Monday, June 30, 2008


I knew Bucky's numbers for Goose were too low! I'm telling you, I'm a genius!

If you're out and about, give a honk for the Goose by clicking here.

ETA: My comments on Sabres Edge are suddenly being flagged and blocked as spam. Someone must've left you-know-who in charge for the night.

ETA: I'm a little disappointed to discover that one of my favorite sites,, has joined forces with HockeyBuzz. HockeyBuzz is evil, yo. But if you're curious, Eklund's sources are reporting that the Sabres are in talks with Ryan Miller. Hey, Eklund! Would your sources be named "John Vogl" and "TSN" by any chance?

ETA: I'm bored. But my last comment on Sabres Edge went through. Because I know you were dying to know.

Is It October Yet?

A week or so ago Mark's mom asked us if we'd be interested in taking her to prospect camp this weekend. We reluctantly agreed. I mean, do we seem like the kind of people who would be interested in a bunch of kids playing hockey in the middle of the summer? (That's a joke for those who don't recognize them.) Unfortunately she bailed on us so we ended up going by ourselves again, not that we had to drag ourselves there. As Mark said, "For someone who was complaining that you hated hockey and needed a break from it, you're spending an awful lot of your summer at hockey-related events." Hmmmm... Might be some truth in that especially since I already have plans to go back to camp on Monday with some friends.

The prospects broke up into two teams and scrimmaged so they only used one rink instead of both of them. I know a lot of people feel like the best way to watch hockey is from above so you can really see plays developing. I agree with that generally speaking and when we go to games we always sit way up (although that's partly because we're broke and cheap), but when we can get to stuff like this, I like to sit up close and see things from a different perspective. So we sat in the third row. I'm not going to pretend like I really know enough to judge these kids' performances - I can barely stand on ice skates so to me everyone out there looked amazingly talented - but here are some non-expert opinions.

Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber both looked really good. It's weird to call them the veterans at 22 and 20 but they did a lot of talking with the other prospects and just looked a touch more self-assured than some of the younger, less experienced guys. They were on different teams during the scrimmage so we didn't really get a look at them together, but I don't really see why either of them won't make the team out of training camp unless Darcy Regier brings in a veteran defenseman and/or Nathan Paetsch plays out of his head. I get why Paetsch is being referred to as the incumbent, but to me he's the one who really has to earn his spot going in. I've never been super high on him though so I could be biased.

Weber continues to be a pretty firm next-in-line as Heather's Favorite Sabre. I just really like the way he plays and handles himself. I'm in no rush to get rid of Henrik Tallinder - no worries, Hank! - I'm merely doing a little scouting. At one point Weber made an absolutely beautiful stick poke against his opponent and it made my defense-loving heart go all pitter-patter. Okay, I totally missed it because I was futzing around with my camera. But Mark assured me that it was exactly the kind of play that I would've loved. I also noticed that he's started referring to Mike as "your boy" which is probably a sign. We only do that with a few select players.

My boy takes the ice.

Nathan Gerbe is very small. No, it's true. He is very reminiscent of Derek Roy however in that he doesn't seem the least bit bothered by his size on the ice. Granted, they weren't really hitting each other during the scrimmage but they were playing hard and he wasn't the least bit afraid to stick his nose in there against players much bigger than him (i.e. everyone). The other thing I really liked about him is that he wasn't hesitant to put the puck on the net and go from there. After getting used to watching the Sabres refuse to shoot unless they have the perfect opening, it was a refreshing change. Gerbe's team killed the other team in the scrimmage and he roofed one absolutely beautifully placed shot over the opposite shoulder of the goalie. He's definitely very skilled and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him on the big team sooner rather than later.

Look at his tiny little legs. He looks like a kid in his first hockey uniform.

I didn't get a really good picture of Tyler Myers - those little brats wouldn't stand still long enough, the nerve - but I'm happy to report that he really is very tall. He definitely seems thin for his height but I know he's talked about how getting stronger is one of his goals. It's clear why everyone talks about his skating as a strength though. I know tall guys - especially tall guys who are still very young and new to their bodies - are often kind of awkward and unsure and that wasn't the case with Myers at all. He looked very strong on his skates, very smooth, almost graceful. I can definitely see why the Sabres were so high on him. Sadly, the BFG does not wear a visor.

Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff were there, of course, watching from above. (Dad in front of us to his small son as Lindy entered the building and walked across the ice: Look! It's Lindy Ruff! Small son: Lindy Ruff?! What's HE doing here?!) Both Darcy and Lindy seemed to be in a very good mood. Every time I looked up they were grinning at each other and laughing about something. I'm sure someone in the crowd was grumbling about Darcy being so happy when he should be out signing free agents and re-upping contracts but I enjoyed seeing them both looking so mellow. I know they are very good friends in real-life and it certainly appeared that they were enjoying each other's company. There was one point where Darcy was on the phone ("Darcy's on the phone!") so I'm sure the Sabres will be announcing the acquisition of Nicklas Lidstrom any day now.

Darcy's on the phone!

I'm just posting this picture of Darcy because it never fails to crack me up.

This one too.

Jhonas Enroth did play in the scrimmage and while I meant to keep an eye on him, I didn't really. Sorry. Goalies aren't my thing. He wandered out of the net a few times but unlike a certain other goalie we all know, he mostly handled himself well. Otherwise, sure he looked great.

Some guy I don't recognize chats up Enroth. (I think.)

After practice a handful of players came over to the corner of the rink and signed autographs and took pictures with the kids in the crowd which I thought was really sweet. Some of the kids were so clearly excited that it was pretty cute to watch. Their faces just completely lit-up every time someone new turned to walk in their direction instead of going the other way. The players seemed to really be enjoying it too. Must be nice to be able to make someone else that happy. I'm sure getting stopped by fans all the time gets old eventually so it was cool to see the younger players embracing it while it's fresh and new.

Mike Weber signed for quite a while. He'd start to walk away but came back immediately every time someone called his name.

Tim Kennedy looks to be 22 going on 12. Dude is rocking a serious baby face. Mark usually rolls his eyes at me when I comment on how young someone looks but this time he was the one who actually said, "Holy crap, look at him!" He didn't look that much older than some of the kids he was posing for pictures with. He looked good on the ice though.

So young.

I have no idea who this kid is. I did kind of half-heartedly flip through some photos but I couldn't make a match. He was my favorite though. He walked over with a pretty hearty, "Hey, guys!" and really talked to every single kid he signed something for, calling the kids "buddy." He was super cute with them. If anyone knows who he is, please share.

I have no idea who this is but I like him already.

The spot where the kids were standing was not in the path of where the players departed the ice so players had to walk out of their way to come over. Originally everyone was at the top of a little staircase but as things started clearing out the kids started inching down the stairs and eventually onto the floor beside the rink. One little guy was totally cracking up all the adults in the area. He kept screaming, "Hey! Hey! We're over here!" you know, in case the players couldn't figure out where the sound of the screaming kids was coming from exactly. This kid was the most aggressive about moving out toward the players and eventually he was standing about halfway between the stairs where the kids were and the stairs where the players were exiting. When one player started walking toward the exit this kid started jumping up and down, literally waving his hands back and forth over his head, yelling, "Over here! Hey, you! Over here! Please come over here!" The player hesitated for a second before finally heading toward the kids. This little guy started cheering triumphantly and as he handed the player whatever it was he had to be signed he said, loud enough that those of us in the stands could hear, "Hey, who ARE you anyway?!" It was hysterical. The player in question - Dylan Hunter according to the man standing in front of me which I'll just go with because I couldn't see his face very clearly through his pulled-down baseball cap - took it in stride though. And Mark refrained from yelling, "Your dad was an asshole!" so that was nice too.

All in all, a very entertaining day. Mark was complaining that it made him excited for the season to start and then he remembered it wasn't even July yet but it was a nice little sip of real Sabres hockey. It still amazes me that I can just walk into a building, totally free of charge, and plop myself down a few feet from professional athletes, not just here but during training camp and game day skates as well. I can't tell you how many bloggers in other NHL cities have said to me, "You can go to morning skates? You just walk right in?!" It's pretty cool.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to You

Today is my little brother Lee's birthday. It's not that I forgot about this momentous day so much as it just completely snuck up on me. But I figure a celebratory post on his big sister's hockey blog is way better than any ol' material present. Am I right or am I right?

I was two and a half when Lee was born and while I wasn't too sure about the little guy at first - seriously, don't I looked completely stunned in that first photo? - I got attached to him pretty quickly. I love all three of my brothers - and more importantly, I really like them and would willingly hang out with all of them - but John and Chris are both much older than me (eleven and ten years respectively) so Lee was the one who I really grew up with.

"What the - ? That thing's staying here, right?"

There are a lot of things I could say about Lee but for the purposes of this blog, we'll focus on the fact that he's the other sports fan in the family. John is pretty much the least athletic person you'll ever meet and while as an Auburn graduate (times three) he does watch college football, he has no interest in anything else. Chris always has kind of a vague idea what's going on in the world of sports, but he doesn't really watch or follow any specific teams. But Lee is in and in deep.

Heather: The Mets suck.
Lee: Say that again and I'll sock you in the nose.

Lee was, like me, always a bit of a sports rebel. We grew up in Birmingham so college football was king. For those of you who have never lived in the southeast, I really can't put into words how much that area lives and breathes college football. Take the importance of the Bills and Sabres to WNY and double or triple it. Take the passion and intensity of the Bills-Dolphins/Sabres-Leafs rivalries and maybe you're approaching the neighborhood of how seriously people take the Auburn/Alabama rivalry. I rebelled by not really caring that much - I half-heartedly rooted for Auburn since John was there for most of my childhood and sold most of my student game tickets while I was at Alabama - but Lee rebelled by cheering for the University of Florida. This is somewhat akin to deciding to cheer for the Rangers or the Flyers when you have no real reason to. It's obnoxious. It's hilarious.

Lee also rebelled in baseball. He was exactly the right age to pick up on the rejuvenation of the Braves franchise (for anyone who has forgotten, the Braves were wretched in the 80's - "playing games in front of crowds of 12, no one will acknowledge the team even exists" bad) but that was the obvious thing to do so of course he became a Mets fan instead. I think originally he was a Mike Piazza fan (explaining the Dodgers t-shirt in the photo below) but even after Piazza moved on from NY, Lee stuck with them and continues to inundate me with me emails about the team and how they're performing. I don't actually watch the Mets very often but that doesn't stop me from reminding him that I could watch them all the time if I wanted to.

Let's go Bucs! (Nice glasses, Lee.)

If you put together all the time Lee has spent watching hockey you might get an entire 60 minute game but we really should cut the kid some slack. He lives in Birmingham. The closest franchise is the Atlanta Thrashers. Would you watch hockey if they - and the rest of the Souteast division - were your best option? Having barely seen any real hockey has not stopped Lee from choosing a favorite team and player however. He roots for the San Jose Sharks and loves Joe Thornton. Why? I have no idea. But it has led to some pretty hilarious emails along the lines of "Sharks are gonna kick butt! (Do they have any chance in this series?)" and "I hear the Sharks are getting Brian Campbell! Woo-hoo! (Is he any good?)" I fully believe that if Lee were ever in an area where he could watch hockey regularly, he'd love it and really isn't that what matters? I even think that despite his instinct to go a different way than everyone else, Lee would probably like the current Sabres team. I'm not entirely sure but I think his favorite player would be Derek Roy.

At my wedding rehearsal, October 1999.

There are a lot of stories I could tell you about Lee to get across how he's the sweet-tempered, easy-going one in the family but I'll just tell you this. Despite the fact that he doesn't really watch hockey at all, he regularly reads and comments on his big sister's hockey blog. That's pretty swell.

Happy birthday, bub. I miss you and look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Seriously, how adorable are we?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why I Have Hope: Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera

Very nice article about Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera by John Vogl in the Buffalo News today so I figure this is as good a day as any to bust out Why I Have Hope. I'm planning on this being the first in an ongoing off-season series so we'll see if it sticks.

Reason #1 Why I Have Hope for the Buffalo Sabres - Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera

Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera were one of the few highlights of the end of the season. Sekera had popped up in Buffalo a few times by then and while he did get a little stronger with every appearance, he suddenly looked like a guy who belonged in the NHL. And Weber was, for me, a total revelation. I haven't been watching hockey as long as some of you out there, but I don't think I've ever seen a defensive pairing, especially one so young, move to the NHL level and look so good.

I was especially impressed with Weber and Sekera because they were playing in important games - I mean, yes, the Sabres were pretty much out of the playoffs but they were theoretically fighting until the very end - and they were not playing soft minutes. Lindy Ruff didn't seem to be going out of his way to hide them from top lines, regular minutes, or special teams duty. In the twelve games they were both up, I know there were at least two games that went into overtime and Weber and Sekera were on the ice when both OTs started. Maybe I'm reading into things but I think that showed that Lindy had a lot of confidence in how they would handle themselves. (It was also maybe a message to Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman to get their garbage together fast.)

If they stay together - and I don't really see any reason to split them up unless they start to look overwhelmed although I am a little intrigued by the idea of mixing Tallinder-Lydman and Weber-Sekera - Weber and Sekera will also be exactly the kind of balanced pairing that the Sabres have had a tough time putting together over the last couple of seasons. Sekera seems to be a solid skating, puck-moving defenseman while Weber is a little bigger and a little more physical. If he grows into a Jay McKee like d-man, I think there will be a lot of happy Sabres fans out there.

I know, I know. Twelve games is a small sample size. With Drew Stafford we've seen that a great stint at the NHL level doesn't necessarily mean the transition to full-time NHLer is going to be smooth. I fully expect that there will be times when Weber and Sekera look overwhelmed or confused or just tired. But I'm optimistic. I'm encouraged by how well they've already looked and by the attitude they've expressed at prospect camp (we haven't made the team yet, nothing's set in stone, that's our only goal right now) and I am hopeful for their future, this coming year and in years to follow. Sekera will be Brian Campbell, Weber will be Jay McKee and all will be right with the world.

Just keep doing this, Mike, and you'll be fine. (Adrian Wyld/AP Photos)

On an unrelated note, if you click on TBN link above, you'll find a video stuck in the middle of the story. I've come across these videos on the website before but this is the first time I've ever seen one so obviously planted. (Apologies if I'm behind the times on this. I usually flip through the paper version of TBN at work. Remember those?) I love it. I hardly ever watch the news on TV and if I do it's only to see some video/interviews during the sports - hey, there's a reason I write a hockey blog and not a political blog - and now I'll probably skip the news altogether. I was just starting to realize that I've already seen most of the interviews I see on the news on and now this? Bah. Forget you nightly news.

I noticed TBN videos starting to pop up toward the end of the Sabres season and there were definitely some people who seemed more comfortable than others. The first one I saw with John Vogl made me giggle a little. He wasn't awful by any means but he was clearly a print journalist trying to attempt another form of media. He acquits himself pretty well here though. I actually prefer his more natural delivery to the robotic talking heads of the local news. He seems very likable. (If he's a jackass please don't tell me. I want to live with my illusions.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If I Were an NHL Hopeful

Heather B.
Defenseman. Shoots right. Born: Pittsburgh, PA, December 29, 1977. Hometown: Birmingham, AL.

Heather does not own a pair of ice skates.

She is always chosen first in P.E.

Some concerns about her lack of competition considering P.E. usually consists of one other adult and seven 12 and 13-year-olds.

Amazingly average stickhandler but very sound positionally.

Should be an above average stay-at-home defenseman once she learns to skate backwards. Or sideways. Or at all.

Wears 18 in honor of Andy Van Slyke, who as far as she knows, has never played hockey.

Lousy slapshot but pretty decent wrist shot and backhand.

Her most memorable hockey moment is the day she roofed a shot short side from practically behind the net. It was pretty awesome.

If she could have dinner with any three people she would choose Andy Van Slyke, Bono, and Lindy Ruff. (Larry is really my favorite member of U2 but I think Bono would make for some really interesting conversation.)

She's not embarrassed about anything on her iPod. She will freely admit to Hanson, the New Kids on the Block, the Muppets, a couple High School Musical songs, and every Disney song known to man.

If she could be in any movie she'd be either Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy.


NHL TEAM: Buffalo Sabres
NHL PLAYER: Henrik Tallinder
SHOOTOUT MOVE: forehand to backhand, top shelf
PRACTICE DRILL: that one where you have to stay on your feet for more than 10 seconds
VIDEO GAME: Paper Mario, N64
MOVIE: Singin' in the Rain, The Great Escape
ACTOR: Cary Grant
WEBSITE: Celebrity Baby Blog
BOOK: The Count of Monte Cristo
PUMP-UP SONG: Jump Around, House of Pain
FOOD TO COOK: haystacks (I've never used marshmallows though... intriguing)
TOY GROWING UP: Big Wheel (I never had one but my best friend Joel had a couple. We used to ride ridiculous circuits that make me wonder in retrospect how we managed to make it to 12 without getting hit by a car.)
PLACE TO VISIT: Pittsburgh, PA

Now let's hope any GMs who stumble across this realize I'm just messing around. I mean, it's a pretty convincing profile, right? I'm sure offers would be pouring in if I don't make that disclaimer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heather Chooses the Best Draftee

I'm a serious bookworm. I love to read. I'll attempt to read anything that looks even slightly interesting and I'm absolutely one of those people who will ignore everything else going on around me if I'm involved in a book. The world ceases to exist until I'm done. I don't like to sit anywhere without something to read. My mom used to yell at me for reading at the table which I still do to this day. I always have something to read in the car. I'm a reader. So I'm always interested when an athlete says he likes to read but a little skeptical. There's nothing wrong with loving Mario Lemieux: Great Hockey Player or Greatest Hockey Player? but it would be nice to see some interests beyond hockey.

According to the profiles at the official NHL Entry Draft website, the Buffalo draftees have some pretty decent taste. The Tylers both list Harry Potter as their favorite book and while it's not exactly creative - or even particularly specific since there are seven Harry Potter books* - there's not a hockey player to be found in them anywhere. Corey Fienhage says his favorite book is A Million Little Pieces which is yet another real book with lots of (false) words. Justin Jokinen goes with To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most perfect books ever written in my opinion. (He probably read it a couple of months ago in HIGH SCHOOL.) Usually Jokinen's excellent taste would put him squarely at the top but this year there's one player that stands above him: Luke Adam. I don't care if Luke's a future star or a future bust, he will always be my favorite draftee in the 2008 class because of his favorite book.

Mr. Popper's Penguins is quite simply one of the very best books of all-time. For those of you who have never read it - and good grief, what is WRONG with you? - Mr. Popper's Penguins is the story of Mr. Popper. Mr. Popper lives a happy, quiet existence with his wife (Mrs. Popper), working as a house painter. Mr. Popper never quite gave up on his dream of living a life of adventure however and he spends all his free-time reading about faraway places, especially the North and South Poles. When he writes a fan letter to explorer Admiral Drake, Drake responds by sending him a penguin. The Popper family quickly expands from one penguin (he lives in the ice box) to twelve penguins and eventually the whole gang hits the road as part of a traveling show. Madcap slapstick and hilarity (with a little dose of sweetness) ensues.

I love this book. I very clearly remember Mrs. Dabney, my third grade teacher, reading this aloud to us. I made my mom buy me a copy - which I still have, by the way - so I could read along. It's sweet, funny, and charming and I have to say, I think it's pretty adorable that a future NHLer freely listed it as his favorite book. Meg was a little concerned that the selection means Luke hasn't a read a book since he was 8, but I don't even care if that's the case. Anyone who remembers Mr. Popper's Penguins well enough to still love it years later is a-okay in my book.

I'm more perplexed by his shootout move, "going cheese." I have no idea what that means.

*- My favorite Harry Potter book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. My favorite character is Snape.

Who Knew? The Draft is Kind of Fun

So the ByWard Market area where our hotel was located is pretty cool. It's a little village full of shops and restaurants, all within easy walking distance. There are lots of street musicians - Saturday seemed to be violin day which was lovely - and it all makes for a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It's absolutely the perfect environment to surround an arena.

Unfortunately, Scotiabank Place is way the heck on the other side of town. Schnookie and Pookie have some lovely pictures of the surrounding area but it's pretty much dropped in the middle of a huge field. I guess it's really not that different than Ralph Wilson Stadium being in Orchard Park instead of in Buffalo proper but it still seemed very weird. When we go to Sabres games we park on a little side street (for free), walk to a restaurant, walk to the arena, walk back to the car and leave the city on a little back road without hitting any traffic. You would not be able to do that here. Even more perplexing is that there's absolutely not signage indicating where the arena is. When we got to the end of the exit there was a sign that directed you to the local Playhouse along with some kind of community center, but it made no mention of the professional sports arena that's only a couple of miles away. Not very helpful.

I haven't been to very many NHL arenas - counting this one I've been to three - and I don't really take note of how it looks unless it's either really ugly or really beautiful and Scotiabank isn't really either. It's very cement-y. Otherwise all I really noticed is that it needs a little updating.

I hate the slug more than anyone but I don't think it's going away any time soon, Ottawa.

I do really like the huge player photos on the outside of the arena but after some thought I decided I prefer the team photo at HSBC. Let's face it, when whomever was in charge of such things sat down to decide which four players should represent the franchise it would be quite a while before the name "Henrik Tallinder" came up in the conversation.

When we entered the arena we were all given programs that included a diagram of where all the teams were located. There were no section markings on the diagram however - very helpful, NHL - so we just jumped in the shortest line. (This was when the great Daniel Alfredsson defacement took place and while we were all laughing uproariously I think the Ottawa fan directly behind us was a bit frightened.) Luck was on our side - well, my side at least - because the Sabres table was almost directly beneath us. Each table was designated by a little picture of the team logo. I guess that way if someone wanders away and either can't remember where he's been sitting all day or can't recognize a single member of his draft team, he can just look for the team logo. It was very wedding reception-y.

We were in pretty much the same spot on Saturday but in the lower bowl instead of the 300s.

I'll admit it, I was really expecting the draft itself to be super boring. Watching players I don't know stand up and hug people over and over just didn't seem that stimulating. I wasn't counting on there being so much other stuff to look at however.

Granted, it might not be something that would appeal to everyone but I'm really fascinated by the behind-the-scenes side of sports. I watch hockey because I love the game first and foremost but I'd love to listen to contract negotiations and budget meetings. I'd love to know how much management values everyone on the current roster - who they'd be willing to part with, who they consider untouchable. Along those same lines, I'd love to sit in on scouting meetings. I think it would be really interesting to know what pushes one kid over another when the team is drafting in the sixth round. Even though I couldn't hear what anyone at the table was saying, I thought it was really interesting to watch them and how they interacted with each other and who did the talking and who did the listening. Every time I realized Darcy was on the phone or had walked away from the table (sometimes I saw him get up, sometimes I didn't) I announced to everyone around me, "Darcy's on the phone!" or "Darcy isn't at the table!" which I'm sure they were thrilled about. I probably saw the now infamous "You write down your name and I'll write down my name" swap with L.A. without realizing it. (When Tyler Myers is a big star I'll definitely tell people I saw it. I was seated so close to the table that I heard them count to three and flip over their pieces of paper! They both whooped and hollered when they realized they wanted different players! It was awesome!)

The Sabres scouting team checks Top Shelf for the latest updates. (photo courtesy of Pookie and Schnookie)

I think I might have mentioned before that I kind of like Darcy Regier but even for me, watching him at the draft was a bit of a revelation. The only time the public ever sees Darcy is during press conferences. I'm not convinced he likes that aspect of the job in the best of circumstances but considering how tumultuous most of the press conferences in the last calendar year have been, we've mostly seen a very stressed out Darcy Regier. John Vogl said this on Sabres Edge but Darcy seemed to be completely in his element at the draft. He was very pleasant and friendly with everyone he crossed paths with and even when the Sabres were on the clock he appeared to be comfortable and relaxed, sometimes talking a lot, sometimes sitting back and taking in what everyone else was saying. On both days the draftees eventually make their way to the team tables to meet and shake hands with everyone from the team and Darcy seemed genuinely happy for every kid the Sabres drafted. At that moment you have no idea if the kid is going to be Jason Pominville or Artem Kriukov. He's just a kid who's really thrilled to have taken the first major step toward his dream of playing in the NHL. I thought it was really sweet that Darcy seemed as excited for them as they were for themselves. In that moment I'd have no problem believing that he loves being a GM in the NHL.

Look, Darcy smiles! (photo courtesy of Pookie and Schnookie)

Other interesting things about the draft that I'm just going to throw at you in no particular order because I've lost all thread of making this organized:

Each team had a young boy or girl acting as a runner. The kid basically did any number of errands: handed out water bottles, pulled reports off the printers at the front of the room, passed notes from table to table. ("Do you want a speedy Russian winger or an oft-concussed center? Check yes or no.") Some of the kids had names on their jerseys that clearly labeled them as benefactors of nepotism - the Islanders had two runners, Wang and Guerin - but the Sabres runner (one of the smaller kids and very cute) didn't have a name on his back so I don't know if he belonged to someone or if he was NHL-assigned. He spent a lot of time in the corner of the table where Lindy Ruff and James Patrick were sitting so Meg and I wondered if he belonged to Jeep, but neither of us was sure he even had kids although I'm pretty sure he does. Meg and I had quite a lengthy discussion about this.

Tampa Bay's runner passing out print-outs he just grabbed off the printer.

If teams haven't made up their minds within the 3 minute limit they can elect to use a 5 minute time-out. That seems absurd to me. Why set a limit if you're not going to abide by it? And apparently each team has FIVE time-outs each draft. They seem pretty rare though. We bailed after the fifth round on day two but at that point only two teams - the Caps and the Sabres - needed the extra time. I don't remember the exact wording the emcee used but it was something along the lines of, "Buffalo, I need your selection or you'll enter time-out." For someone who has pretty much always worked with kids it sounded very much like Darcy was going to have to sit in the corner and think about what he'd done until the Sabres next pick.

Okay, so the Sabres team was not actually reading Top Shelf. I know, you totally bought that, didn't you? The guy in the corner of the table we could see was clearly watching video footage of a couple of different players. The thing that really cracked me up however is that when the Sabres entered the time-out on the second day, the team started watching the video in fast forward. I imagine the poor kid they selected is going to get to prospect camp and everyone is going to stand around saying, "He looked so much faster in his footage."

On Saturday, boxed lunches were passed out to everyone on the floor. As far as we could tell, lunch consisted of baggies of carrot sticks, wrapped sandwiches, and possibly bananas. The emcee informed everyone that lunch was on the way and asked them to please enjoy lunch without letting proceedings slow down too much. The funny thing is, I think it did actually slow down a little while people were eating.

There were a couple of boisterous guys on the other side of the arena who would occasionally let out with a "LET'S GO BUFF-A-LO!" Toward the end of the night on Friday I started returning the chant though not nearly as loudly as they were. I'm not very boisterous like that and I'd already gotten a bit of a "Miiiiller!" jeer from a little group behind me (because Ottawa fans are really the ones in the best position to be jeering any opponents' goalie situation) and I didn't want to get into anything. Someone eventually took offense though because the chanting went like this:


By that point we were all punchy enough to find this very amusing.

Meg, Schnookie, Pookie (back) and Alix (front) enjoy the proceedings.

As interesting as I found the whole draft experience, I think it's more than fair to say that the good company helped. I've met Pookie and Schnookie before but it was the first time I'd ever met Patty, Meg, or Alix and I continue to be amazed by how representative people's blogs often are of their real-life personalities. I don't really have a good handle on how others perceive my blog* so I don't know if there are any similarities to it and my personality but after reading their writing for all these months and chatting with them online, I really did feel like I'd already met all of them. For the record, Meg and I are both Sabres fans, Pookie and Schnookie are Devils fans, Alix roots for the Canucks, and Patty loves the Stars so we were quite a motley crew of NHL fandom which I think is really cool. Hockey blogging is the bomb diggity.

*The exception to this is that I know everyone thinks I'm long-winded which, looking around here, is tough to argue. Patty and Meg flew into Buffalo and I drove them to and from Ottawa and Patty was reminding us on Sunday that even after we got back home she had a long night ahead of her because she still had to fly to Atlanta and then to Dallas. When she complained that we'd all be done writing multiple posts before she even got home, Meg reminded her that I'm so long-winded that I'd actually probably only be halfway through my first post. And at one point Pookie referred to the blowhards in the group and I'm pretty sure she gestured in my direction. They seemed to say it with some affection however so I'm going to choose to take it that way :P

A few more random photos and stories tomorrow. Gotta get to bed now

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tune In Tomorrow!

Here are the professional journalists, hard at work at the NHL Entry Draft:

And here are the lowly bloggers. It's not the press box, but I suppose it's a step up from our mothers' basements. (Then again, at least our internet worked when we needed it all weekend):

So we did actually work on our blogs today but I haven't quite finished up the next post. We'll be driving home most of the day on Sunday but maybe Sunday night I'll have something more interesting up. (Maybe.) Hey, it's the beauty of not having an editor or a deadline.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Most Classless Fans in the NHL

It seems like everywhere I turned this past season, I found a fan or blogger accusing Sabres fans of being totally classless. We're rowdy, we're disrespectful, and we eat babies and puppies. I admit, I thought this was exaggeration. Someone somewhere acted poorly and Sabres fans everywhere have been paying for it ever since. Well, guess what. It might be true after all.

We arrived at the draft early enough to wander around the Fan Fest dealie (pretty lame unless you're under the age of 10) and Pookie and Schnookie decided to stock up on hockey cards for Project Bicycle Spokes. When they opened a pack and revealed a Daniel Alfredsson card well... the monster took over.

First, before I even knew what was happening, I snatched the card out of Pookie's hand. I was immediately overwhelmed by the urge to draw something - anything! - on it.

And then it got really ugly. I almost hate to admit this because it's so horrible. Please take a deep breath and prepare yourself. I threw the card on the ground in disgust and STOMPED on it. I stomped on it with everything in me and I did it in front of Senators fans including, yes, some very young children. I'm pretty sure I heard tears and shrieks of, "Why, Daddy, whyyyyyy?!?!?!"

I'M A MONSTER!!!! And if you're a Sabres fan, you probably are too. I mean, this isn't even taking into account that I traded "Let's go, Buffalo!" chants with a few fans on the other side of the building towards the end of the first round... WHILE IN SOMEONE ELSE'S ARENA! Classless through and through.

More tomorrow about the actual draft. I'm pretty tired.

Friday, June 20, 2008

GM For a Day

It's 2:16 in the morning. I'm in Ottawa. But here I am, blogging for you the people, because I know you're all dying to know what I have to say about Bucky Gleason's latest column. (That's a joke.) I worked today and then drove to Williamsville, Niagara Falls, and Ottawa so I'm pretty tired. Here are some bullet points. (Minus the actual bullet points since I don't know how to make them.)

- Hey, we all make mistakes. I blew it big time with Derek Roy. My blunder last year was listing his suggested salary ($800,000) on a chart without explanation.

While I appreciate that he's acknowledging that he made a mistake with Derek Roy, I'm not sure you can just toss that particular mistake aside. Bucky did exactly what he's accused management of doing and misread the market and in real life, it never would've worked. If he had called Roy's agent and offered $800,000, his agent would've hung up the phone. And if Bucky tried to protest that Roy was going to be his third line center, the agent would've said Roy was too talented for that and then hung up the phone. Players get paid for their production, not how you use them. No matter where he plays Roy was a 24-year-old who scored 68 points and showed the ability to play in all situations. That's worth something.

I think last off-season was really a time of serious decision for the Sabres. They had to either sink a whole lot of money into their centers or they had to cut Drury, Briere, or Roy loose. They chose Roy over Briere and I think they made the right choice. This past season would seem to prove them right. Roy had more points than Briere, was much better 5-on-5, killed penalties, and is already a better two-way player than Briere will ever be. On top of all that, he's a good deal younger and probably has a little more room to grow yet.

- Other things Bucky misjudged include Thomas Vanek's offer sheet and Jaroslav Spacek's performance. Now I don't really blame him for not expecting Kevin Lowe's crazy ass offer because I don't think anyone did. But the difference between what he was going to pay Vanek and Roy and what Vanek and Roy actually ended up making is huge. Enough of a difference to throw his planned budget completely out of whack.

- Also no mention of the fact that his co-captains and top two centers made a lot of money and had pretty average regular seasons. Based on last year I'm not sure I'd say either Drury or Briere was worth what he was paid. That could change over the course of the next 5-6 years but let's at least acknowledge that neither of them exactly carried his team's offense.

- I don't disagree that the Sabres should be fielding trade offers for any combination of Afinogenov, Connolly, and Kotalik. I understand why the Sabres held on to Max - he was coming off two good seasons (77 points in 73 games, 61 points in 56 games) and was signed to a reasonably priced contract - but I'd be fine with him moving on.

- The only thing Bucky says that I vehemently disagree with is this: Numminen shouldn’t have been re-signed, not at $2.6 million, under any circumstances. Everyone spent all season bemoaning the lack of leadership on the team. Teppo was a veteran the other players on the team already knew and respected and he would've provided steady if unspectacular defense. All that for $2.6 million seems like a pretty good bargain in the current market to me. The Sabres probably could've found another veteran for cheaper but I think the team's familiarity with Teppo - the knowledge that he was absolutely going to mesh with the players here - was worth a little extra. Obviously, the season-ending-except-for-that-one-game surgery makes all the above a moot point but still. I think it was a good deal. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Teppo's loss and the affect it had on the team has been vastly underrated by just about everyone.

- Ryan Miller's negotiations are definitely going to be the most interesting but come on... He's not getting anything less than $6 million a year. He just isn't, not in this market. Bucky says that there are plenty of good goalies out there for less than $5 million but I would've liked to have seen some names because I'm not sure who he's talking about. Goalies also have to fit the system they play in. Not every goalie is going to play well behind a team that is still mostly offense first. Despite a rough season, Ryan has shown that he is capable of handling defensive breakdowns and odd-man rushes. You're not going to pull a journeyman goalie off the street, plug him in, and have him be successful in every situation. I don't know, I hate to overpay anyone but if you're going to do it, it should be your goalie. Ryan had a terrible season but he also went to the ECF his first two years as a starter, the second year doing it practically on his own at times. That's worth something on payday.

Two side notes: One, I don't think it's entirely fair to use Martin Brodeur's salary as a comparison. He has repeatedly given New Jersey a hometown discount, sometimes to the disgruntlement of his peers. His contract is fabulous and I would love it if Ryan signed something similar, but it's not representative of market value. Two, I love that Bucky suggests the Sabres sign Ryan to a three year contract which means Ryan "gets back to the bargaining table sooner and can make his case for more money." I think that makes wonderful sense but when a certain other former Sabre was offered a three year deal everyone ranted and raved about how INSULTING it was that a YOUNG, TALENTED PLAYER was offered such a MINUSCULE number of years even though Darcy Regier expressed exactly the same reasoning. He can make some money now and get another kick at the tires in a few years.

- I think 3.6 million/3 years is probably underpaying Gaustad. 5 million/4 years for Paille isn't an overly impressive offer either. I'll be pleasantly surprised if either guy's extension is that low.

All right, that's all I got for now. I'm sure later I'll think of something I missed or forgot but I'll take a look at it again later. I need some friggin' sleep.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Week in the Life, Day 4

TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2008

11:24 a.m. Math time. It's amazing how excited kids can get about writing on a whiteboard instead of a piece of paper.

12:22 p.m. Chinese food for lunch today. I'm not a big fan of Chinese food to begin with but Chinese food mass produced for two schools? Not of the highest quality. Still, I got some decent fortunes out of the deal. I think they're both talking about this weekend. I'll be sitting on top of the world once I've cornered Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff and sweet-talked them into a Top Shelf interview.

1:00 p.m. This filing cabinet is right beside my desk so I hijacked the side of it for decorating purposes. The large Sabres pictures (Hank and Jochen) are from the Sabres calendar that the team puts out every year along with the tiny picture of Hank in the top corner. I guess he didn't earn a full month that year. The Derek Roy at the bottom is part of a series of posters put out by the Buffalo News during the playoffs last season. I laminated a few of my favorites and took them home but for some reason Roy-Z stuck around at work. The "Heather" and the drawings are things kids made for me. The "Hammerin' Hank" is from the front page of the sports section the day after Hank scored in the shootout. One of the boys saved it for me because it happened while I was on disability and he was afraid I wouldn't see it. How adorable is that? (We get papers delivered to the school for classroom use.) I didn't tell him I had one at home. Last year one of the kids gave me the big magnetic Sabres logo for Christmas. And that's Paul Posluszny talking on the phone in the middle. One day I had the boys totally convinced that that was Mark. "Isn't that guy a Bill though?" "No, he's just wearing a Bills jersey. Why would I have a picture of a Bill talking on the phone." "Oh, yeah, good point." (It's from a Time-Warner ad, I believe.)

1:08 p.m. A close-up of one of the drawings on the filing cabinet. A little guy in one of the other classes did this for me because he knew I was a big Star Wars fan just like him. It's Anakin - he's the one who's upside down - and Obi-Wan Kenobi. I've gotten a lot of cool things from kids in the last six years but this is hands down one of my favorites.

1:16 p.m. We only have seven days left of school so no one is really in the mood for a lot of work including the adults. We took a little extra free time this afternoon and played a couple games of Sequence. My record for the day was 1-1.

1:47 p.m. Remember that bike I couldn't fix Sunday night? That's right, I fixed it. Unfortunately we had to cut the bike ride short today because kiddo here had a little run-in with a huge mud puddle. I felt bad because he was clearly a little rattled but it was kind of funny. He went through the puddle fine and then suddenly started rooooolling backwards, lost his balance, and flopped over right smack in the middle of it. Poor guy.

Okay, my camera died. Pretend there's a snazzy photo here of various art supplies, board games, and sporting gear. It's very artfully arranged.

9:15 p.m. I generally hate shopping. I'll wear the clothes or shoes I have until they start to fall off my body because I hate it so much. But this is my kind of shopping. We have a big awards ceremony at the end of the school year and I always end up on the committee responsible for buying the awards. These awards are for gym, art, and... I don't know, something else. I think the adults sometimes gloss over the importance because well, don't tell but every kid gets at least one award. But our kids are not kids who've been successful in previous school placements so it really means a lot to them and I've never heard a single kid say, "Hey, everyone got SOMETHING!" (If you're ever looking for a game for a kid that doesn't need batteries, doesn't light up and make obnoxious noises, and actually requires a little brain power, I highly recommend Rush Hour. My guys love it and I do too although I'm terrible at it. I don't have the right kind of brain. There's an online version of it here if you're curious.)

11:52 p.m. Playing Rush Hour when I should be sleeping. (Sorry, no photo to go with that one.)

Okay, it's now Wednesday night (11:04 p.m.). As I said above, my camera died and I haven't gotten around to buying new batteries or finding my rechargeables yet so sadly, there will be no post for today. But for the record, I went to work, handled the class by myself for half of the day, had one kid suspended, picked up Patty at the airport, went to dinner, and drove around looking at houses and buildings in Buffalo. One thing I learned tonight? I'm the worst tour guide in the world.

Patty: Is that an art deco building?
Me: I'm not sure.
Patty: Oooh, is that a rust facade?
Me: I don't know.
Patty: Are those trees planted or do they grow here naturally?
Me: Uh... They grow here. Maybe. I don't know.
Patty: Is that building original?
Me: I dunno. Hey, look! HSBC Arena!

Anyway... I'm leaving for Ottawa right after work tomorrow so I might post something tomorrow night, I might not. But believe you me, I will be getting to this as soon as I have some free time. Word of warning: If Bucky tries to trade Hank, he's going down hard.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Week in the Life, Day 3

MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2008

7:26 a.m. (The clock is five minutes fast.) Leaving for work in a somewhat timely manner! I have the only car left in the world with a tape deck. The FM radio doesn't work so I almost always have my iPod in the car with me. I adore my iPod. I couldn't live without my iPod. I named it Jochen. There's a long story behind that but it's boring. Music of choice this morning? ABBA's S.O.S.

7:45 The cafeteria, just before the hooligans are released from their buses. My last moment of silence for the next seven hours. Each class has an assigned table and staff eats with the kids. Yes, I have the honor of eating twice a day with seven 12-year-old boys.

9:43 a.m. Music class. The kids are only playing the main melody and some of them are playing pretty simple songs - although even that is impressive consider how long most of them sit still - but this kiddo is working on Coldplay's Clocks and it's a little more complicated. He's doing a really good job with it. (I know, great shot of the back of the kid's head, right? I can't post pictures of my boys here which makes this whole thing probably a bad idea.)

11:24 a.m. I believe that you're either born a Yankees lover or a Yankees hater and I am firmly in the latter group. One of my best buddies at work however is in the former group and it's not unusual for me to open a desk drawer and find a little note like this tucked away for me. He's obnoxious just like most other Yankees fans. Me, retaliate? No, neeever. Also, that is sadly, hands down the most organized drawer in my desk.

9:18 p.m. Watching season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don't know how well you can see it but the captions say, "Sure, in a fascist society (!)" I don't know what's up with the exclamation point in parentheses but there's at least a couple in every episode and they drive me batty. What is the deal? Is the exclamation point optional or what? That sentence doesn't even require an exclamation point. Usually the captions tag them onto sarcastic statements. Did I miss the lesson in school about punctuating sarcasm with exclamation points in parentheses? Would it help if I started using that here to signify sarcasm so you guys know for sure that I'm just kidding?

9:49 p.m. Time for my daily ankle exercises. In this one I pull my foot toward me, using a belt to help it along. When I first started walking again I'd been in some kind of cast for almost four months so I had a good bit of atrophy. I could move my foot around very little. This is to help loosen things up again. (Geez, my arm looks huge.)

Week in the Life, Day 2


10:27 a.m. (The clock is 8 minutes fast.) I finally roll out of bed. Mark is at church but he let me sleep in. The plan for today is for me to sit around as much as possible so the ankle is in good shape for work and Ottawa. Should make for a great post, right?

11:33 a.m. I attempt a trip to Blockbuster. It's hard to tell in this photo but the right lane of the road is totally ripped up in front of and beside Blockbuster. I drive back and forth a couple of times, trying to figure out how to get in the parking lot before finally just parking across the street. Hamburg is freakin' killing me with all this construction. I'd buy a house somewhere else just to get away from it.

11:59 a.m. My movie selection. They didn't have what I really wanted - the rest of season one of The Wire - and I'm pretty uninspired by what I got. If I hadn't had movies from Blockbuster's mail service to trade in I probably would've left with nothing. I started with Brothers and Sisters which I liked a lot more than I expected to. (Oh, and that puck isn't placed there just for the photo. It's always on top of the TV and has been for a couple of seasons now.)

2:24 p.m. I follow a link from Shots Off the Crossbar to Bucky's column which includes the line, "And the fact that Crosby scored the winner in a shootout made the event (the Winter Classic) that much better." He makes no mention of the anonymous donation that Ryan Miller and the Steadfast Foundation received from the league to let Sid win on that horrible shot. (I would criticize Bucky for that remark but he was writing from the point-of-view of the league and that's undoubtedly the ending the league wanted.)

3:43 p.m. Reading Flyte. One of my boys brought me his copy of the first book in this series. "I know you like to read and I think you'll like this a lot." I thought that was pretty adorable so I read it and it was pretty good. This is the sequel which he also loaned to me. It's kind of Harry Potter-ish maybe for a slightly younger reader.

8:18 p.m. Returning books and magazines to the library. Total late fees accrued: $3.75

10:14 p.m. Mark says, "Ummm... So what's the story with the bike in the bedroom?" The story is this: Most of my boys are on some kind of behavior modification program - if you do this, you can earn that. One of them earns time to ride this bike that was donated to the school. On Friday the seat suddenly fell apart so I decided I would bring it home this weekend and take a look at it which I did not do until right now, 10:14 on Sunday night. I think I figured out how everything goes together but unfortunately I believe I'm missing a... thingy. Not a screw, not a bolt. A nut! Yeah, a nut, I think. So that was a bummer.

And thus endeth the most boring day ever.