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.


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)


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.

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.


Hmm, so the shutdown of the federal government continues, accomplishing nothing, but hurting working Americans. At the heart of all of this are all these folks who profess to love America. I’ve noticed this, this love of America and it makes me wonder why they seem to hate everybody who lives there.

Okay, so you don’t like the Affordable Care Act. Fine, instead of pouting, blustering, obfuscating, and strangling the rest of the people’s business, work on actual ideas on improvement instead of wasting the people’s monies (really good at that) to fix and work together on flaws and shortcomings.

Seems simple.

I had the fortune to be among the staff for the latest appearance in the area of the World Wrestling Federation and their latest pay-per-view program. In a weekend that saw a Bills loss, two Sabres losses, a long term injury to a quarterback star in the making, the choreographed shenanigans was the pinnacle of Buffalo Sports for the weekend.


Those wrasslin fans are some getting up, and getting down people. Attendees of the live action are essentially a really large studio audience and there are a lot of gaps in the action, enough so that I’m sure the concession folks made some serious dollars. I’m not if I was envious of the foodstuffs passing by, or how well financed some folks were to be making so many trips to the bar.

No wonder mom made us eat before leaving home. Stuff’s pricey.

How come apples don’t get the p.r. that pumpkins seem to enjoy?

Just wondering

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!

Have You Got Any Castles?

Well, it’s a few weeks later and I still don’t care that Beyonce sang along with herself at the Inauguration. Pretty much every Super Bowl or Inaugural  performance has a tape recording in the can to guard against anything silly happening. I don’t recall anybody giving Yo-Yo Ma playing along with himself (careful typing there) a few years ago. Good for her for showing the Super Bowl press corp up in a clever way.

We do tend to get fixated on bizarre things. A few years ago, John McCain mentioned Chuck Hagel as a good possibility to be Defense Secretary. This week, he decided to slap Hagel around in front of the cameras. Can’t we just do something because it is a good thing to do, not because of how it might play before the cameras?

Glad Hillary Clinton called shenanigans at the political theater that was the house hearings on Benghazi.

It makes you wonder.

Some sports fans I know are in a lather about Bills WR Stevie Johnson not killing himself in February with workouts. WHY? But then again, it’s sport talk radio, so the bar is considerable lower than the socratic round table of wisdom that is regular talk radio. Can’t argue with the results.

Wonder if Alex Smith would be a good fit throwing to him next season?

I’m glad pro hockey is back. It would be nice had the Sabres had a better week than they did, but there something particularly nice about beating Boston. I wonder given how on fire he has been, if Thomas Vanek has morphed into the guy that other teams need to worry about regularly. The Sabres haven’t had one of those in awhile. On the upside, it was doubly entertaining to listen to a few Bruins whine after getting dumped 7-4.

And now, a politically incorrect cartoon:

Does the SAFE Act apply to Super Soakers?

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.

La French Connexion

It’s easy to be a little mad with current hockey at the moment. The shenanigans that have delayed the season while millionaires fight over how to split up more millions doesn’t really call for any sympathy. Without the season, the gesture of unveiling a statue of a bygone era seemed a little hollow. Then you stopped at remembered the era. The Sabres sold out for the entirety of the 1970s and Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin, and Rene Robert can take a large part of the credit for that. I’m old enough to remember the first time the Sabres ever made the playoffs, with Robert scoring the winning goal in overtime to beat the Canadiens for the first ever win. If you are any kind of Buffalo hockey fan, I don’t need to tell you the significance of that.

My grandmother on my mom’s side was visiting then. She lived in football crazy Akron, Ohio. They televised high school football and she looked on the television and saw that we were all watching “ice hockey.” At the time, Dave Dryden was the Sabres’ number two netminder behind Roger Crozier. Mr Dryden worked with a number of community groups including the developmentally disabled kids at the College Learning Lab at Buff State. This group included my older brother as the kids learned the fun of floor hockey. This made Mr. Dryden alright with Grandma, despite the fact that the Canadiens employed Dave’s younger brother, Ken. The Canadiens also had brothers Frank and Peter Mahovolich on their roster. The Canadiens eventually won the series, but Grandma returned to Ohio thinking if you were Dryden, you were alright, but if you were Mahovolich, you were a bad man. In the midst of all this was just how much fun it was to watch the French Connection play.

It’s not every hockey line that changes the nature of street hockey games. I mean who didn’t want to be able to move like Perreault, shoot like Martin, playmake like Robert. Just the fact that the Aud seemed to buzz or hum a bit when they took the ice made you pay a little more attention.

Perreault was my favorite, but it was fun to seem them play.

Can almost hear Ted Darling, Pat Hannigan and Rick Azar bringing you the call…..