Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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Black Friday at the Sabres Store

November 25, 2011

I’m not a fan of Black Friday shopping. I hate crowds. I hate being crowded. I hate getting stumbled into because people need to have that thing that’s on sale OMG RIGHT NOW! So of course, what do I do today? I go to the Sabres store for their Black Friday sale. There were A LOT of people at the store when I got there at ten after ten.

There were some things the store did right and some things that they could fix. And of course, since I can’t find the darn suggestion box on the Sabres site (whether it’s buried or removed is to be determined), I’m blogging about the experience. Let the record show that I recognize that problems with shopping are a total first world problem and that there are much bigger problems for the organization to be dealing with. Like that whole pesky “can’t win at home” thing or that troublesome “keeps giving up two goal leads” thing.

Since the store was incredibly busy, the Sabres had all the registers open, and all six register lines snaked through the store. People were handling the crowding well and moving around the store politely (there were lots of “excuse me’s” to be had). However, let’s talk briefly about the few things that can be fixed or altered to improve the shopping experience for future Black Fridays.

1. Make a cash-only line. I know, it’s radical for people to pay with cash these days, but a cash-only line would allow for customers to move in and out without having to wait for people to swipe cards, sign receipts and the like.

2. Have a table set off to the side/back/front of the store so that people could complete the required paperwork for custom jersey orders without having to delay the rest of the line. If you were buying a custom sweater, you had to have a 3×5 card filled out with your contact info & the size/color/personalization of the sweater you were buying. The cashier then had to match up your 3×5 card with the receipt number so the transaction payment was reflected on the card. If you were someone that was buying multiple sweaters, you were holding up the line just filling out paperwork. I think the management realized that this was somewhat problematic, as they did have people walking the lines to assist in filling out the cards, but these staffers just could not reach everyone.

3. Set up a kiosk or table outside the store for people that just wanted to buy Sabrebucks cards.

4. Have the registers set up to accept UPC code scanning. This was the strangest thing for me. Each item had a UPC code on the tag, which meant that at some point in it’s journey through the Sabres store, it was scanned. However, the cashiers had to individually enter each product code into the register AND enter the code for the 30% discount. It seemed like there were a lot of extraneous steps for what should be simple transactions.

Not that everything was all bad…

1. The store was incredibly clean and organized. The staff was working hard to keep merchandise racks full and neatly organized. There were also plenty of people walking around on the floor assisting customers. The Sabres seriously need to export this level of customer service  & organization to some of the big box stores, where one busy day makes the entire store disheveled.

2. There was a gift wrap table set up outside the store. I have no idea what organization this table was benefitting, but it was obviously good for those people that needed things wrapped immediately to avoid prying eyes.

3. The free Tim Hortons was a nice touch for those people leaving the arena after shopping.

4. The organist playing Christmas songs & game tunes on his keyboard added a festive touch to the shopping experience. I did get a giggle out of hearing Silent Night segue into Let’s Go Buffalo segue into Sabre Dance. And there was this one precious little girl using the organ music to practice her ballet moves. The only downside to the music was that it was pretty loud. You had to shout to be heard at the registers.

5. Did I mention the free parking was awesome? Because it was. I wonder if the free parking was one of the main reasons the crowd was so large? In past years, I can remember having to search for an on-street parking space or take a risk double parking.

And because I’ve been on a YouTube kick lately, I want to end this post with one of my favorite scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas, just because it’s so precious and does deal with a lot of the materialism of the season.

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On the Power Play

February 5, 2008

Last night, on Time Warner Sports Channel, I found a little show called Power Play. Its a one-on-one half hour with a different Sabre each week. This week’s first victim guest was none other than Drew Stafford.

The host of the show – Jeremy White (aka Whitey of WGR) – was really relaxed and did a pretty good job of putting Stafford at ease. The show really does a good job of focusing on the player; their thoughts about the current status of the team, their hobbies off the ice and what makes them tick.

Stafford did share a little bit about the inner workings of the team. He mentioned that he’s a quiet guy in the room, that he’s not speaking up a lot yet just because he’s so young and he thinks no one would listen to him. He’s only 22 years old, and as much as we think he could be the next Chris Drury, he’s not there yet. Let’s not put too much pressure on the kid, before he burns out trying to do too much.

Stafford also gushed about his time at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, saying the coach was a big influence in his hockey career. He kind of brushed off the notion that it was special that he played with Sid, making a comment that he played with a lot of great guys who are now in the NHL.

In addition, Staffy’s also going to be putting out a CD this offseason. Please let it be Krooshul Tawnt type music and not “Fabian” type music. I don’t think Buffalo could handle Fabian.

There’s also an innovative segment called “The Gauntlet” The easiest way to describe it is a live action MySpace survey combined with a high school yearbook “Most Likely To” list. Staffy had to tell which of his teammates would best answer the question Some of the questions were kind of out there, but some of the answers were just as ridiculous.

- Who would be most likely to lock himself out of the house / hotel room? Danny Paille

- Who would be most likely to eat something off the floor? Danny Paille

Sounds like Danny Paille needs some adult supervision. And also, Staffy kept calling him Pie-sy. Does a name like Paille, or even Pie, really need to have a -sie at the end of it?

- Who would be most likely to have a snake as a pet? Toni Lydman

- Who talks the most about fashion? Ryan Miller (kind of surprised Roy-Z didn’t end up here. Then again, I can totally see Miller watching Project Runway.)

- Who would be the most likely to pilot a plane if something happened to the pilot? Staffy, but he would try to be the hero and probably end up killing them all.

- What player would you most want to take a run against? Chris Neil, because he needs to be dealt with, and Jordan Parise, because they’re friends.

- Which player is most likely to have the rink lights turned off on him? Mike(y) Ryan or Gaustad. (I’m not surprised to hear Goose’s name here, since his work ethic was discussed during his ankle rehab last year, but Mike Ryan was a little bit of a surprise.)

- What player is most likely to give up hockey and go find himself? Staffy originally said Pratt here, but changed his answer to Afinogenov, if only because the visual of Afinogenov in the woods was too much for him.

- What player is most likely to have a roller skating party? Soupy. (You know, this kind of puts those rumors I’ve heard about some 4th wall things into a lot better perspective.)

- What player is most likely to end up on YouTube? Soupy and Miller. Said with a rather sheepish “you’ve got to be careful these days.” Just his body language and the way he said it really makes me think that the team got a lecture about life in the age of YouTube.

- Most embarassing moment: being afraid of the Zamboni at age 3. Ma and Pa Stafford got it on tape. He was skating around, saw the Zamboni coming and ran away and hid. I think the Staffy mythology just added another chapter, huh?

If the rest of the players have as much fun with this show as Staffy did, Power Play could be a really entertaining half-hour of TV each week.

*****

WGR asked Lindy this morning about the Captaincy selections, specifically about why Roy-Z and Goose were not bestowed with a letter.

“With Derek, I feel he’s been a difference maker since he came back, and both (Roy and Gaustad) were in very serious considerations,” Ruff said. “A lot of it was based with the way Brian has played. Jochen has had probably the most consistent month out of any of our players. On the way assistant captain route, we went through all those guys, and the one guy who really stepped up in a tough time for us was Adam Mair, but Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad would’ve been excellent choices.”

Ruff admitted that experience played a role in the decision.

And there you have it. If I remember correctly, Yo-You, Mairsy and Soupy all have the most games in a Sabres uniform. I believe that all three were around during seasons where the team struggled to make the playoffs, if they did at all. They’ve got the experience in crunch time situations. Nothing against Goose and Roy-Z, but they’ve really only come of age in the happy-fun conference finals time.

That said, these guys are still deserving of a letter at some point.

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Review: MVP – The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives

January 14, 2008

This past Friday was the debut of CBC’s original series MVP – The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives.

The show follows the fictitious Mustangs hockey team (I’m guessing its supposed to be a riff on the Leafs?) as they struggle after the untimely death of their captain at a season opening party. After he dies, his wife and daughter find out that he snorted all their money away, and they have nothing. And the dead captain’s team-purchased insurance policy was used to cover the salary of the team’s new hot rookie, who’s come fresh from small-town Canada. Meanwhile, the coach’s son has been named the new captain, and he’s struggling to develop a relationship with a nice “normal” girl he met at a cafe. Then, there’s the team’s manwhore (since, you know every team has to have one) who records his trysts via a video camera set up between two stuffed mustangs.

Got all that?

The music in this first episode was great. Ever since Grey’s Anatomy started, I’ve found myself paying more attention to the music used in the background of shows. I’m still giggling that MVP used Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky” as the background for a funeral. The producers also did a great job of casting actors that looked like hockey players; you know, the tall, lanky, too good looking for their own good types. The pilot episode also focused more on the players themselves, than on the wives that they show title promises.

About the only downside was that there was no actual hockey shown during the show. I know that’s something to be picky about in a show focusing on hockey players’ wives, but there’s one scene where hockey action would have been beautiful to have. It was a missed opportunity that hopefully will be rectified in future episodes.

I realize that as a hockey fan I should probably be offended that a great sport is being mocked with this show. And I also realize that as a woman I should be offended by the characterization of females on this show as either tramps or angels, but I’m not. It is what it is: harmless fluff to record on the DVR and watch later. If I want educational TV, I’ll go watch Mythbusters or Jeopardy.

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SOTC Reads-Brodeur: Beyond the Crease

January 6, 2008

I was going to write about today’s Sabres / Thrashers game, but there’s only so many different ways you can say “this sucks” before things get repetitive. So I present a review on the Marty Brodeur book – Brodeur: Beyond the Crease.

This was one of the books that Santa brought me this year. I had heard good reviews about it before reading it, and went it with pretty high expectations. I was not disappointed. Since Marty’s been in the league for so long, he’s really able to provide a great perspective on how the league has changed since he entered it. I realize that he had “help” writing the book, but I really feel Marty’s voice coming through the pages.

While the entire book is interesting, there are a few things that stand out:

- The total escalation of salaries since the beginning of the 90s. When Marty entered the league, he made $80,000. Now, the minimum salary is $450,000. That’s almost a 500% increase. What’s incredible is that Marty was perfectly happy to be making that $80,000 as a kid (then again, I would be too!), just because he was playing hockey.

- It was also informative to read a non-whining personal account of how the players were affected by the lockout in 04-05. Whether some stayed home, played in Europe or just bummed around, all of the players had different reactions to being out of work for a year. He also shares his thoughts on the new CBA, including the 24% salary roll back. I just computed what 24% of my weekly paycheck is, and I would not be happy if I lost that, so I could only imagine how players feel losing 24% of what is a much, much larger paycheck than my worker bee one.

- He mentions that hockey players are nothing more than overgrown children. They have someone telling them where to be, when to be there, what time to go to bed, and when to wear a tie. Why is this so important? For awhile, my friends and I have hypothesized that hockey players – and other professional athletes – seem more grown up than us, even though we’re in the same age range. We thought it had something to do with the fact that a lot of these guys have been on their own (relatively speaking) since they were teenagers, while most of us “normal people” most decidedly have not.

However, when you think about it, Marty does have a point. Sure, I have to work my 830-5 cubicle job, but when I’m out of the office, I pretty much control what I want to do. My days off are my time, not thinking about my job. These guys live and die by the white boards in the locker rooms (the what to wear and when to be there), plus even their off days are consumed with hockey (practice, video, signings, etc). If you think about it, this adherence to a schedule and routine is probably what made the lockout so hard for some guys.

- I have to respect Marty for admitting that he acted like a model idiot regarding the situation with his wife and now-girlfriend.

- I really liked the insights into how the Devils operate as a “team first, individuals second” organization. Its also clear the respect that Marty has for Lou Lamoriello. If you think about it, Marty’s probably going to retire having played for only one organization in his career. That’s extremely rare in today’s NHL, and a sign that both player and organization respect each other, and realize the value of the other. Of course, now that I said this, watch Lou get hit by a bus, and the new GM trade Marty for a young prospect, a Zamboni battery and tickets to the Ice Capades. Kidding. I wish no ill will on Lou.

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Thursday’s Thoughts

January 3, 2008

Couple of interesting tidbits from this morning’s Buffalo News:

- Jaro Spacek was excused from practice yesterday to attend the birth of his son. Captaincy and a kid in one month. Congrats, Jaro!

- Lindy scoffed at NBC’s report from the Ice Bowl that Teppo would return in 10 days, but offered further comment. Why do I have a feeling that Teppo’s return is going to be a surprise to everyone, one of those “game-time decisions” that gets the crowd and players pumped.

- Apparently, there was quite the ruckus over Ronan Tynan singing God Bless America at the Ice Bowl instead of the National Anthem. Sabres PR Director Mike Gilbert brought up a good point that Tynan is an Irish citizen, so him singing the anthem is not appropriate. I can certainly see people’s point that sporting events should include the National Anthem, however, its not a surprise to Sabres fans that when Tynan shows up, God Bless America gets sung. Its happened at how many Sabres games in the past few years, and there was little to no ruckus created before. Now we create a ruckus because the game was nationally televised?

- Now onto the heavy stuff. Drew Stafford is close to being cleared for regular practices, which if that goes well, means he could return to the lineup soon. All’s well, right? Wrong. Staffy admitted to the News that he had headaches after the Philly game, but didn’t tell anyone. He played in the Ottawa game, and got his bell rung further in a hit with Chris Neil (what is it with Chris Neil and injuring Sabres?), forcing him out of the lineup.

Staffy, by admitting that, you’ve probably earned the right to have every Sabres fan smack you upside the head. Haven’t you seen what concussions – especially untreated ones – can do to mess a guy up? Go read up on Pat LaFontaine. Or better yet, talk to Timmy about concussions and what he went through. I realize that you’re 22, and you think you have a certain invincibility factor, but sweet merciful heavens, you have a life to think about outside hockey. Don’t screw that up because you’re playing macho on the ice.

I was also reading on HockeyBuzz yesterday that Lindy’s two daughters were fighting over which one of them would get to wear his retro varsity Ice Bowl jacket to school on Wednesday. However, Lindy didn’t bring the jacket home, leading to some strife in the Ruff household.

If the Sabres were smart, they would make those jackets available for purchase at the Sabres store. The one thing that was pretty consistent across the blogs and MSM articles about the Ice Bowl was how snazzy those jackets looked. Maybe it was the mood of the day that made them go over so well, but the Sabres might just want to listen to their fans on this one.

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Random Thoughts from The Ice Bowl

January 1, 2008

Oh, sorry. The Amp Energy Winter Classic. I’m going to get 30 lashes with a wet noodle from the NHL for calling it the Ice Bowl. (No joke: my uncle was working security for the game, and was told in his pre-game meeting, that anyone caught referring to the game as the Ice Bowl would be severely disciplined.)

- Crunchy’s Amp Energy commercial. I guess he now has the useful skill of saying “your mama’s so ugly she makes an onion cry” in another language. That’s going to get him some ribbing in the locker room for sure.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Make a Joyful Noise

December 30, 2007

Tonight’s concert with Ronan Tynan and the BPO was abso-fucking-lutely amazing. The only way it would have been more abso-fucking-lutely amazing if Katebits had been playing in the BPO tonight.

It was a great mix of Irish music, pop music (Springsteen!), show tunes and holiday music. He sang some of my favorite songs:

Hallelujah – he made it upbeat, which I didn’t think was possible with this song.

Smile – which, believe it or not, was written by Charlie Chaplin. I’m just familiar with the Nat King Cole version, which is heartbreaking.

Ave Maria – which always reminds me of the first West Wing Big Block of Cheese episode, Josh asks CJ if she knows the piece, and her response is a simple “I’m Catholic,” with a smirk. I’m not doing it justice, but it leads into a great scene with Bradley Whitford and Allison Janney.

Danny Boy – I can’t hear Danny Boy without thinking of that stupid Saved By The Bell episode where Slater’s lizard Artie dies, and they have a funeral for it. They bastardize Danny Boy as “oh artie boy, the ponds, the ponds are calling, there’s gnats and ants, mosquitoes on the fly.” I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but this stupid moment sticks in my head.

The BPO provided the Christmas music, with Greensleeves, Sleigh Ride and Pachelbel’s Canon.

Now onto the important stuff: the performances of Miller and Stafford. Both came out in jeans and boots. Staffy wore a simple black button-down shirt untucked and Miller wore a green striped button down shirt (tucked in, which…NO!) and what was either a grey or brown jacket. Staffy definitely looked more comfortable in his own skin, on the guitar and on the stage. He moved around the stage really well, and was in complete control of his instrument (hee!). Miller seemed rooted to one spot and was carefully going through the songs. I don’t know if Staffy’s got more experience with the guitar or a better ear for music, but he’s got a stage presence. He really was smoking hot. (Side note, I checked the team roster, and Miller and Staffy are the same height, but Staffy has almost 35 pounds on Miller. Can someone please feed our goalie a sammich or something? Poor boy looks like he’s wasting away.)

Tynan admonished Staffy that he needs to take better care of himself, since we need him around for this season and next. Stafford sheepishly took Tynan’s advice. Tynan also brought the two of them souvenirs from his recent USO tour to Bagram, Afghanistan. While Staffy and Miller were setting up their guitars, some yahoo in the crowd started a “Let’s Go Buffalo” chant, which Tynan then proceeded to lead from the stage, and Staffy accompanied on the guitar.

After that ruckus, they were on stage for two songs by U2: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and All I Want is You. Tynan did change the lyrics so that we were looking for Stanley and all I Want Is Stanley. He wants to make this into a yearly event, saying how much fun this would be next year with Stanley in the middle of the stage. Miller and Stafford just laughed at that one.

Spotted in the crowd were: Larry Quinn (I was sending him “sign Soupy now and cheap” vibes), former Rep. Jack Quinn, Ed Kilgore of WGRZ (who surprisingly was not working the room on the intermission), the Sabres goalie coach and the Sabres PR guy. I did not see Lindy or Darcy, but they could have been there for all I know.

It was a great show. I really would recommend going to see him if you ever have the opportunity.

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