Friday, September 7, 2007

Why I Love Hockey Part 23 (Hint: It's Not Jerry Sullivan)

Regular readers will remember that a while back, around the beginning of the summer, I placed a ban on the Buffalo News and certain message boards. I just couldn't handle all the manic obsession with the loss of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. People have the right to feel the way they feel but I really felt like it was a situation where people were making it worse by gathering together and pissing and moaning about it endlessly. I got over it relatively quickly and reading that stuff was still totally bringing me down. I also understand that part of the local newspaper's job is holding the team responsible for its actions but I also think there's a point where it's time to move on and focus on the team as it is with the players who are still here.

Well, yesterday I was looking at the stack of newspapers that had been delivered to my classroom and I decided to check out the sports section. I found this gem from Jerry Sullivan:

Hard to believe, but the Sabres play their opening exhibition two weeks from Friday. Something tells me Buffalo fans aren’t close to being ready. To borrow a time-honored players’ cliche, losing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

It hasn't sunk in yet? It hasn't sunk in yet because you won't leave it alone! Maybe if we didn't have to read all summer that our GM is an idiot who never does anything right, it would sink in. Maybe if we didn't have to read interviews with Briere and Drury's freakin' agents weeks after free agency ended, it would sink in. Maybe if the news wasn't running stupid stories tracking Briere's movements all summer (Briere's house on the market! Briere buys a house in Philly! Briere has Belgian waffles smothered in whipped cream with a slight drizzle of chocolate syrup for breakfast!), it would sink in.

Why is everyone so intent that Sabres fans be depressed and pessimistic? Am I alone in not feeling that way? Because me? I'm excited. I can't wait. I can't wait to see how Afinogenov and Vanek respond to the higher expectations and pressures. I can't wait to see if Miller's confident postseason performance carries over into the regular season. I can't wait to see the young leaders like Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy and Brian Campbell step it up to the next level. I can't wait to see Tim Connolly for a full season after an off-season of hardcore training. I can't wait to see Henrik Tallinder playing, broken arms and sprained ankles completely behind him. I can't wait to see what Drew Stafford does in a full season in the starting line-up. I can't wait for hockey. And if you don't feel the same way, well quite frankly, that's your loss. And that goes double for you, Jerry Sullivan.

Why I Love Hockey #23 - Penalty Kills
I'm a defensive minded girl. Always have been, always will be. I think a diving catch or a throw from the outfield to nail a runner at the plate is more exciting than a homerun. I think a blocked shot or steal is more exciting than a slam dunk. I think an interception or blocked kick is more exciting than a completed pass.

Defensive defensemen and defensive forwards in the NHL are vastly underrated, sometimes even by fans of the team they play for. I think there's a lot of truth in the old adage that a defenseman had a good game if you didn't notice him but that kind of stinks for them. Penalty kills are one of the few times in a game that those guys get the chance to shine and it's one of the few times the crowd audibly appreciates them. I love when Derek Roy swipes the puck from someone and then skates around and around and around with it and I love that when he finally dumps it, the crowd gives him a hearty round of applause. I love when Toni Lydman backhands a puck down the ice and the crowd cheers, especially if the penalty is winding down. I love watching guys like Tallinder and Lydman, each seeming to know what the other is going to do and where he's going to be. I love watching them dash from side to side, follwing the puck. I love that move where they put their sticks flat on the ice and swing them back and forth. I love Miller coming up with that one awesome save that seems to happen in every penalty kill. I love Teppo swooping in to save the day by clearing a puck out of the crease or protecting the net when Miller is down or out of position for the shot. I love the desperation, the frantic pace, the edge of the seat-ness of it all. I love fans appreciating anew players that usually get taken for granted because generally when they do their job well, they don't stand out.


Meg said...
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Meg said...

Heather, I'm so excited about the start of training camp I'm bouncing off the walls (despite the fact that I can't see any training camp stuff and then will be away for the start of the season) so I can't understand how people would be so depressed about the loss of the captains that they wouldn't be excited. I mean, at the end of the day, it's the game that we're fans of, and we're fans of the players because they play the game. So given that, how can people not even be "close to being ready" to get the game back?

The loss of the captains was two months ago, if Sullivan is still so upset about it that he's not emotionally prepared to watch hockey, he might want to seek professional help rather than write about it in the Buffalo News, because that level of obsession simply cannot be healthy.

Pookie said...

I can't wait for hockey. And if you don't feel the same way, well quite frankly, that's your loss.


Gambler said...

Oh my god, what is wrong with the Buffalo News? I could not be more excited to start a new, slag-faced whore free season!

I actually dreamt about a penalty kill last night. (Yup, definitely ready for hockey.) I think my favorite thing might be when they strategically bounce the puck off the boards or the glass to clear the zone.

Schnookie said...

I feel like the Buffalo News is buying into that mentality that drove the whole Red Sox Nation Machine: that there is an "identity" to the Buffalo sports fan that must be played up at all times (and, I guess, catered to?). That the Buffalo Fan is, by definition, pessimistic and depressed because THE CITY NEVER WINS ANY CHAMPIONSHIPS! And sure, that is a part of the Buffalo mentality, but it is by no means the full story, seeing as how you guys are also an awesome, enthusiastic, sophisticated fanbase that is thrilled for the upcoming season. But after the success in the sports publishing world of playing up the Sox thing (and I've heard a lot of Red Sox fans saying the mass-media-peddled idea of what their mentality was is total tripe), it just seems everyone wants to be able to find that next "all doom and gloom, all the time" group of long-suffering fans. And the stupid Buffalo News has stepped up big-time to provide that. I am so glad that you're here eschewing that viewpoint!

Mark B said...

I am probably just as excited if not more excited about training camp starting. I think in an odd way, The Buff News has helped. The gist of their Drury/Briere articles were that the team would be lost without them. It kind of moved me to get behind these kids on the current roster and believe in them. I have no doubts that they will still be a top notch team.

But I can understand where Sully and Gleason are coming from. The Captains did lead us to all those Stanley Cups...

Umm,wait a minute!

Kate said...

Oh, Buffalo News. I am SO over you! Even you can not dampen my insane happiness over the start of the hockey season. I am totally ready. For better or for worse, I am ready to see what the Sabres come up with this year.

I recently saw a clip of Connolly skating in circles around the rink with the puck, gobbling up many precious seconds of the opposing team's PP. It was delightful.

Patty (in Dallas) said...

I love that move where they put their sticks flat on the ice and swing them back and forth.

I love defense, too, Heather!

I love that move, too, and also the guy that's covering the point man and swinging his stick around in front of himself and back.

I am a big fan of a good penalty kill. My favorite kind is when we're on the road and the opponent can't even get past the blue-line and their fans start to boo them. Makes me feel all warm inside. :D

Courtney said...

I have to agree with you about drury and briere. Who Cares, they're gone, lets move on. I think the team played BEST last year for those few weeks when both captains were gone anyway... drury with the head knock, and briere with the flu. I'm tired of hearing people say they're not going to get anywhere because those two are gone, IMHO the team didn't do as good as was expected due to their drama and crying in the lockerroom from the all-star break to the end of the season. Yeah, maybe mr "humble" drury got a few lucky shots to tie games, etc...but if he had been a "stand up" guy throughout the whole game(series), there would have been no need for the lucky shots at the end of those games. Same goes for mr "5 million dollars" briere.

Kevin said...

...if Sullivan is still so upset about it that he's not emotionally prepared to watch hockey...

The thing is he's not upset about it. He just wants YOU to be upset about it. Sullivan openly brags about how it's his job NOT to like the pro teams in Buffalo, allowing him to be a dispassionate observer.

As another commenter alluded to, Sully is a Boston guy, and he tries to make Buffalo fans into Boston fans. He tries to think, "well, how would we react in Boston to this?" Square peg, round hole, Sully.

Heather B. said...

Kevin, I had no idea Sully actually was a Boston guy. That probably explains a lot.