Better Late Than Never

November 2, 2011

Since tonight’s Sabres/Flyers game was one of total dreckitude, I figured I would come out of my posting hiatus to talk about happier times. You know, like last Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets. I had the good fortune to be at the only Sabres home win of the season. Here are a few observations from that night:

– I loved the crowd sing-a-long to the anthem. I don’t care if it was planned or a last minute substitution for a sick or chickened-out anthem singer, it was something different. I wonder how it sounded on TV and the radio, as you really couldn’t tell that anyone was singing along to O Canada, and the Star Spangled Banner was only slightly louder.

– Having the kid with cancer drop the puck on Hockey Fights Cancer night was an emotional start to the night. I admit that I teared up as he left the ice, and I’m sure he appreciated the roar of the crowd as he doffed his cap and saluted the audience. I wish him nothing but the best and hope to god that he kicks cancer’s butt.

– I noticed that only about one-quarter of the crowd stood and applauded the recipient of Gerbe’s Tickets for the Troops. The recipient at this game was going to be deployed to Afghanistan at the end of the year. I ask you, fellow fans, to respect what this guy is putting on the line for you. At the very least, you can stand up and applaud him for it. You don’t even have to put down your beer! I don’t care if you’re against the war(s) or not, the troops still deserve our support.

There was also the potential for a highly awkward moment when this gentleman chose his 15 seconds of fame to propose to his girlfriend. While she did say yes, it would have been quite embarrassing had she not. This is the second game I’ve been to where I’ve seen a proposal, and thankfully both times resulted in a favorable answer.

– When the Sabres took a 2-0 lead, I said “please don’t blow it.” Apparently, the team heard me, but had selective deafness and collectively missed the word “don’t.” Apparently, two goal leads are dangerous for the Sabres to have. They definitely fall into the “this is why we can’t have nice things” category.

– $4 for a bottle of pop is ridiculous. As is $4 for a plain, undecorated hot dog. I don’t care if it’s a Sahlen’s dog; a hot dog sans chili and other fancy toppings should cost less than $4.

– I purchased a mystery Sabres hat from a very nice Sabres wife/girlfriend wearing a baby in a baby sling. I ended up with a Cody McCormick hat. And if it wasn’t for the number next to the signature, I would have had no freaking clue who signed the hat. I know these guys literally sign hundreds of things for giveaways, but some of these signatures look more like abstract works of art than legit names.

– Enroth played an outstanding game. At some points, I really thought he was the only thing keeping the Sabres in the game. The team just seemed tired & sluggish, like their minds were working but their feet were not following along.

– There was also some discussion during the game  amongst those of us in the cheap seats regarding how many major penalties a player can earn in a game before being tossed. (Its 3.) Since Cody Bass earned two fighting majors, we were curious if that was enough to get him tossed from the game. As we all know now, it was not. However, after reading the rule book, I also didn’t know that getting tossed from the game means that you will also be paying a $200 fine. (On a related note, there is also a $100 fine if you are assessed a major penalty for causing an injury to someone’s head or face with your stick. Good to know that a facial/dental deformity is worth $100 to the league. I guess that gives literal meaning to putting a price on someone’s head.)

And because I’m sure we can all use a chuckle after tonight’s debacle, I leave you with this video.


The Month of October

October 24, 2011

The  month of October is great for so many reasons: the crisp fall air, the return of pumpkin spice lattes, apples, my birthday, the start of hockey season, the baseball playoffs, Halloween and so much more. However, the month of October downright stinks for many other reasons.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a racing fan. The month of October has just been a brutal month for the racing community. Last weekend, reigning Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon perished in a spectacularly violent crash during a race in Las Vegas. (I’m not going to link the crash footage here because it’s been all over the mainstream media. If you’re so inclined to watch the wreck, it’s easily available on YouTube.) This weekend also saw the passing of a MotoGP (motorcycle) racer during a race in Malaysia. In addition, the 6-year old son of a IndyCar team staffer lost his fight with leukemia. It’s impressive that some of these racers haven’t gone completely cuckoo for coco puffs after this past week.

And that just scratches the surface of the brutality of the month of October. Seven years ago today, 10 members of the Hendrick racing family were killed in a plane crash in Virginia. Twelve years ago, racer Greg Moore was killed in a wreck at California Speedway. As a race fan, you start to dread seeing the month of October show up on your calendar just because there have been so many horrible, terrible, no good, very bad events that happened during this month.

The loss of Wheldon was particularly brutal because it was such a violent wreck that happened on live network television. For the drivers, he was everyone’s younger brother that they never asked for. For the fans, he was that nice, charming British guy with the adorable children who always stopped and made time for everyone. He was also a talented, experienced driver, not this naive, inexperienced racer that some postmortem articles tried to portray him as.

For many of the drivers on the track with Wheldon last Sunday, this was the second time they’ve lost a friend on the track, as they were competing the same day Greg Moore passed in 1999. (Unlike this past Sunday, when Moore passed, the race continued on. The drivers were not told of the death until they exited the cars at the end of the race. The fans at home and at the track were made aware of his death. The team owners wanted the drivers to finish the race.) I feel like this death hit many of these guys harder than Moore’s in 1999. With age comes wisdom, families, kids and whatever else that makes these drivers turn inward and wonder if the need for speed is really what it’s all about.

It was also tough watching the broadcasters cover the waiting period between the wreck and the official announcement of Wheldon’s passing. Just listening to their voices, you could tell that they knew the worst was coming and were trying to manage their own emotions while keeping a stoic face for the public. This is one time where media detachment and impartiality went right out the window and it was completely warranted.

During yesterday’s NASCAR pre-race show, ESPN paid tribute to Wheldon. The tribute was led by ESPN anchor Nicole Briscoe, whose husband Ryan was one of the drivers on track with Wheldon last week. While Mrs.Briscoe was clearly emotional during the segment, her professionalism compelled her to finish paying tribute to her friend. No one would have blamed her for handing off that segment to one of the other people in the booth, but she chose to continue on and carried herself with class & dignity.

Speaking of class and dignity…One thing that happened in the immediate aftermath of Wheldon’s passing was the tremendous outpouring of support for Wheldon’s two young sons, Sebastian and Oliver. Fellow driver Graham Rahal announced he was going to auction off his race worn shoes, helmet and gloves. That snowballed into the rest of the Indycar community throwing items into the auction pot. Then the NASCAR drivers started contributing memorabilia. Then the NFL teams showed up to the party. Then Hollywood came a’calling with their donations. As of Saturday, quite the list of memorabilia had been accumulated with more coming in every day. (I’m totes in love with the Paul Newman signed “Winning” movie poster.) I’m really impressed that Rahal has continued to manage this whole fundraiser even as it takes on a life of it’s own. His parents did a quality job raising him into a fine young man.

Thank you for bearing with my rambling tonight. I promise there will be some hockey talk around here again. I have tickets for Thursday’s game, so there will be some thoughts on that at some point.


That New Season Smell

October 9, 2011

1. Yay! Hockey’s back! The Sabres are safely back home in Buffalo, tuckered out & jet lagged, but victorious over the Kings & Ducks. I was pleasantly surprised by Luke Adam’s play while in Europe. He seemed to click well with Vanek and Pominville. I know Lindy likes to muck with his lines the same way someone mucks with a Rubix cube, but I hope he leaves this line alone for the time being. 

2. I was pleasantly surprised that Pominville was named the Sabres new, permanent captain. I know most people were hoping for Vanek or Gaustad; but when you think about it, Pominville has that steady, dependable quality that is needed in someone that carries the leadership mantle. It’s also a big deal that the new captain (and the assorted assistants) are the guys that came up through the organization together. The last time the Sabres named a captain, they picked the new guy to the organization, just because he seemed to be the most grown-up  guy in the room. Now, Pominville and the assistants are the grown-ups. It’s their job to keep the team on an even keel. It begins and ends with them, there’s no one else to pull their butts out of the fire. It’s going to be fun to watch how this group develops, that’s for sure.  

And thus ends the cliche festival regarding leadership. 

3. If you haven’t looked at the Sabres.com photo galleries from the Griswolds’ European Adventure, then I suggest you do. Highlights of the many galleries include: 

  • Tyler Myers reading a newspaper. Granted, it’s a copy of USA Today, but it’s still an actual hard copy newspaper. (Gallery: Tuesday Morning Practice)
  • Lindy Ruff’s BAMF-y expression while wearing a pair of sunglasses. This photo feels like it has future internet meme written all over it. (Gallery: Off the Plane & On The Way)
  • A Disney movie (of all things) on the in-flight movie. Someone help a girl out with what the movie is. (Gallery: Leaving Heidelburg)
  • Sabres working out with weights. I know every player has their own specialized workout regimen, but it’s kind of comical to see Pominville and Myers working out with the hardcore weightlifter weights while Miller & Leino are using the “lady-sized” dumbbells. (Gallery: Monday Practice at SAP Arena)

Thank you to the Sabres staffers who took these photos and worked hard on the team’s media coverage while on this trip. Your hard work is really appreciated by those of us here in the cheap seats at home. 

4. The October issue of Buffalo Spree magazine focuses on the Buffalo sports scene, with articles on Ryan Miller, Pat Kaleta, Buffalo mascots, the WNY Flash, Buffalo Soccer Club and more. There is a lot of quality writing in this issue, so I do recommend that you pick up a copy. However, what was most intriguing was the article on Ryan Miller. One paragraph had two bits of info that jumped out at me. First…

Several members of the local sports media told me off the record that they admire Miller’s charity work, and that this makes it harder, at least on a subconscious level, to criticize the guy for letting in the occasional bad goal.

Oh really? The (supposedly) impartial media admits (off-the-record) that they’re soft on Miller because he’s such a good guy off the ice? If this is the case, by making this sort of statement, these media members are admitting that they would have no problem calling out Miller if he was a complete and total bastard off the ice. (On the other hand, that might explain a lot of the Timmy hate. But that’s another story for another time.) 

Secondly, Miller claims that the media by trade are designed to be pot-stirrers and focus too much on one point that they know nothing about. He might have a tiny, bitterness-coated point here. And I’m not saying that just because 5 for 25 is still a local joke. How many times have some media members gone to the same well for commentary topics? However, that doesn’t mean that players have to be hostile to the media in the locker room. All the players have to do is smile & nod, answer the questions, wish the media a nice evening and then go about their business. If players are getting this out of sorts about media coverage, perhaps they should stop reading/listening/watch said coverage. It is entirely possible to watch the news and read a newspaper without hearing/seeing/reading sports stories. I work with people who prove this fact true every single day.

5. Finally, I cannot stop watching this clip of bear cubs in a hammock. Enjoy and catch you back here later in the week for the “official” home opener. 


I’m Back!

October 1, 2011

You may have noticed that it got a little quiet here in blog land recently. I was suffering from a lack of a laptop and the lack of patience to complete a blog post on an iPod touch. But I’m back. I now have a shiny new computer and am ready to take on a full season of Sabres hockey.

– We all saw the Fu Man Drew video that the Sabres posted a week or two ago. They were also kind enough to post the outtakes from said video.

The biggest revelation for me (just edging out Stafford’s awesome laugh) was that someone at the Sabres thought it was a good idea to let $5 million in talent roll away in a Range Rover piloted by a driver in rollerblades. Yes, I realize that the car moved a grand total of three feet and wasn’t moving fast, but it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

– Speaking of losing an eye (how’s that for a segue), I’m so glad that Paul Gaustad is wearing a visor. Poor little Goose has had too many near misses with eye injuries & cuts in his career. I’m sad that it had to take Manny Malhotra getting hurt for him to realize that eyesight is forever, but whatever works, I guess. And doesn’t that just prove how stubborn hockey players are about their equipment?

– Because I’m a nerd, I took next Friday off from work. I want to be able to watch the first Sabres game and not have to worry about an online radio stream dying out or annoying my co-workers with score updates or quiet swearing.

– The new fall TV season has started. I’ve enjoyed “New Girl” so far, but object to one small thing. A hipster character like Zooey Deschanel’s would not carry Vera Bradley luggage. Vera is too mainstream for hipster tastes.

I know this post has kind of been a mishmash of topics, but until there’s actual games to write about, this is what you get.


Eight Guilty Pleasures

September 6, 2011

For the last month or so, the Puck Daddy blog has been running a guilty pleasures series, where assorted bloggers, hockey peeps and others answer questions regarding their hockey guilty pleasures. Since we’re in that hum-drum phase of the summer where hockey is in the air but there’s not much new to report on, I thought that I would share my hockey guilty pleasures with you.

1. The Player You Most Love To Hate

Zdeno Chara. He’s a tough hockey player with a killer shot and the potential to knock any opposing player into the third row.

But there’s a caveat to this answer. I hate Chara the hockey player, but think Chara the person is awesome. His dedication to Right to Play is admirable, and I won’t ever forget him competing in the All-Star Skills Competition while wearing that tasseled Right to Play toque. In this case, Good Person is dueling with Evil Hockey Player, and I’m not sure who comes out ahead.

2. Other Than Your Own, The Team You Can’t Help Rooting For

Vancouver. It has a lot to do with the fact that they came into the league at the same time as the Sabres.

3. Favorite Fight or Brawl of All-Time

I have both a fight and a brawl to mention here. The brawl is obviously the Sabres/Sens brawl from 2007. It’s notable because it encompassed everyone on the ice, including the goalies. Biron & Emery were laughing as they were trying to fight and Lindy was practically having an aneurysm on the bench as he hollered at Brian Murray. It was also Biron’s last game in a Sabres uniform, and what a way for him to go out.

My favorite fight happened this past season when Kaleta fought that guy from Columbus in November. It was memorable just because Kaleta was so dominant and really didn’t give his opponent a chance to respond.

4b. The Hideous-Looking Hockey Jersey You Secretly Love The Most

The Ducks purple “Donald Duck meets Jason” design that they used when they first entered the league. Don’t judge. I was in sixth grade when the Ducks first wore this sweater. It was the height of cool at the time.

5. Your Favorite Hockey Cliché (terminology, traditions, announcer-speak, etc.)

The fact that almost any hockey phrasing can be turned into an innuendo. Phrases like “banging away in the crease,” “going five hole,” “he shoots, he scores,” and a host of other phrases all bring out my immature 12-year-old side.

I also love the handshake line at the end of playoff series and the stick taps on the boards to celebrate/acknowledge a good fight, jersey retirement, past legend, etc.

6. The Injury You Couldn’t Stop Staring At (Non-Skate Lacerations Only)

Gaustad’s cut tendon a couple of years ago. I know it’s a skate laceration, but work with me for a moment. I was at the game where he got hurt, sitting at that very end of the ice, and I just remember wondering how such an innocent looking play could cause such damage. In addition, I think the description used by the doctors post-surgery is what makes this injury so fascinating. I mean, they mentioned that the tendon on his leg could have rolled up like a window shade had it been cut all the way. It’s not every day that you hear injuries described in terms of window treatments. It’s also a very powerful visual that leaves you almost whimpering and clutching your leg in sympathy.

7. Your Favorite Cheesy Hockey Reference in Popular Culture

You go to the box for two minutes and you feel shame and then you are free. – Slapshot

I also enjoy “Ducks Fly Together” from The Mighty Ducks and “This isn’t Junior Pairs ’82!” from The Cutting Edge. I know it’s debatable that the latter is a hockey movie, but in my book, it is. Also, if someone could remind me where I placed my dvd disc of this movie, that would be greatly appreciated.

8. Finally, What’s The Thing You Secretly Respect Gary Bettman For The Most?

The fact that he completely ignores that fans boo him mercilessly. Being able to ignore that level of hatred is an impressive skill.


Lifestyles of the Rich and Roy-Z

August 4, 2011

If it wasn’t for Derek Roy joining Twitter, I would never have seen this video.

Where do I even begin?

– I stopped counting the number of times he mentioned that he had plenty of places for people to crash. Between the basement mattress farm, the beds in the boathouse and the little shack out back, Roy-Z must have 25-30 available beds at any one time. Does he really have that many people over at any one time that would need to crash?” And if there are that many crashers, just how relaxing is this summer home for Mama and Papa Roy-Z? I do however, commend him for providing ample crashing space so that no one that’s been indulging would actually go out on the road and crash into something or someone. Good boy, Derek!

– I did think it was incredibly sweet that he built a master bedroom suite for his parents so they would have their own space. And I would kill for that claw foot tub in his parents’ bathroom. Then again, it wouldn’t fit in the bathroom of my apartment, but a girl can dream, right?

– Any time I see a house with a pool table in the dining room/living room area, I’m immediately reminded of General Hospital. Two of the show’s leading men – Jason Morgan and Lucky Spencer – both have pool tables in their dining rooms instead of regular tables. I don’t like when my hockey players remind me of blinky mob hitmen or weepy cops. Then again, Roy could learn a few acting tips from these two in order to more convincingly sell his “dives.” Err…penalty drawing attempts. Right. That’s what we’re calling them now.

– I’m not even sure I want to ask why one would have a steam room/shower in full view of the bedroom. On the other hand, it does show that one is completely free with one’s body to be able to be showering/steaming in full view of whomever might walk into the bedroom. (Or whomever is crashing, to use the phrase of the day.)

– I understand that Roy wanted his bed to match his decor (words I’d never thought I’d write on this blog), but speaking as someone who’s quite the klutz, that bed just screams “injury waiting to happen.” And if any co-ed naked wrestling happens there, it really could be all fun and games until someone loses an eye. (And yes, thanks to seeing that episode of “The Nanny” where Fran redecorates the kitchen, I am aware that a deer antler motif can be considered an aphrodisiac. If he is subtly trying for the aphrodisiac affect, I’m not falling for it.)

– I loved the kitchen. I guess I’m mainly jealous of the counter space & the island. My tiny kitchen just has four square feet of counter space (I measured!) and a kitchen table . It gets crazy at times when I’m trying to cook. I’d love to have all the room & space that Roy does.

– I understand that boys will need to have their toys (Exhibit A: the Ferrari and Exhibit B: the boat), but I really hope Roy is saving for his post-hockey life. Sure, his salary is a lot of money, and more than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes, but look at the increasing number of stories that we are hearing about current & former athletes who have spent through all their money. I know it’s silly for me to be concerned about a professional athlete in light of the fact that the stock market took my 401k for a ride today, but it is worth noting.

– The view of the lake and the surrounding area was gorgeous. I’d like nothing more than to curl up in one of those Adirondack chairs with a good book and a cold beverage and just relax. That area looks so peaceful.

I do have to say that this home tour was much nicer and decidedly less snarkable than the last home tour Roy-Z did. Our little star is growing up.


Lassie! Go Quick! Timmy Fell Down the Well and Landed in Toronto

July 13, 2011

I’m really going to have to get some new material. There’s only so many games next season where I’ll be able to make a Timmy & Lassie joke.

Earlier today, Sully posted a link to this Steve Simmons story from the Toronto Sun discussing the underwhelming career of one Tim Connolly. I’m of a lot of mixed emotions and feelings after reading this article. On the one hand, the article does seem to cohesively describe a lot of what Buffalo fans have been rumbling about for years. On the other hand, Simmons does kind of write Timmy off before the man even has a chance to put on a Leafs sweater and attempt to prove he’s worth the contract he signed. I mean, look at some of the words Simmons included to describe people’s off-the-record impressions of Connolly:

Soft. Sullen. Difficult. Loner. Spoiled brat. Silver spoon kid. Entitled. Not a team player.

I’d really like to know who Simmons talked to, but I grasp the sanctity of off-the-record. I can understand the use of the first two words because we all know that Timmy’s had his share of injuries and associated issues and doesn’t exactly give off a lot of warm & fuzzy vibes. And there may have been a few times where he’s put self over team, but it’s not like it was an every night thing. I was also struck by the use of the words loner, spoiled brat & silver spoon kid. Those are words that carry a lot of negative weight. However, where are the examples of Timmy’s spoiled brat, loner self? We’re just told that these characteristics are a result of Milbury keeping him with the Islanders rather than let him grow up in juniors. Show me that he’s a spoiled brat. Don’t just tell me.

And what are these “rumors” regarding his off-ice conduct? I’ve only ever heard of one Timmy rumor, and it’s been around since I was in college. What other rumors are out there? Is Timmy a lousy tipper? A puppy kicker? A drunk? Did he steal cookies from a troop of Girl Scouts? Is he a pyro? A flasher? A bank robber? I feel like we’re missing a large part of the picture.

And then there’s this quote from the GM of the Erie Otters implying that Timmy is a screw up compared to his successful parents & siblings.

“He was a kid from a high achieving family. His father was very successful. His mother was very successful. His sisters were successful. You would think he would follow in their paths.”

Now, I don’t know what his parents & siblings do for a living, but I would think that making it to the NHL would mean that one is fairly successful in one’s career, especially if one has been working towards it one’s entire life. I mean, one doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide that one is going to be an NHL player that day. The above quote is very powerful and makes Timmy sound like a right royal loser. (And it makes me kind of feel bad for him!)

Also, what the hell is this story about?

This came after a playoff game in which Connolly skated to the Sabres bench and was asked by a television announcer why he was so glum. His answer, paraphrased: How would you feel if the entire arena hated you?

With how much chatter happens within the press, why didn’t this story hit the Buffalo media? (It didn’t, right?) We know there are some members of the press who appear to get their jollies from writing negative pieces. This item would have been the perfect fodder for a column from one of them.

I think that while Simmons’ intent is to provide Toronto fans with more info on the newest member of the Leafs, I think that he did nothing more that tease the beginning of the Tim Connolly episode of E! True Hollywood Story. All that’s missing is the happy ending or the tragic ending shot of a tombstone overlapped with somber music.

And now that I just wrote an entire blog post defending Timmy, I think I might need a cookie.