Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lindy Ruff, True Sabre

Why I Love Hockey #14 - Lindy Ruff
Here's the deal: I adore Lindy Ruff. It's as simple as that. I know he rubs some opposing coaches and fanbases the wrong way and I've learned to accept it. I'm not going to tell anyone, "You'd feel differently if he was on your team" because I hate when people say that to me (that goes double for you Ottawa fans who honestly think I could ever love Chris Neil). I will however admit that I will think a little less of you if you tell me you don't like Lindy Ruff.

Despite a few hiccups here and there - really, Lindy what was that power play about? - Ruff is a very good coach. He's tough. Who else would bench a rookie with 25 goals for most of the playoffs because he thought his effort was lacking? The only comforting thing about 23-year-old Thomas Vanek making 10 million dollars in the third season of his career is the knowledge that Ruff will be guiding him along and guiding him well. He'll be supportive and encouraging but he won't coddle him and he won't let him coast. While Ruff is tough on his players, he's also fair and loyal. Any player who busts his butt has a shot at getting in the line-up and sometimes he stays there even when the fans are second-guessing it. Adam Mair and Andrew Peters are partly still in Buffalo because Ruff likes them and likes how hard they work and play. I don't know what exactly it is about Ruff, but his players clearly love playing for him. To use a sports cliche, they would go through a wall for him. Even when I'm not entirely sure what he's doing or why he's doing it, I do feel confident that Ruff has thought about the moves he's making and is making them for a reason. Very few coaches manage the talent on his team as well as Ruff does. He seems to know what each guy will respond to. I'm sure he's disappointed - maybe even a little concerned - about losing Briere and Drury. But I know he'll show up for camp in September and love those boys to death, doing whatever he can to make them the best hockey players they can be.

Off the ice, Ruff is just as great. He's honest, sometimes painfully so. If the team is playing like crap, he'll freely admit that they're playing like crap. If the team is playing well, he doesn't hesitate to shower them with credit. He doesn't believe in beating around the bush. In addition to that, he's funny as hell. He's very quick, throwing things back at any reporter who thinks he's being smart or funny - usually in a somewhat affectionate way. (But he won't take crap. I kind of wish Bucky Gleason would show up at his press conferences and act like a snot. Lindy could chew him up and spit him out and do it without breaking a sweat.) He has a smart, sarcastic sense of humor, laced with just enough dryness that sometimes you're not quite sure if he's being straight or kidding around. I love it when someone who doesn't listen to Ruff all the time latches onto a sarcastic aside from one of his press conferences and gets all riled up about it while those of us who know and love Lindy are rolling our eyes and saying, "Oh, honestly. He was clearly kidding." I love that occasionally Kevin Sylvester, the moderator of the Sabres post-game show, feels like he has to say after we've cut back from the press conference, "When Lindy said X about Y? Yeah, he was kidding so don't email us!" Does Ruff sometimes go a little over the edge? Yeah, maybe. But he's a character and there are not enough characters in pro sports anymore. He has more personality in the tip of his pinky fingernail than most coaches today have combined.

But above all else, I love Ruff's longevity. He had just taken over the head coaching position in Buffalo when I started dating my husband and here he is, all these years later, still standing behind the bench. I love that when you hear the name Lindy Ruff you think Buffalo Sabres and I love that when you hear the Buffalo Sabres you think of Lindy Ruff. Players have come and gone but he's always stayed even this year when he probably could've gotten more money elsewhere. When the day comes for him to leave, I'm a little afrad that I'll discover that all this time I've been a fan of his more than I've been a fan of the team. Lindy is, when all is said and done, one of us, a real Buffalonian and a True Sabre.

I'm sure Lindy's thinking some really sarcastic things here:

Someone pointed out in the comments of my last post that I've kind of forgotten about the "Something About Me" portions of these posts. Sorry I've been neglectful. To make up for this oversight, I'll share with you all my best guilty pleasures:
-I'm totally psyched about Hanson's upcoming new album. I buy very few CDs but I will buy it and I will buy it without sampling it first.
-I Tivo Hannah Montana all week and then binge on a marathon over the weekend. I also know all the songs from High School Musical.
-I've read all the Gossip Girl books even though I hate pretty much every character in the series. And oh yes, I will sample the TV show in the fall.
-The one movie that I stop and watch in entirety when I come across it on TV is the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap. I own the darn thing and I'll still insist on flipping back and forth between it and whatever else I was watching.
-A-Rod has kind of grown on me. I hope he has a great season and then tells the Yankees to kiss his ass when they try to re-sign him.


Gambler said...

Heatherrrrr, stop stealing my reasons! It's bad enough trying to make my list of reasons I love hockey seem respectable when compared to the best Sabres blog on the web (awesome!), but when we end up writing about the same things, it's pretty much impossible not to look inferior.

Seriously, though, I should just link to this entry when I get to my reason about Lindy Ruff, because you've expressed exactly why I love him. The talent! The wit! The loyalty!

And I distinctly remember Kevin Sylvester having to say "Lindy Ruff didn't really mean that he thought the Islanders were aiming the puck at Miller's head! He was joking!" after one game. Hilarious!

I own a Hanson album (their second, I think) and I absolutely love it. Guilty pleasures are so much fun.

Heather B. said...

Gambler, I admit part of the reason I did Lindy now was because you hadn't! I agree it is very hard doing this at the same time. There have been a couple of times where you've done something I was kind of thinking about and then nothing I wrote sounded good after that. I'll probably still do them - geez, when is the season going to start? - but I'm hoping if I wait a while people won't clearly remember how well you already handled them!

Yes, that is exactly the Kevin Sylvester quote I was thinking about! I couldn't remember what it was specifically. I do remember that was one where we couldn't quite decide if Lindy was kidding or not because he was SO cranky and straight-faced when he said it. I wouldn't have it any other way though!

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

Heather! You are famous!

I'll try to clean up my act around here so I don't drag you down by association.

Kate said...

Lindy's Sears studio portrait is priceless.

brian s. said...

How many coaches were also the captain of the team they coach for? That's why I think Ruff is a "True Sabre."

Meg said...

How many coaches were also the captain of the team they coach for?

Ooh, that's an interesting question. Denis Savard and Guy Carbonneau were. I'd have to do actual research to figure out if there are any others though.

Amy said...

I would pay to see Lindy and Bucky Gleason go at it. That could be an intermission activity during the pre-season that a lot of fans would go for.

Heather B. said...

Kate, don't change a thing! I think you bring a lot of character to the place :-) And I adore that cheesy photo of Lindy. There are bunch of those of different players. I'll have to find a link and pass it along. They're hilarious.

Brian, I was definitely thinking about Lindy's playing career when I classified him as a True Sabre. Probably should've mentioned that! Maybe an edit is in order. It's definitely very cool that a huge chunk of his career on both sides of the ice has been in Buffalo.

Amy, I know, right? I'm sure Larry Quinn would go for the idea of a Lindy/Bucky death match if we pitched it to him. How can we trick Bucky into going along?

KMS2 said...

I like Lindy Ruff, but not as much as Barry Melrose, my first true love for a coach!

You know why I f'ing hate Hannah Montana and High School Musical? Because when I was in a furious rush today to (unsuccessfully) find The Cutting Edge and The Mighty Ducks at two Targets and one Best Buy, all I could find were Hannah Montana and HS Musical DVDs. Argggh!!!

Defy Gravity... said...

I am a new fan of your blog for the mere fact that you adore Lindy! I adore him too! Huge fan!