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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

Shinny


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.

The Puck stops…


I’ve always had it bad, not like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch about the Red Sox bad, but for better or worse, I’ve been a Sabres fan since pretty much there were Sabres to be fans of. The Sunday night 7PM games were a fixture on my clock radio growing up. Snagging a ticket when I was a teenage was close to being Charlie Bucket when he found the golden ticket as they sold out the entire first decade of their existence.

Got to my first game when I was 9 to see Tim Horton and Gil Perreault lead the boys against the…wait for it, California Golden Seals. And the ebb and flow of the relationship took off from there. The shift from the Drury/Briere miss to the onset of Pegulatime was optimism abound. A good friend who left the area and I toasted over the possibilities and the Lucic Incident. So, this season has been a tough one and while the Toronto game this week was a lot of fun to watch, you can’t help but wonder where that has been all year. Hard to love something that shows only passing interest. The glass half full folks point out that they are only four points out of a playoff spot. I get a little tired of the heroic run toward mediorcrity.

The folks at the Trending Buffalo released this.

If we could only play Toronto and Montreal more often

Puckin’ Around


Hard to watch the Sabres these days and not be a little nausated a bit if you are a fan. People are wanting all sorts of changes. My goals are a little more modest. I just want them not to suck.

When I was a lad in the summer and fall of 85, I was an sports department intern at WGRZ. One night in January, the department was short a few people and the sports anchor that night sent me with a camera down to the Aud for the end of that night Sabres/Canadiens game. I was under strict orders not to ask questions, just to get a microphone under anybody who might be talking (as the team was in a tailspin that wasn’t as bad as this season’s). I’m not going to lie, it was incredibly cool to strut in the media entrance, hang out by the Zamboni area to watch the final few minutes and more importantly, not get shoo-ed away when the gates closed as the players from both teams were coming off the ice. If only somebody I knew would have seen me.

It was a bad Sabres loss. The door to the locker room stayed shut for awhile as nobody was allowed in. I recognized a few of the real media gathered there, but standing with us was Scotty Bowman, the Sabres GM at the time. Despite his being about a foot shorter than I, his gaze scared me a bit, enough that I started to cover up the WSBU logo on the jacket I had on with the Channel 2 Mic flag.

After the longest 15 minutes I had ever experienced outside of a dentist office, we were let in. You were supposed to get the head coach then players, but the coach at the time, Jim Schoenfeld, never appeared. Scotty was apparently gazing at him. I got my player interviews and got out of there, and was right that something was up in regards to the coach.

Scotty took over the next day and didn’t do any better. It turned out it just wasn’t a good team. Cut to modern day, and people are screaming for Lindy or Darcy to get dumped. I’m not certain what the answer is. I mean, everybody has a bad day at the office periodically, but how many of us have to sit and watch other people work to remind us how to do our gigs.

I don’t know what the answers is, but when the announcement that pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training, it was a little frightening that spring training baseball could be the diversion we’ve been waiting for.

Come on, Terry, we don’t want Buffalo to be hockey heaven for visitors….

Puck me


Well, puck you too, pal.

We couldn’t have been too upset at the dearth of professional hockey in Western New York. 10,000 people showed up for a scrimmage. It’s amazing how much some shop discounts can do. Absence did indeed make the hearts grow fonder. The Sabres actually didn’t start playing well till this time last year, so maybe playing half the slate will suit em.

If people wanted all kinds of concessions for not playing, is there any compensation coming for how poorly the Bills did play? I mean, you had to watch that?

And so it goes, I honestly didn’t think much about it, missed watching, but no so much I didn’t go and attempt other things.

So, here’s hoping for normalcy. Part of me hopes to get the call to don the usher togs to work the opening game. The Sabres’ home ice has been sometimes distant, with a lot of corporate seats in the lower bowl, but there have been other times where the place has a pulse, you can feel something in the air and the walls practically hum a bit with anticipation and excitement. The last Sabres game I worked was the comeback against the Leafs and it was one of those reminders how much fun this can be, how cool it can be to lose yourself in something bigger than you. The Sabres came back to tie and the collective heart rate at the effn center nearly caused it to vibrate off the foundation. When they beat the Leafs in overtime, you would have thought it was VJ day with all the spontaneous high-fives, hugs and new friendships forged, even temporarily.

I’m reminded of the line from Fever Pitch about loving a team that doesn’t really love you back. Like Jerry Seinfeld says, we’re basically rooting for laundry.

It’s good to have it good to go again. I know my wallet will like the extra shots.