the World Series only to see it end on an umpire’s call of “obstruction.” I’m sure that has the folks in Red Sox nation in a bit of a tizzy this morning. One of the delights in not having a particular “horse” in this fight, was that I could enjoy my Guinness while watching a friend’s angst over such things.

Said friend reminded me of the Sabres’ score (another loss), to drink my beer, and shush my face.

Watching the Bills, as some effort is there.


It’s pretty easy to pick on the Sabres at the moment as they aren’t giving us much to love other than stellar play by the goaltenders, but when a Sabres/Bruins game doesn’t sell out as happened this week, you got to know there is a problem there. When the game itself has all the excitement of one too many stays at the Bubble Hockey table, it really doesn’t matter what the variety of offerings are in the concession stand.

If management is surprised, fix it. And while you are at it, note that Toronto is leading the division and with 69 games left, I don’t think we can catch them.

Hockey Purgatory

Like many fans of the Buffalo Sabres, 2006 represents the good old days, a healthy defenseman or two away from erasing the bad memories of 1999.  In the current issue of Buffalo Spree, Christopher Schobert asks that the home squad show that they are doing something other than treading the proverbial water.  I can’t blame him.

You want your home team to be interesting for the whole season, not to be the place where Florida Panthers come to get healthy. I think I’ve got a few more miles on than my friend, I remember the Sabres selling out the 1970s. The passion among the fans has never wavered. We’re just getting tired of the heroic push for 8th place to get buried in the first round of the playoffs.

The talk of rebuilding seven years (seven after the last deep run) was a little insulting, along with the g.m.’s talk of suffering. Dude, what do you think we’ve been doing?

I’ve been following this team since I was six, don’t talk down to me. The home rink has been tattooed in recent years as atmosphere challenged. Some of that is to blame with the corporate seats in the meet of the arena, some of it has been from watching some players skate with the passion of bubble hockey men.

I’ve been there when the team is giving its all and the place will vibrate, have its own pulse. The place will be full nightly with folks who work hard for the considerable funds it takes to get to a game these days. You hope that isn’t taken for granted. Are these guys a cup team? I don’t think so. They had a good preseason, and a dandy of a brawl, but I don’t think that is indicative of anything.

I’m hoping for a fun, promising season, that one bad game (it will happen) doesn’t mean the end of the word or long slumps where everybody seemed to forget, well, everything.

You just want a sign that we are interested in getting better, not just taking our money.

A winning team solves a lot of game presentation woes, and sells a lot of ugly third jerseys.

Work on that, then, maybe I’ll give a damn about who gets the c.

Gold on the Ceiling

I like the Black Keys a lot, but I worry the Buffalo Sabres‘ inconsistent offerings might be ruining a couple of the groups’ bigger hits. The Sabres take to the ice to the tune of “Lonely Boy” and goals are celebrated with “Gold on the Ceiling.” It’s like if the music isn’t update, fans won’t cheer as hard.

Only team with literally its own theme song, we’ve got to shoehorn more tunes in there because that’s what keeps the fans entertained. So, on Fan Appreciation Night,  to make up for Season Ticket Price increase afternoon, I got to hear from folks literally complaining that balloons weren’t going to get to their aisle. Is that really the most important thing? When one of the Sabres’ fetching p.r. interns came to get a seat holder to receive a jersey from a play at games’ end, that shut that up.

It was nice to close it out on a high note.

934888_10151365369932466_184817924_n“Yay, Me!”

It was nice for the game to end on that note, where fans and star goalie remembered the big picture and it was nothing but love and all.  T’was a nice vibe to end it on, as the days of working both jobs were starting to have quite the negative effect on the following day for me. I’m ready for the break. I don’t think the home team needs a massive over haul, but some things could stand to change. As Miller has been one of the most consistent Sabres this season, I sort of hate to see him potentially be out the door.

But as three days of NFL Draft coverage has reinforced, nobody knows nothing. Anybody who has spend anytime talking about what team picks what guy I think has forfeited his right to complain about weathermen.

But Sabres’ leadership, bring back the Sabredance!


For the first 18 minutes, the Sabres and Rangers played a good game Friday evening, two flukey goals later, the wheels came off. They weren’t Ryan Miller‘s fault. Stuff or skates happen, especially on those first two goals, but when four straight shots over two periods amount to four goals, it was hard to watch the wheels come off. I don’t begrudge Miller’s wave after some sarcastic cheers for a save. Actually from my ushering vantage point, it was pretty funny considering. A few of the sportwriters were talking how it was a Patrick Roy moment, referring to Roy’s last moment on Canadiens ice before winning two cups in Colorado (by the way, I’d love to see Roy, a current OHL coach, get a shot with Buffalo, if Rolston doesn’t return).

I sort of hope not. I couldn’t blame Miller. He’s been statistically pretty good this short season. Given how inconsistent the play in front of him has been, the good numbers are a flippin godsend.

Yeah, fans made noise once again. There were a lot of Rangers fans in the house. There’s a lot of frustration in the air and in the aisles. Nobody wants a season to end this way, to be on the outside, while the Leafs (the LEAFS!?!?!) are the most charming hockey team in the region.

I’ve never been a BOO-er, doesn’t do anything for me. But you have to see it as a sign that the fans (you know the folks in the 300s) care, it’s how they show their love, that they are watching, not just applauding the goals (like in some rinks).

The post Drury/Briere hangover lingers and it sort of feels like Miller and Thomas Vanek‘s primes got a little squandered as we shoot for an identity.

But I got to tell you a balanced team that shows up and plays hard gets respect, even when the scoreboard doesn’t smile on em.