Look! It’s Real Hockey(ish) Played By Real Hockey Players

September 12, 2009

I went to Puck Drop today, and this wordy, photo filled post summarizes my day. Carry on at your own risk.

– At the entrances, Sabres staffers were handing out the “Training Camp Times” so the fans could keep track of the player numbers and up-to-date camp information. For those of you playing along at home, Ryan Miller is now listed at 175 pounds. (The snarky part of me wonders if someone might have had a toe on the scale, since recent photos don’t really show him looking like he’s put on ten pounds over last year’s roster weight.) Nathan Gerbe is listed as only two pounds lighter than Miller even though he is almost a foot shorter. Derek Roy is listed 5’9″, while Gerbe is only 5’5″. I swear, Roy-Z gets an inch taller every year, even though he looks like he probably could be competing on this Shorties Only season of America’s Next Top Model.

P9110789The Acme Brain Trust all with their Clipboards of Fun.

– Paul Gaustad was the first player out on the ice. He did a quick lap and then retreated into the locker room before appearing with the rest of the first group to go through skills testing. I’m not sure if he was the designated ice tester or just wanted to get a feel for what the arena was like (or, option #3 – he was testing out his healed sports hernia. His interview on Sabres.com reports that he had the surgery in Montreal and is now completely healed. I also like the tone of Gaustad’s interview, he spoke about maturity of the team, growing up, consistency, etc.)


It’s a skating Goose! A blurry skating Goose, but a skating Goose nonetheless.

– The first group out on the ice included Gaustad, Grier, MacArthur, Cowan, Timmy, Lydman and some random, mythical guy wearing #27. There was no #27 on the roster provided in the “Training Camp Times.” Anyone know who Random #27 is? Photo provided below for identification purposes.


– The coaching staff put the players through acceleration drills, testing how long it took them to go from the goal line to the hash marks at the face off circle. You can kind of see the measurement tripod thingies (?) in the above shot from Gaustad. If that’s not what they are, please let me know in the comments. I know next to nothing about hockey drills and the equipment needed therein. Heh. Each player went through the drill multiple times at the goal line / hash mark distance, and then again when the distance increased from goal line to blue line. I kept waiting for a player to trip over the goal line or their own two feet as they started the drill, but thankfully, no one did.

P9110777Timmy! Healthy and upright! That’s always a good thing.

– Thank heavens I had my sweater on, as it was definitely headlight inducing cold in the arena, ifyouknowwhatImean. The Timmy Ho’s coffee kiosk was the busiest concession stand at the arena. I did have to laugh at the number of people who wanted hot chocolate or cappuccino, as the sign above the kiosk clearly stated that they had coffee only. (Related note, I’m happy that the Sabres are selling Coke this year, but am not happy with the $3.50 price tag for a pop.)

– The second drill was a skating/agility drill. Players started at one end of the rink, did a figure-eight through a series of cones in the neutral zone and then moved onto a crisscross pattern in the opposite zone. Again, each player did the drill multiple times. Timmy and Goose were the first two Sabres to go out, alternating turns at skating. You could really see the differences between the two players. Goose is all limbs and heart and effort, but reminds me of a newborn fawn trying to find his footing and bearings. He’s not the most graceful skater compared to Timmy, but then again, he does have a couple inches and several pounds on Timmy. Timmy was speedy and incredibly agile through the cones. He really was nice to watch.

P9110797If I was doing this drill, I probably would have tripped over my own two feet. (This is Goose, not Timmy, in case you hadn’t already figured that out.)

At this point, it would have been nice if there was an announcer of some sort explaining what each drill was and why the players did it multiple times (finding an average, wanting the best time, sheer sadism on behalf of the coaches, etc). It also would have been nice to have an annoucement of who had the best time in each drill. The players were all crowding around the coaches with their clipboards to keep track, why couldn’t the fans have the same info? I mean, if we can see the players heart rates on the big screen, announcing the fastest skater wouldn’t be giving away trade secrets, right?


Apparently, Gaustad, MacArthur, Cowan and Lydman are dead.

P9110790Gragnani, Hecht and Lydman reviewing the time sheet with the coaches. All the players reviewed it at some point.

P9110795I know it’s early to be discussing line combinations, but I really like the idea of Gaustad and Grier on a line. The only question is who would be the third stooge for their little group?

– After the first group was done with their drills, the Zamboni came out to refresh the ice before Group 2 came out. Roy, Vanek, Tallinder and Stafford were part of the second group. I was pretty surprised to see Stafford on the ice, and was wondering if he had officially signed or was just there on good faith. (I found out later from The Buffalo News that it was the latter.)

P9110803Group 2 meeting. Stafford is as pale as a ghost. Is he a vampire or just one of those people that can’t step outside without slathering on SPF 105 sunscreen?

– One of the good things about the day was the willingness of some of the players to come out into the tunnel and sign autographs for the kiddos hanging around the tunnel. I saw Pommers, Sekera, Montador, Cowan and Grier come out. Grier also receieved one of the biggest cheers from the crowd when he hit the ice for the first time.

P9110805Look, a gratuitous Hank shot!

P9110778And a gratuitous Hecht shot. According to my cousin Rachel, if nothing else, you can at least say that his hair looks nice.

– I was kind of surprised by the number of people I saw with young kids at the arena. I’m not talking about those who brought 3 and 4 year olds to the event, I’m talking about those who brought young babies to the arena. It wasn’t loud or anything, and I know it’s never to early to start one’s Sabre brainwashing, I mean education, but young baby plus cold arena just seems like a really bad idea. The toddlers that were there were absolutely adorable and really well behaved, though I would hate to be their parents later when the sugar high from the cotton candy kicks in.

P9110807It kind of looks like Vanek is using Roy-Z as a elbow rest, doesn’t it?

– Neither one of the groups contained any of the goalies, so I don’t know if the goalies were on the ice at all today. It’s a shame, since I kind of wanted to see the goalies go through the skating drills. You know they have to have some speed and agility for those times that they have to sprint from the crease to the bench.

– At this point, I was bored and half frozen, so I left the arena and headed down towards the waterfront area. It seems so sad to see a giant hole in the ground where the Aud used to be.

P9110812What are the odds that this remains just a hole in the ground?

P9110814The Naval Park, Skyway and HSBC Arena.

P9110815I know people want to tear it down, but I can’t imagine the Buffalo skyline without the Skyway. To the right of the photo, you see a grain elevator.

– After this walking, I headed to Pearl Street for lunch. My burger was good, but was nothing to write home about. There were a few Sabres fans trickling in for food, since Pearl Street probably was cheaper than eating at the arena.

Overall, I was kind of disappointed in the day. With how much promotion the Sabres were giving to the day’s events (a nice radio buy on Entercom stations, web promotion, etc), I would have thought there would have been more oomph to the day. It just seemed like more emphasis was given to the street hockey tournament and the Aud bricks than the actual hockey portion of the festivities. Why couldn’t the on-ice testing have been done yesterday, meaning today could have been an actual scrimmage, which would have been *much* more enjoyable to watch. Or, if today absolutely had to be the first day of camp, make tomorrow Puck Drop. If the team was worried about church services being a problem in drawing an audience downtown, then start the day later. They’re already there by not starting the scrimmage tomorrow until 12:30.


  1. After reading some summaries of Puck Drop I’m glad I bailed to spend the weekend in Pittsburgh with family instead. Sounds like a bit of a snooze. Still… hockey!

    I think Goose should center Grier and Jochen (or Jochen should center Goose and Grier). I have no idea if those two play on complementary wings or not but I love the idea of the three of them together and I love the idea of take some offensive pressure of Jochen and letting him play to his one-time strengths of solid defensive hockey.

  2. Cool pics – sounds like something that woulda been cool to watch for a few minutes, but could get old after a while… either way, looks like they had some neat testing gadgets (timing sensors, computer read outs, etc…) – i like that kind of thing 🙂

  3. I too would like Jochen on a line with Goose and Grier. They could be a true shut down line and take the pressure off of Jochen in being a top 6 guy.

    Wasn’t there supposed to be a rookie scrimmage at 1:00 yesterday or wasn’t that true?

    Glad to hear Staffy finally signed today!

  4. According to Frostee, there was a rookie scrimmage yesterday. I was half frozen and probably would have killed someone had I stayed at the arena until then.

    Yay for Stafford re-signing. I really am curious about the terms of the deal.

  5. I grew up around the corner from Sabreland (now Hockey Outlet) in Wheatfield. I remember my dad taking my brothers and myself to watch them practice when I was 3 and 4 years old. (Back in the days of Lafontaine and Hasek’s early days)

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