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.


Thundersticks with Sid the Kid

Here’s my perch for the Sabres Penguins game Friday night, before you were let in. (Thanks for waiting patiently). I’ve been bemoaning the reaction of the home team‘s administration of game night presentation. They want the place to rock, good hockey will do the trick, but thundersticks rule the moment. Pretty sure, we needed to score more, not more cowbell, but I digress. There was a heavy Pittsburgh contingent thanks to proximity, but it wasn’t like a Leaf game or anything. The spectacle games remind you why this type of stuff can be fun in the first place. The team revived the party in the plaza for the first time in a bit and it seems to draw well. I’m not going to lie, it is a bit of an ego trip to walk through all those proceedings to the security entrance like you have a backstage pass.

I snuck the picture above, about a moment before the call goes out that the “Doors are open.” And I don’t know if it was the atmosphere, Sidney Crosby, the Penguins, the Sabres’ run of late, playoffs, whathaveya, but the building filled quick, but my folks were in a pretty jovial mood with one exception, one guy who didn’t like the wait for the whistle before interrupting the folks in your row. It’s funny to watch people in such a setting. One guy groused that the first four winners of Sabres jerseys were sitting in the 100s (dude, give the promotion a chance!), an infinite amount of people who would come to the top of the stairs and pose like they are on the NHL’s Next Top Model, to the serial texters.

I’ve maintained those of us who know enough not to walk and text at the same time could have a jolly good time with the placement of random fountains, wading pools, and other bodies of water for those who insist on being riveted to their phones while walking and sure enough I had two of those folks. I wondered if I could get them to start in a line, if they would bounce off each other bumper car style for the sake of getting that message across. Largely, because both teams took the second period off, and the Penguins are just better at hockey, at least last night, the drama was at a minimum.

The Sabres’ next task in my mind is to beat the Leafs so badly over the next two games that the Leafs cry and the Sabres’ then tell their mommas about it.

Inside Mike’s Mind

It’s a odd place to be sure, but while playing hall monitor at this evening’s professional hockey game, I had plenty of time to wander, observe and generally partake of some excellent people watching. It can be an added source of entertainment in addition to the event that actually is taking place.

It’s funny as I notice for each person at the event, some are actually there for what is taking place and there are almost as many there to be seen at the event. Some wait till the last possible second to look for their seat, thereby missing a good chunk of the first period.

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy beer, but not enough to spend most of the game running up and down the stairs to buy multiple oversized cans of the stuff. Given that seats ain’t cheap, I guess I’d want to get as much value for the dollars that I gots to pay.

It’s funny watching folks come down the stairs to head to concessions or whereever. Everybody, and I mean, everybody comes down, stops in a mini-pose and then proceeds. They stop and look around and then move along. Watch next time you in the high altitude regions.

The opposite of that are the people who come down a hallway and look up into a section trying to find a friend. You think these guys would call each other. I noticed one poor guy (in a Devils jersey) scanning my group, maybe for a familiar face, but chances are if there is a friend up there, you’d have his phone number, jerky!

The home team takes steps to instill a little hockey manners on the attendees. Most folks are pretty good about that. There are a few wisenheimers, who fate didn’t like as there was a ten minute stretch without a whistle and that made a few folks grumble. One guy was riding me about wanting to get to his seat and before I could say anything another fan told him he “should have pissed sooner.”

It cracks me up watching folks strategies at the end of the game. In tonight’s contest, it was basically there, but some folks leave their seats and start to head to the doors to “beat traffic.” Since they stop near my space and keep watching, I can’t help but wonder how much time they are saving. Folks are generally pretty good in leaving, but from the top most folks head to the escalators.

When we get cut loose, I just use the paths between the seats and get out in half the time talking, wait for it, the stairs.

Good things happen.

Blame Canada!

The World Juniors Hockey Tourney formally kicked off Sunday at the arena. I spent the day camped at sections 305-306 for the day.

And I’m glad I have the next day off. Overall, it was an entertaining experience.  One actual brawl between a quartet of ugly americans over seats was thankfully ended before anybody got hurt. It did take a little bit for my nerves to resume normal operations. This aging usher isn’t crazy about that sort of fun when I’m outnumbered by a bunch of guys hellbent on proving how tough they are. Thankfully for swift security response, I could employ my older brother’s floor hockey technique of avoiding the actual action, but looking busy at the same time.

That was to start my third game of the day, the eventual US victory over Finland. Understand, this is basically a big Canadian party and much of the crowd was left over from Canada’s win over Russia (that was the best game of the day.). The building was jammed and energized and felt like a hockey game. I got a feeling we were looking at the two best teams. The first game of the day was between Switzerland and Germany and was played to a roughly half full arena. Some of the crowd was actually there for that, others were there to check their sightlines for the Canadian/Russian battle at 4.

I don’t know if the Bills games had anything to do with it, or if the Fins aren’t a big name opponent, but it was a little off to see the USA playing in prime time on National television in both the US and Canada (and presumably Finland) and the place wasn’t entirely full. If you are in to hockey at all and have the post Christmas means, I’d recommend checking it out. For the same reason college basketball is more fun than the pros, these young bucks move. International rules means fewer offsides, no fights, arguments get broken up quick, so the game really does move along. And even the trash talk is mostly good natured, one of the canadian partisans invented the fried bologna/pretzel sandwich at the concession stand and stood eating that gastrointestinal miracle while explaining how if Finland beat the US, that would be good for the tourney. That bit of barstool philosophy was impossible to be an audience to without laughing.

“Usher! That Man is Annoying Me!”

Dabbling once again in the part time employment arts for the sake of my wallet, I made my debut as an usher at the Sabres/Leafs game the other night at the arena. Unlike my stint with our professional football association, this has the benefit of being indoors and just a few moments from my apartment door. There is the side benefit of me rocking the usher look as well. As tasks go, it’s pretty straightforward, nothing too complicated, learn what seats are where around you, get folks in, monitor a little traffic, talk a little hockey and get paid to the see the game to boot. That is win-win.

Got to give out a practice puck to a little kid who was sporting a newly purchased jersey, betting Dad is the bigger fan having clad his son in what was tantamount to a Sabres nightshirt. Having the Leafs in town upped the smack talking as the Leaf fans head to HSBC in such numbers because Toronto home games are exorbitantly priced and tickets still hard to come by. If you weren’t watching, goals had to wait for the horn to differentiate between who scored.

It was the first night so things are still finding their routine, but I think the thing that attracts me to this kind of stuff is the whole “Being backstage” as something is preparing to happen. I’ve never had to be ‘the Guy,” but it is fun to help “The Guy” get ready to take the stage, to be a part of something bigger than you, even on the inside. That is where you get to see an event, even a preseason hockey game start to take shape.

Walking around the entrance and the “red carpet” arrival across the plaza and have another gentleman grouse to me about “we don’t get that” made me laugh. The blazer is fairly snappy as fair as uniforms go and I was shown the ropes by a good guy who lives for hockey and has been as his post since the arena opened. It’s a kick to say that on Sunday, I got a game 🙂

“Starting in Goal…”

Buoyed by the re-airing of the Top Gear episode centering on the Winter Olympics, I’m looking forward to some things and cringing at others. During a recent Sabres-Leafs game, the camera panned the Leaf bench centering on Coach Ron Wilson. Given the way the Leafs were playing that night, I was suddenly a little afraid for Ryan Miller. The Olympic Hockey tourney makes for some fun games, but ever since the NHL populace has taken over, the excitement for me isn’t there.

The Sabres have shown some signs of life, mostly thanks to Ryan Miller. Pat Lalime’s recent streak shows that we really don’t have to sweat the occasional night off for Ryan. And he’ll need some as this year’s team MVP.

He is dressing for the occasion:

Looks suitably bad ass for the games, but I’m hoping he’s able to save some for the Senators, ya know.

Questionable fashion statements

and I’m not sure what this one was supposed to say.


Designed to honor what I can only imagine to be color blind commentator for Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry, a local OHA team decided to sport this little number recently for one of their games. Not quite sure if this was truly what they were hoping for, but what the hey. We all know the retros and throwbacks in all the sports leagues is just a money grab. I have an selection, but did you ever notice that winning teams and good products cure a lot of ills. You don’t see the Yankees sporting a third jersey now.