Archive for the ‘Reasons to Love Hockey’ Category

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More Reasons to Love Hockey

August 2, 2008

#5 – Game Day Skates.

When I take a day off in the winter, and if it happens to fall on a Sabres game day, I try to head down to the arena and watch the game day morning skate, which is open to the public. I like that I get to see more of the specialized drills than those used during a pre-game skate.You can kind of get a feel for what the coaching staff feels the team’s weakness is that day, whether its the power play, defense or the goaltending. You can also see which players take practice seriously, and which ones goof off.

The last morning skate I went to featured the power play trying to revitalize itself, a rousing pep-talk delivered by Lindy (sadly at the other end of the arena from where I was sitting, so I couldn’t hear what he was saying but he was gesticulating furiously) and Tim Connolly trying to shoot a puck through the photographers hole in the glass.

I like that the team opens these skates to the public. Its even better when there’s a few little kids there with their parents. They’re so excited about seeing these players up close. Its really adorable. (An entire lower bowl worth of parents and children would make me poke my ears out with something sharp.)

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Reasons I Love Hockey

July 7, 2008

#3 – Shot Blocking

Shot blocking is the art of willingly throwing oneself in front of a puck traveling in excess of 80 mph to prevent said puck from reaching the net. It looks just as crazy as it sounds. However, NHL players make it look easy. There’s absolutely no hesitation from any of them before diving in front of the puck. Its a well-timed art, as the puck needs to make the right deflection off of the right body part, whether its the skate or the chest or the shoulder.

Jay McKee was a master shot blocker for the Sabres. He made diving in front of the puck look as effortless as skating up the ice. His well-executed blocks kept many pucks from getting through to Hasek, Biron or Miller. His presence is sorely missed by the Sabres.

But I digress.

There’s always a risk of injury with shot blocking. Frozen rubber object + velocity + human flesh = potential for owies. (That’s a key law of physics.) Just look at what happened to Philly’s Thoreson during this year’s playoffs. He went down to block a shot and damn near lost his left nut as the puck hit him in a sensitive area. (I know a lot of hockey players would give their left nut to win Stanley, but it’s just a figure of speech. It’s not meant to be taken literally.) While he did come back to play later in the playoffs, his unfortunate injury was replayed on Sportscenter for several days afterwards.

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Reasons To Love Hockey

June 28, 2008

#3 – The Internet

The internet has dramatically changed how I view the sport of hockey. Before I really discovered the hockey internet landscape, my primary sources for information about the Sabres – or even the NHL – was The Buffalo News, USA Today or ESPN. The former was great for local Sabres coverage, while the latter two dealt more with league matters, when they dealt with the NHL at all.

Then, I stumbled into the message boards. And I feared for my sanity. Hockey message boards make auto racing boards look like beacons of sanity. And Buffalo Sabres message boards really take the cake for drawing out their fair share of crackpots. (Crackpots…on the internet? Hard to imagine, right?)

After getting really pissed off at the message boards, I tripped over the blogosphere. And I’ve found nirvana. The blogosphere contains some of the wittiest and most intelligent hockey related discussion out there. Reading these blogs has expanded my knowledge of other teams (you mean there’s a conference out west? Surely you jest!) as well as educated me about some of the more quirky rules of the game and line items of the CBA (per diem and mortgage payments after trades? Hot damn!). I also like that more and more teams – especially the Sabres – have hopped onto the blog bandwagon. Pommers’ blog this season was a joy to read, as it allowed us to see what kind of a person he was both on and off the ice. Tim Kennedy’s blog during prospect camp gives us a look at what the youngins are up to. (I just wonder how many of these youngins are begging Kennedy, Kaleta and Orpik for invites home to dinner.) And of course, Miller’s wonderfully candid blog during the playoffs showed that even the biggest stars are figuring out this internet thing.

Outside of these two realms, Google friggin rocks. Google images is always good for that picture of Paul Gaustad in a tux or Jason Pominville looking adorably doofy. And Google News is always good for that completely random article from a player’s hometown paper. For example, I would like to submit this article to the Sabres as a reason to definitely give Gaustad a contract extension with a very nice raise.

And when I really need a laugh, “those boards” with the latest “extracurricular gossip” are a quick pick-me-up. Not only just because of the content posted, but because people actually feel the need to post such intimate details. Has no one any shame anymore? (Well, if that last sentence didn’t make me sound like my grandmother, then nothing will.)

On a completely unrelated note, Crunchy and I are no longer FIHTING. I sent a  wonderfully calm, yet complain-y email about my visit to the Refinery, and received a response yesterday. Apparently the store is closed on Sundays during the summer months due to the closure of MSU. As a make-good, I was offered a 25% discount coupon. My inner negotiator is happy with the make-good and will probably put it towards the one Sabres shirt offered on the site. (I don’t buy “real clothes” through the internet, as a general rule.)

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Reasons I Love Hockey – #2

June 11, 2008

This is the second post in a continuing series about why I love the game of hockey.

Reason #2 – The Five on Three

No, a five-on-three isn’t something that happens in a Letters to Penthouse column. Instead, its one of the most beautiful and most frustrating times in hockey. If its your team with the two-man advantage, you’re mentally adding a goal to the scoreboard in your team’s column. (Fans of the Buffalo Sabres excepted. The team was abysmal on five-on-threes this season.) If its your team with the manpower disadvantage, you’re praying to the hockey gods that your team emerges unscathed.

If the team with five skaters runs an excellent power play, the penalty killing team can be on the ice for what seems like an eternity, as they cannot get the puck out of the zone. Its interesting watching the defensive team collapse around the net as the offensive players sink lower and lower towards the crease. The goalie is just praying he can get a clear look at any pucks that come his way.

The players in the penalty box are just praying that their team doesn’t get scored on, as they will be the goats in the media and on the internet.

Its a tense time for all involved, but its one of the things that makes hockey so enjoyable.

- And in non-hockey related news, the lilies in my front yard have bloomed. Yay!

Photo taken from my front porch looking down. These plants are about three feet tall and still growing.

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Now Starting: Reasons to Love Hockey

June 3, 2008

Last summer, Pookie and Schnookie at IPB posted a series of blog entries containing their 118 Reasons to Love Hockey. They’ve graciously allowed me to take their idea and run with it this summer. I was originally not going to start this until after the playoffs ended, but last night’s game provided me with some inspiration to actually start writing these.

Reason #1: Playoff Overtime

Sabres fans have a love / hate relationship with playoff overtime. We beat the Devils and Marty Brodeur in four overtimes to force a Game Seven in 1994. Brad May scored in overtime of the 1993 playoff series against the Bruins. We lost the Cup in 1999 in triple overtime because Brett Hull’s foot was in the crease, and the refs were too chicken shit to review the call. (Yes, I’m still bitter.) The 2007 playoffs also gave the Sabres plenty of close overtime games, including one against the Rangers with a beautiful winning goal by Afinogenov.

Playoff overtime is a completely different animal than the 60 minutes of regulation hockey. There’s that added sense of desperation, knowing that one goal will a) end the game and/or series and b) potentially change series momentum to favor the winning team. The announcers seem to get into it more, knowing that every little deflection or missed pass could lead to the winning goal. Since playoff overtime is sudden death, there’s none of that “hang on for five minutes and just make it to the shootout” that characterizes regular season overtime. For some reason, a game won in overtime during the playoffs is that much sweeter of a victory. The locker room interviews show players both simultaneously high from the victory, yet completely exhausted from the effort put forth on the ice.

And who doesn’t love a multiple overtime game? Even though the next morning you’re trying not to pass out from exhaustion during your morning staff meeting, you wouldn’t have missed the end of that quadruple overtime game for the world.

Even though I fell asleep during last night’s Pens / Red Wings game, the highlights on Sportscenter showed me that I missed a hell of a game. Both goalies made incredible saves and there were tons of good scoring chances for both teams. Not to mention the great pizza controversy of 2008. (On that note, while pizza is a carbohydrate and potentially could have some protein involved, pizza can sometimes settle in your stomach like a big ball of goo. I can’t beleive that the Pens training staff would allow them to consume such a food. I remember that when the Sabres played the Rangers in OT last year, the training staff was scrambling to have oranges and bananas and pb&j’s available for the guys. Not pizza.)

Mmm pizza.

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