Monday, September 29, 2008

Hockey, Hockey, Hockey!

A couple of posts have already popped up about the Sabres-Wild game I had the pleasure of attending with Kate and really, they've already covered what I wanted to say. But heck, I'm going to say some of it anyway very quickly before heading off to bed for the night.

- Early on Sunday I was feeling a little melancholy for some unknown reason. I had a major case of the blahs and not even the thought of hockey was doing much to cheer me up. But once I got out of my car and started walking toward the arena, my spirits were immediately lifted. Seeing people walking around in Sabres jerseys, slipping in with the crowd filtering into the arena, seeing skaters on the ice... I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I sat down in my seat and just stared all around, taking in every detail I could. It felt amazing to be in HSBC for real(ish) hockey again.

- Speaking of seats, thanks to the awesome Keller for giving Kate, and in turn me, his fantastic seats for the night. Kate has a picture of our view in her post but we were nineteen rows back right behind the goalie on the end where the Sabres shoot twice. It was a very cool perspective. I've sat in similar seats once before and I love watching guys clear the puck down the ice from that angle. You really get a good feel for just how hard and far they're hitting the puck and just how fast it's moving.

- A lot of people have been really high on Nathan Gerbe - TBN's John Vogl has been practically raving about him - so I was really anxious to see him in action. He's clearly talented and based on what I saw probably should be the first call-up but I don't think he's ready to start in Buffalo. I'm just not sure who he should leap over at this point except for Clarke MacArthur and I think most of us can agree that it would be much better for Gerbe to be playing regular minutes in Portland than sitting in the press box in Buffalo.

That said, I don't think Gerbe will be in Portland long. He definitely looks confident and comfortable and I'm sure he's eager to prove himself.

- Tim Kennedy looked a little more overwhelmed. He was by no means bad but he definitely needs some seasoning in the AHL. It was very cool to get to see his first moments in a Sabres uniform though. The crowd gave him a huge roar of approval every time he had the puck, especially during the shootout. I can't even imagine how awesome that must've been for him.

- Maxim Afinogenov was easily the best Sabre on the ice. Granted a lot of the veteran forwards were out for this game but Max looked really good. There was very, very little of the bad Max - no stupid drop passes, not as much stick handling through the entire crowd, no pulling his line mates offside - and a lot of speedy reasonably smart hockey. It was pretty remarkable. If Max puts together a good season I think the Sabres are really in good shape. I'm sure someone somewhere will complain that he isn't locked up long-term even though we've spent all summer complaining that he's not playing in another city right now but I'll gladly take one more good season out of Max before we part ways. For the record, I'll point out one more time that it's really important that Max play with guys who can skate and think fast.

- Second game in a row where someone in a Buffalo sweater dropped the gloves to defend a teammate. I love it and I hope it continues. Paul Gaustad is usually pretty good about that anyway but I also think this is Craig Rivet's presence in the line-up making an impact.

- Despite the loss, the Sabres looked really good. I have no idea how many of Minnesota's players were NHL level and how many of them were AHL/juniors babies but for the most part, the Sabres really controlled the play and outside of the Jaroslav Spacek's deflection into his own goal I don't remember any glaring mistakes especially on the defensive end which is what's going to make or break this season, I think.

- Henrik Tallinder was fantastic. Amazing. SPECTACULAR even. I'm confident he's going to have a fabulous 2008-2009 season.

- Kate and I really did have a pretty lengthy discussion about Mike Weber's number change. I seem to be in the minority but I really liked him in 34 and I'm not a fan of 4 at all. It's partly because I don't like the way most single digits look on a jersey - 5 is good, 9 is acceptable and that's it - but I realized tonight that it's also partly the font. I'm not a big fan of the number font used on the slug jerseys.

- Hockey is BACK, you guys!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I've Got Vision and the Rest of the World is Wearing Bifocals

Some thoughts while half listening to Sabres-Leafs on the radio:

- As someone who was raised on older movies, I was pretty bummed to hear about Paul Newman's death. He's one of my favorites. Thanks to my iPod I don't listen to WGR very often but on occasions when I accidentally leave it behind I sometimes tune in for a few minutes because my car radio suddenly quit picking up FM stations about a year ago. A few months ago they did a Paul Newman version of the obituary game in which they attempt to pick what movie or TV show will be mentioned in the first sentence of a celebrity's obituary. I figured Color of Money would come up first since it's his Oscar winning performance but for me there's no question what Paul Newman's best movie is. If you've never seen this movie, get thee to a video store immediately. Or just go buy it. It's one of my favorites and it's totally worth the money you'll spend. Here are a couple of other great scenes.

- When Steve Bernier was traded I went back and read the post I wrote after his first game in Buffalo and the thing that really caught my attention was not how physical he was in that game but how much his physicality trickled down to the rest of the team. Derek Roy was hanging off people's backs, Tim Connolly was jumping into scrums and in one of my favorite moments of the season, Dmitri Kalinin got sent to the box with Patrick Kaleta where they shared an adorably triumphant fist-bump.

I'm really curious to see if Craig Rivet will have that kind of effect on the Sabres (but on a more consistent basis). I'm especially curious to see what kind of influence he has on Toni Lydman if he and Toni do end up playing together. I love Henrik Tallinder but he's just not an overly physical guy and probably never will be. And while Toni will never be throwing his gloves around the ice, I think he is capable of playing with a little more of an edge than he usually does. It'd be nice to have one defensive pairing that's willing to knock the opposition around some. I'm sure Ryan Miller would appreciate that as well.

- See, this is the problem with trying to write about games I can't see. Mike Weber got tossed out of the game for cross-checking Matt Stajan in the neck. Harry Neale said on the radio broadcast that he didn't think it looked like that big of a deal. Mike Harrington said on Sabres Edge that it was deserved. I'm inclined to believe Harrington over the guy who even after six months continued to mix up Paul Gaustad and Jason Pominville (different numbers, totally different sizes, completely different styles of play) but it would be nice to be able to form my own opinion. I can't wait until television coverage starts.

- Again, it's hard to say for sure but it certainly sounded like Maxim Afinogenov played pretty well. Coincidence that I wrote here yesterday that I'd like to see Max with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek and tonight that's what happened? I'm not so sure. Lindy, if you're reading this, wear a striped tie Sunday night.

- The Sabres play really well but fall behind, tie it up with 2:30 left in the game and then win in overtime. I have two thoughts: One, ha ha to the Leafs. Two, do we really need to break out the exciting but frustrating games already? Can't we ease into this, guys?

- While it's really too bad Henrik Tallinder and Jochen Hecht didn't play on Red Carpet night, there were some decent highlights anyway.

Ales Kotalik looking like he's about to sell those children something illegal:

Watch out, kids!

Derek Roy rocking a suit that only Derek Roy would wear:

You gotta admire the kid's gumption.

And finally, Teppo Numminen showing all the little boys how it's done:
Smoking. What can I say? I like my men older.

(All photos taken by Bill Wippert and found on

- Totally unrelated to tonight's game but something I thought about while walking around the mall today. Fellow people of Buffalo, it's time to let go of the Drury/Briere jerseys and jersey tees. I understand being attached to players and how hard it is to say goodbye to those you love. I even kind of understand continuing to wear them last season as a defiant message to ownership that you did not approve of their dealings. But it's the dawning of a new day here in Buffalo. It's a new era and a new team. It's time to move on. Personally I'd toss those suckers right in the garbage but if you need to perform a ceremony, maybe lovingly place the jersey in a boat, a hockey stick laid carefully across it, and send it out on Lake Erie a la Boromir being sent down the Anduin toward the Falls of Rauros that's fine too. But whatever you gotta do, let's do it already.

- I'm going to Sunday's game! Yay!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday Musings

A few quick hits:

- The classic logo at center ice looks awesome and surely - SURELY! - it means the death of the slug is right around the corner. Now that the franchise has squeezed every dollar they can out of it, we're moving on, right? Do you know how happy I would be to not have to not buy a really cool t-shirt or hoodie because it has a slug on it? How much I'd love walking into the Sabres store and seeing a store full of classic logos? That would be amazing.

Taken from a link provided in the comments at Sabres Edge.

- I've given this Nathan Gerbe thing a lot of thought and I think I've decided he should start in Portland. Definitely use him as the first call-up if he's ready for that and definitely use him to pressure anyone who may be underachieving in Buffalo but let's see the kid play with pros in the AHL first especially since offense is not a pressing concern right now. If he totally kicks ass down there, well that'd be a pretty good problem to have.

- Mark went to practice yesterday (Wednesday) and reported that Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman were paired together during most of the defensive drills. What the hizzle, Lindy? Are you trying to confuse them, not to mention me?

- John Vogl reports that Lindy plans on keeping Jochen Hecht at center this year which is more than fine with me. I love Jochen at center. The rest of Vogl's potential lines are as follows:

Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford

Daniel Paille-Jochen Hecht-Jason Pominville

Paul Gaustad-Tim Connolly-Ales Kotalik

I hope this means he thinks Maxim Afinogenov is going to be gone because Max definitely does not belong on the fourth line. I get that that he's frustrating and inconsistent enough that you might shy away from putting him on one of the top lines - when he's playing poorly he's sometimes a real drag on his line mates - but he needs to play with people who are fast and skilled. People have given him a lot of crap for last season for good reason but after he came back from his injury he was on the worst possible lines for his skill set. He can't play with muckers and grinders who can't skate and carry the puck. He's useless then. You almost may as well just bench him if that's how you're going to use him.

I'm fine with that first line though I wouldn't be against trying Max with Roy and Vanek just to see what happens. (Blow it up fast if it doesn't work though since in the past Max has been a bad influence on Derek.) Love, love, love Paille with Jochen and Pommers. I don't know if I'm sold on Goose on the third line. I like him immensely but I go back and forth on how good he actually is and how good he can be.

At any rate, it's so nice to be close enough to the season to be talking about this stuff! Wheeee!

- Speaking of Max, he's going to be either traded or let go at the end of the season. We all know that. We may as well admit now that the change of scenery is going to be good for him. He'll be in a new system with new teammates and a new coach and he'll probably score 20-25 goals. Can we agree now to not retroactively pretend like we thought the Sabres should have kept him all along when that happens (Bucky)?

- Derek Roy will score 100 points this season. That's my one prediction for the year.

- Note to Gambler: Roy-Z was definitely short. I want to say he was a little bit shorter than me because I seem to remember glancing down but I wasn't paying enough attention to really say for sure. He was definitely not taller than me though. If anything he was even with me. I also didn't see what kind of shoes he was wearing which I would have taken into consideration as well had I been paying attention. (I was in the front row of the most recent U2 concert in Buffalo and while I already knew Bono was a shorty he was also wearing boots with rubber soles that were at least 3 inches thick. I'm pretty sure he's really only 4'3".) I'm 5'7"ish so I'd say Roy-Z is in the 5'6"-5'7" range. No way he's his listed 5'9".

- I haven't had a chance to flip through the media guide but I've enjoyed all the stuff other bloggers have pulled out of it. Anne discovered that Patrick Kaleta's nickname is "Kaltsy." Okay. Friends and I have joked about how the Sabres seem to just slap "sy" on the end of something for a nickname but Kaltsy doesn't even make sense! His name isn't Kaltleta! And I had to actually sound it out to think about how to say it. Anne's comment is worth repeating here: If a nickname is harder to say than the guy's actual name, it's a stupid nickname.

- The only real nickname I've ever had is "Heat."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Just in case you're looking for some deep thoughts on the preseason games I should let you know that I really don't care. I care in the sense that preseason means the real season is right around the corner but that's about it. I like to pretend I'm all knowledgeable about the prospects and I am casually interested in how they're playing in the AHL - before that they're not even on my radar outside of the few days they're in camp - but really they don't mean anything to me until they're in Sabres jerseys. I can't get attached before then.

I also have a really hard time commenting on games I can't see. I love Rick Jeanneret and it was HEAVENLY to hear his voice again last night but when you're just listening to a game I think you're definitely influenced by how the announcer is presenting it and let's be honest, ol' RJ can make anything sound good. On the flip side, I'm never quite sure how seriously to take people's criticism because well, people see things different ways, you know? In two places TBN's John Vogl mentioned Henrik Tallinder making the first bad decision of the season but I didn't actually see it with my own eyes so I think it's really best to pretend it didn't happen. You see what I'm saying?

Still, I am trying to get back into the blogging routine so here are a few random thoughts from the last few days:

- I'm totally bummed that Lindy Ruff hasn't openly and publicly cast off the rotating captaincy. I hated the co-captaincy. I hate the rotating captaincy. I want one captain like everyone else in the world! Why can't I have that? I don't care if the players like it! Tell them to suck it up! It's a hard world out there, Sabres, and teams only have one captain! And for the record, I do not enjoy the sight of Tim Connolly with the C.

- How do you do a story about Henrik Tallinder and not run a photo with it? Not even on the website! I'm outraged. Isn't the web all about graphics and stuff? Work with me here, TBN.

- On the flip side (and slightly off-topic) kudos to Mark Mulville of TBN for this awesome photo taken right before the game-winning field goal of Sunday's Bills game.

- Back to hockey, I tend to get a lot of sympathy every time Hank and Toni Lydman are broken up and while it does bum me out some - I like having one consistent pairing/line on the team - I am kind of intrigued to see how the whole thing shakes out. With Teppo back, Craig Rivet in and Andrej Sekera up, that is a lot of new faces. May as well try some things out. But what the heck is with telling the whole world they're going to be split up and then playing them together during the Montreal game last night? You can't play around with their hearts like that, Lindy! I know it's early and I know they have practices too but you'd think maybe new pairings would actually play together during the preseason. Anyway, we'll see if this sticks. It never has before.

I wrote that last paragraph while at work. Unlike some of you slackers I don't really have computer access during the day most of the time so I feel so daring!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Puck Drop 2008: A Novella

I admit it, there were times this summer when I felt like this day was never, ever going to come. Doesn't it feel like it's been years since the Sabres played their last game? It does to me. When I finally stepped into HSBC Arena Saturday morning, I felt like I'd just entered the pearly gates. Ahhhhh...

Noticeable right away was the brand new Winter Classic mural in the pavilion. I'm not gonna lie, I could do without the pictures of the fans mixed in. I get that it was a huge community thing blah blah blah but I really liked the huge player photos, the fu manchu Tim Connolly excepted.

Click on the image for a closer look.

Luckily for me - and them - there was a huge Henrik Tallinder photo in almost exactly the same place there was one before.

You can click here too.

We didn't lollygag too long before making our way to the ice. It was still fairly early but people were starting to stream in and I wanted to sit up close. For games I'm definitely a believer in sitting far enough back that you can see the whole ice but for stuff like this I think it's fun to sit as close as possible and see the ice and the players in a way we don't usually get to see them.

Ooh! Ooh! Hank is on the ice! Ladies and gentlemen, Henrik Tallinder is on the ice!

The stripes on those practice jerseys absolutely glow when photographed, making everyone look like they're in a science fiction movie.

Unfortunately, when Hank was playing defense, this is what I saw through the entire first period:

Down in front!

This girl, in her spunky little glasses and her hand-lettered jersey was cute for about five minutes. And then she was just really, really annoying. I can understand leaping up when something exciting happens or standing through a real game but come on, please sit down. Those pictures are not going to come out anyway. And you know, for a girl who had Stafford on her back she spent an awful lot of time cheering for Max. We also had a somewhat rowdy Roy-Z contingent("ROOOOOOOY-ZEEEEEEEE! ROY-Z YOU ARE AMAAAAAZING!") and a comedy troupe of college-age boys - you know the ones who act like they know everything while every word coming out of their mouth proves they know very little - behind us. But hey, it's not hockey unless there's one fan around you you kind of want to punch in the head!

And still... HOCKEY!

Look! Hockey!

Usually Mark and I end up pulling for different teams in scrimmages but today his guy - Drew Stafford - and my guy - hello, are you new here? - were both wearing blue. And lo and behold, they won 7-4. The numbers on the roster handed out didn't match what the players were wearing, making them pretty much useless, but I do know Mark Mancari had two goals, one beautifully placed slap shot and one very nice tip-in, while Drew Stafford also had a pretty good-looking goal. Alas, Hank did not score any goals but he also did not get hurt so we'll call it a wash.

Speaking of not getting hurt, not only were the rumors of Tim Connolly's death greatly exaggerated, he made it through the first practice of the season in one piece! Let's give him a round of applause!

We were sitting right next to the Sabres TV set-up so we ended up seeing all kinds of cool people up close and personal.

Kevin Sylvester and Rick Jeanneret! (And Harry Neale.) They're pretty cute in their little matching jackets, aren't they?

Jaroslav Spacek! (Jaro, Toni Lydman and Teppo Numminen didn't participate in the scrimmage. There may have been others missing but they were the ones I noticed. Toni and Teppo did practice after the scrimmage. I didn't notice if Jaro did or not.)

Enter hilarious Czech inflected gibberish here.

And your General Manager, Darcy John Regier!

Darcy! Wheeee!

After I took this picture I stood there for a few seconds, trying to see if I could hear what they were talking about. As I walked back toward Mark I clapped and squealed "Darcy!" (Mark: "You're an odd one all right.") That led to this conversation with the guy at the end of the row we were standing next to:

"Oh, don't tell me you were just clapping for DARCY REGIER?!"
"I sure was," I said defiantly. "I love Darcy Regier!"
"I hate that guy! He lets all the good players go and keeps all the shitty guys. I can't wait till we get rid of him."

Many responses went through my head - Who brought those good players here in the first place? Exactly which player signed this off-season is the shitty one? How easy do you think his job is? Do you enjoy being a sheep-like idiot? among some more unprintable thoughts - but I just walked away. I had a feeling the two of us were not going to have a friendly, logical discussion about Darcy Regier's tenure in Buffalo. (And yes, I'm probably as biased in Darcy's favor as that guy was against him, I know.) It did make me wish I had some Top Shelf business cards though. I could've handed that guy a card, told him to look up the web address and instructed him to read all the posts labeled Darcy Regier.

I'm not super familiar with Maria Genero - I never, never watch the news - so I'm trying not to pass judgement on her before she really gets a chance to do her thing. I'm very excited about increased web content because I really, really love what the San Jose Sharks do with Shark Byte and it sounds kind of like that's what the Sabres are going for with the web features/magazine show. I love seeing the guys in more casual, fun situations. But holy moses, the bejeweled slug shirt she was wearing today was one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. I don't know how it translated on video but up close and in person it was terrible. I guess you can take it with a grain of salt though because that shirt is pretty much the opposite of anything I would ever, ever wear.

Looking at this photo, the sheer awfulness of that shirt doesn't really translate. Trust me, it was bad.

After scrimmage was the big jersey reveal. It should have been a little anti-climactic since Sabres Edge had a leaked photo of the jersey a few days ago but it was still pretty exciting. The lights were dimmed, a neat little video was shown, the dry ice was released and the players were individually introduced by RJ. The usuals got huge cheers along with Teppo Numminen who I think got the loudest ovation for good reason. Craig Rivet and Patrick Lalime also got warm welcomes. Mike Weber, Andrej Sekera, Clarke MacArthur and Patrick Kaleta were included in the introductions with the established starters.

Overall I'd say the jerseys looked really sharp in person and on the players. I liked the colors a lot more than I thought I would and the logo, of course, is awesome. The blue in the jersey still doesn't quite match the blue of the breezers though which is a tad annoying and I really, really hate that silver piping and unfortunately I hate it in person even more than in the photo. The stylized piping looks stupid with the classic striping and it's a touch too busy to have both. For now it would keep me from buying a third jersey but when the time comes to replace my current vintage, I'd have no problem picking one up. Anyway, the team did a lap around the ice so we could all get a good look before heading to center ice for a stick salute.

Click for a closer look. No C on Pommers. We were on the look-out for that.

The whole morning had Mark feeling VERY excited!

Look alive, man!

After that it was on to the autograph sessions. Mark and I had a pretty laid-back attitude toward autographs. Neither of us is really a collector and neither of us was super eager to have a long conversation with our favorite player but we did think it would kinda cool to get our jerseys signed if we could.

There were tables spread out around the 100 and 200 sections, two to three players to a table. Each table had its own line and each line was capped at 500. When you got in line you were given a ticket by a security guy and once the tickets were gone that line was closed. Here's the tricky part: No one knew which players were going to be at what table until the players showed up so you had to decide if you wanted to stand in a line and see who was signing there or walk around until a certain player showed and then get in his line. Obviously the risk there is the line being full by the time you realize who is where.

The way it was supposed to work as explained by the guard who gave us the ticket for the line we finally decided to stand in was that when the player showed up if you decided to get out of line, you gave your ticket back to the guard so someone else could use it. For example, if a Ryan Miller fan discovers she's in line for Henrik Tallinder but really wants to find Ryan, she gives the ticket back to the guard so there's a ticket for the Henrik Tallinder fan who's discovered she's in line for Andrew Peters. It all makes a very convoluted kind of sense, I guess.

The way it actually worked was like this: People just kept the tickets they had, went in search of the player they really wanted and once they found him, went back to the previous line. The guard pretty clearly told us that once you had a ticket you had to stay in line. If you left that line, you wouldn't be let back in whether you had a ticket or not. But anyone carrying a ticket was let back in line, no questions asked which is understandable. If I'm an arena security guard I'm certainly not going to get into a pissing match about someone wanting to get in line when they have a ticket. So the problem was, lines were running out of tickets even when there weren't a lot of people in line. When we finally found Hank, his line was not super long and there was still a lot of time left until 2:00 but there were no tickets left so the line had been closed. I'd be curious to know how many people took a ticket and jumped in line but then took off with said ticket in their hand when they realized they were waiting for Hank and not Jason Pominville or Derek Roy. I think the tickets are a fine idea. I certainly understand the need to cut off lines at a certain point and that's an easy, clear cut way to decide who gets in a line and who doesn't. But I don't understand why they can't just tell us what player is going to be at what table. If it takes 15 seconds to hand out 500 tickets at Ryan Miller's table so what? Tell everyone after that the line's closed and move on. At least people know who they are and aren't getting. That was the biggest complaint I heard from other fans. The lady in front of me in Hank's line said she'd gladly spend the whole time in Maxim Afinogenov's line even if meant only getting him but she couldn't find him and she was afraid if she kept looking she'd end up missing everyone.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer (another sign that hockey season is finally upon us: really long-ass posts from Heather B.), the lines in the 100 section were already absurd by the time Mark and I made our way up from the ice so we decided to head straight for the 200s. There's less room up there so we thought maybe they'd put some of the lower profile players up there. We found Drew Stafford pretty quickly and Mark jumped in line while I made my way around the rest of the level, trying to see if Hank was up there. I had to circle a few times because while some players had already started signing, some hadn't shown up yet so there were still empty tables. Mark had his jersey signed and was ready to move on and half the players still hadn't showed.

A little slow with the camera so I missed Mark with Staffy. Here he is pretending to care about Clarke MacArthur and Philip Gogulla.

Somewhere in the course of that half hour or so my nonchalance had morphed into borderline obsessive determination. I don't know if seeing other players up close made me realize it might be really neat to see Hank like that or if I got caught up in the crazed crowd or if I was jealous that Mark got his jersey signed but I was turning insane. I was running around the 200s, making sure Hank wasn't up there before I headed down to the 100s, looking everywhere but in front of me, thinking only, "HANK! HANK! HANK!" I suddenly ran into someone, half stepping on his foot and hitting him with my messenger bag. I glanced up, mumbled an apology and walked a few more steps before my brain registered, "Hey, that was Derek Roy." I don't know if there are many females in Buffalo who can say they ran over Derek to get to Hank but I'm one of the proud few. And if it comes out soon that Roy-Z is out with a broken toe, it's on me. Sorry.

Once it was clear Hank wasn't in the 200s, we rushed to the 100s. Okay, I rushed. Mark poked along behind me. And finally, finally! There he was!


I jumped in the line, excited that, as I said before, it wasn't really that long. The security guard wandered over to ask if I had a ticket which I didn't because they were all gone. He announced that anyone who didn't have a ticket had to leave the line. So I did. At first. And then I decided hey, eff that. I've been running around this place like crazy and unlike some of the people in the line I actually WANTED Hank's autograph. So I got back in line. The guard made his announcement a few more times, looking at me every time, but I guess he decided to leave me alone because he never really kicked me out of line. He did close the line right behind me though.

That blue is my jersey which I had taken off for autograph purposes (I had a t-shirt on so get your mind out of the gutter) and that's the end of the line right behind me.

I was hoping that they wouldn't get to me, the very last person in line, and declare that I couldn't have an autograph because I didn't have a ticket and if it did happen I was prepared to wave my Tallinder jersey around and appeal directly to Hank since he seems like a pretty nice guy. Just in case however, I managed to snag a ticket from someone who was bailing because they'd heard that Max had finally showed up at his line and there were still tickets left.

(As an aside, I think every third person was looking for Max. My mind, it was boggled. I knew he was popular but I guess I didn't realize he was still that popular. Every line I waited at for a few minutes contained a herd of people who were hoping and praying they were in Max's line. And not just kids although there was a lot of them too. Craziness.)

So now I could relax a little, plan what I was going to say when I finally came face-to-face with the guy whose picture is at the top of my blog, and stand back and observe a little. I was pretty delighted to see that Hank really is as pleasant and friendly as he always appears to be in interviews. I don't think being nice to people for a couple of hours is too much to ask of a person but we've all been to those autograph sessions where it's clear, especially toward the end, that players are going through the motions: take jersey/picture from fan, sign, say "no problem," reach for the next item. Not Henrik Tallinder. He looked up and made eye contact with everyone, he had a huge grin on his face the whole time, he made different comments to everyone, posed for as many pictures as people wanted, occasionally suggesting they check and make sure they got their picture and he went out of his way to fuss over any kids that came through the line. I think it was exactly the kind of experience that a small kid will remember years later as a really nice moment and I think that's lovely. I'm a grown-up so I've long come to accept that sometimes pro athletes aren't people I'd necessarily like and sometimes you just have to put personality aside and appreciate a guy's skill on the field of play... but I still want to like players, especially my favorites, so I was really happy to come away really liking Hank. But I'm jumping ahead of things. (I know, you were probably quite thrilled with that development at this point :P)

So it was finally my turn. Locked in on my target, I walked right by Drew Schiestel (sorry, Drew!) and spread my jersey out on the table in front of Hank. Being a less popular player he'd been signing a lot of other people's jerseys along with the little photos and slugs they were giving out. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Heather: HI!
Hank: (sees jersey, smile gets a little bigger) Ah, that's the number I like to see!
Heather: (after much thought about what to say, I say the first thing that pops into my head) YOU'RE MY FAVORITE! (I'd like to think I said that in a very calm, composed way but I fear there might have been a hint of a squeal in my voice. No idea what happened.)
Hank: And that's what I like to hear! Thank you.

I asked him if I could get a photo and he said, "Sure, you just have to come back here," so I shoved the security guy to the side. Hank was very, very tall - more on that in a second - and I was a little worried that Mark wasn't going to get us both in the picture. He's not super comfortable with a camera and he had already expressed concern about messing it up. Fortunately, Mark said aloud, "Wow, I can barely get both of you in. You're a tall guy!" at which point Hank leaned down a little closer to me. And the picture you saw yesterday was the happy result. Oh, heck. Here it is again in case you missed it.

:::happy sigh:::

Okay. Would any gentlemen reading this please skip to the next paragraph? I need to talk to the ladies. Personal stuff. You wouldn't want to hear it. Might be embarrassing for you. Really. Move along, move along... Are they gone? Okay, let me tell you this, ladies. Henrik Tallinder? Is beautiful even with that awful buzz cut. You know how in cartoons, sometimes the good-looking guy smiles and you get the little "ping!" sound effect with the twinkly glint and the sparkle in the eye? Well, Hank is the real-life equivalent of that. He's just so very sparkly. Noticeably blue eyes, big dimples, extremely charming. And when he stood up for the picture, holy cow, I thought he was going to go on forever. He's very lean which probably accentuates his height but man. Man! And you know what else? His hand was THIS CLOSE to being on my butt. Seriously. I'm pretty sure only the presence of my husband held him back. So, so, so pretty. Once again, Top Shelf business cards would've come in handy. I totally could've slipped one into the pocket of his hoodie.

Anyway, gentlemen, as I was telling the ladies, I really laid out my expectations for this season to Hank. I insisted on fewer turnovers and stronger play on the puck. "You're 6'3"," I said. "Now, I know you're a slim guy but really, there's no reason for you to get pushed around like that out there." He nodded in total agreement and thanked me for the help. It was a good talk. I'm confident he'll have a great 2008-2009.

One more note about Hank. I love him (in case I've been too subtle in the rest of this post) but he has the WORST signature in the world.

I know it's probably terrible signing your name over and over and over and I should talk because even in the best of circumstances my signature is H--th-- B followed by a squiggle way too short to actually be my last name. But Hank, come on now. He wrote HT 10 and then that little squiggle at the end. I don't know if that's supposed to be the rest of Tallinder or what. Mark interpreted as a little hockey stick which it does sort of resemble. Upon closer inspection I'm pretty sure it's Swedish for "Top Shelf is the best blog on the internet and I love Heather B."

And that was pretty much all she wrote for Puck Drop '08. We walked back to ice level to watch the end of practice but we were pretty wiped by that point, not to mention starving so we headed out after a few minutes.

The day had two more hockey surprise for us. One came with the announcement that Darcy had been renewed for two more years. I know of one guy in Buffalo who wasn't very happy when he heard that (ha ha!) but I love it. The second came when we fetched the mail.

We were beginning to quietly freak about not getting our tickets yet since it seemed everyone else in the blogosphere had received theirs. Turns out they were just sent to our old address - even though we changed our address with the Sabres - and caught up in mail forwarding.

Oh, hockey, sweet hockey. It's so good to see you again.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thoughts On Jason Pominville

So it's been a couple of hours now since I first heard the news about Jason Pominville's 5 year/$26.5 million extension. I have, quite frankly, been reeling ever since. I'm totally bummed. I'm devastated. Nay, I'm really and truly heart-broken. Pommers and Pommers' agent, how could you do this to me? HOW?! All I asked for in this whole negotiation was one thing, one small, simple thing and you went and screwed me.

We were THIS close to the Bucky Gleason Special, you guys! THIS close to 5/25 being bandied about in real stories about official contracts. I'm sure that was the hold up all along. I know Darcy Regier was pushing for it, dreaming of seeing 5/25 in bold, black newspaper print and blog type but no, Pommers and his agent went and got all greedy on us, DEMANDING that extra $1.5 million. Really, you HAD to have an extra $1.5? For what, Pommers? FOR WHAT?!

Will no one think of the bloggers?

(Please carefully read the labels before commenting.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hockey Is Coming! HOCKEY IS COMING!

Sabres Edge is suddenly being updated more regularly, there are real hockey stories in the newspaper, has new videos and interviews popping up all the time ... Hockey season is finally, FINALLY almost upon us! This time next week I'll have seen real Sabres in real uniforms practicing on real ice! Glory hallelujah!

- According to the linked story above, part of Lindy Ruff's plan for the season is to not suck so badly in the first couple of games. Great idea! Those of you who were around last season will remember that I whipped myself into a total frenzy defending the Sabres during the summer, insisting they were still a talented team, sending emails to every talking head in the business who dared to suggest otherwise. I can still feel the slow, sinking depression I felt watching Mike Comrie - I HATE THAT GUY - skating around the Sabres like pylons like it happened yesterday. I am fully behind the plan of winning the first two games. Or at least not playing like garbage. That'd be good. Then maybe I could say I was right, just a year ahead of schedule.

- One of the questions that keeps popping up is which defensemen are going to start with the big team. I think it pretty much has to be Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, Craig Rivet, Jaroslav Spacek, Andrej Sekera and Teppo Numminen in the top six with Nathan Paetsch sliding in at number seven. I think Sekera earned his shot at the top six with his stellar play at the end of last season and will play there, for better or for worse, unless he really, really, really struggles. I think he's clearly a defensemen of the future whereas Paetsch spot is, for now, a little more up in the air. Sekera is not going to sit in the press box. Neither is Mike Weber who should start in Portland for the same reason. Both of those guys need to be playing every night wherever they are. I'd love to see Weber make the jump with Sekera but I can't really see any of the other guys getting bumped and it can't hurt for Weber to be the top dog in Portland for a while. Besides, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before someone gets hurt and Weber gets his shot. If he plays well in that situation then we have a debate on our hands.

- As of this writing, I'm going to 14 Sabres games this season. Fourteen! Pretty impressive for someone who was barely paying attention to hockey a handful of years ago. For all my squawking about how we should put ourselves on the season ticket list, I'm really not sure I could go to too many more games. I love being in the arena but I also love sitting on my couch at home and watching on TV. Easier to pace and hide in the other room during high moments of stress.

Now that I've got this whole home game thing under pretty good wraps, what I'd really like to do is start going to some away games. I've only seen the Sabres in one other place - Atlanta - but that was before I really liked hockey. I remember being impressed by the number of Sabres fans - that was right after the '99 Cup run - but I definitely didn't appreciate it the way I would now. The guy in the face paint who screamed "LET'S GO BUFF-A-LO! YEEEEEAAAAAAAH!" seemed a little scary at the time. Now I would have no choice but to return his call.

So here's the new plan. Starting this season, Top Shelf is going to start venturing out to other NHL venues. This season I think I'll tackle Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Boston. Now I just need someone to buy the tickets, provide car/air travel, and pay me for any time off from work. But otherwise, I think it's a great plan! (Okay, I drifted into sarcasm there but I really would love to do it. If by some crazy chance an opportunity presents itself, I'm so there.)

- Note to the Sabres: This whole Puck Drop thing sounds like it could be fun. So... maybe you get let us in on a few more details? Like... I don't know, who's going to be signing autographs, where, and for how long? Or maybe something really basic like what time practice starts? That would be helpful for planning my Saturday.

- My new commute to work takes me on the Skyway. As I was coming home today, just as HSBC Arena was coming into view on my right, this song - no lie! - started playing on my iPod. Hockey is coming! HOCKEY IS COMING!

25 More Things... And Then Hockey!

Here's the last part of Lee's 100 Things. And then I'll start blogging again, I promise. Really. Really, I will!

76. My current desktop computer wallpaper is the Green Lantern.

77. My current laptop computer wallpaper is of Lena Headey. (It's taken me a while to come around to Headey as Sarah Connor but she's growing on me.)

78. I am good at not losing things. My current wallet and watch are the only wallet and watch I have ever owned. I've also never lost my car keys or locked them in the car. (I've lost more than enough sets of keys to off-set Lee's remarkable record.)

79. My favorite non-star athlete is Oliver Perez of the New York Mets. (Oliver Perez: One great year for the Pirates, fell off the face of the Earth, went to NY, now one of their most important non-stars.)

80. In my Microsoft Word it always says that "internet" is not a word. Usually when Microsoft Word is wrong about a word I just add it to the dictionary but I have never added internet to the dictionary. I like the irony that 99% of what I write is going on the internet but the program I'm using to write it says there is no such thing as the internet. (Firefox's spell check always wants to capitalize "internet" so that's probably proper and probably why Word flags it. I don't like the way it looks capitalized though.)

81. Lee ranks the potatoes: 1. Baked Potato, 2. Potato Skins, 3. Mashed Potatoes, 4. French Fries, 5. Potato Chips. (I love a good potato skin more than anything but most restaurants just don't know how to make them anymore. Potato skins should be just that: skins, very, very little potato. Crispy and crunchy. At some places they may as well be slightly smaller baked potatoes there's so many potato on them.)

82. My most quoted television show between me and my closest friend is either The Tick or Sealab 2021.

83. I was once on a trip with my youth group from church when I simultaneously got sun burn AND poison ivy. On the way to the airport to go back home our bus broke down on the way to the airport. We didn't have a place to stay that night so I had to sleep on the floor of the airport with sun burn and poison ivy.

84. My favorite game of any sports that I ever saw was Game 7 of the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves. (Seconded.)

85. My favorite game that one of my favorite teams played in was the 1997 Sugar Bowl between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles.

86. I think that Tom Cruise being a Scientologist is a cover up. Every since he started talking about Scientology people started talking about that instead of his real flaw. He's really really short. Seriously, there are no more Tom is short jokes. Just Tom is a Scientologist jokes.

87. I like Firfely/Serenity better than Star Wars. (Oof. Hmmm. I do love, love, love Firefly but better than Star Wars? I don't think I can go there if for no other reason than sentimentality.)

88. I actually watched the season premieres of 90210, Gossip Girls AND One Tree Hill. I'm so ashamed.

89. The one CW show I will never be ashamed to watch is Gilmore Girls. I own the first four seasons. It got kind of crappy after that though. (Gilmore Girls at its peak is definitely one of my all-time favorites.)

90. I have an Amazon Wishlist. The Top Five things I want are:
1. Cowboy Bebop Remix: Anime Legends
2. Pushing Daisies - Season 1
3. Paddington Bear Treasury
4. Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
5. Oldboy
(Top Five Things on Heather's Amazon Wishlist: Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991, Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Edition, Batman: The Animated Series Volumes 3 and 4, iPod Touch, Iron Man.)

91. I used to have a re-occuring dream. In the dream I was a mailman and my pet penguin rode with me on my route.

92. My GPA in high school was 1.8.

93. My GPA in college was 3.8. (Mine's the reverse. Good in high school, terrible in college.)

94. I have a degree in 3D Animation because at the time I wanted to make video games for a living. Unfortunately I started growing out of the video game phase (finally) and when I got my degree I no longer wanted to do it. Now I will have school loans to pay off until the year 4018 to pay for a degree that I don't use.

95. I could grow facial hair when I was a freshmen in high school. I thought it was pretty cool that I could grow more facial hair than most seniors. I hate it now. It's annoying.

96. Several years ago I started to stick my ticket stubs in a mug full of change whenever I would come home from going to the movie theater. So far I have 22 ticket stubs. The oldest one I have is for Star Wars Episode I (1999).

97. I hate the beach. I don't like the sun. I don't like the sand. I don't like the water. Give me a mountain and some snow any day. (Same here. I'd much rather be tucked away in a cabin in the shady mountains than be baking on the beach somewhere.)

98. My favorite teacher of all time was my 9th and 10th grade English teacher Susan Dryden. She is the reason I started to enjoy reading and writing. (Miss Dryden was one of my favorites too. She went on to become the press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush so she did okay for herself.)

99. Lee ranks the Ice Creams: 1. Cookies in Cream (if it is Blue Bell), 2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (if it is Blue Bell), 3. Chocolate, 4. Mint Chocolate Chip, 5. Klondike Bar (Sadly, no Blue Bell in Buffalo.)

100. I hate it when people say "it goes without saying" and then says it anyway.

It goes without saying that I think Lee - well, I guess I don't have to say it, you know?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Case of the Blogging Blahs

I think what we have here is a serious blogging malaise. This is my first real malaise in a year and a half - I wrote consistently all last summer and while I was crippled and hopped up on pain killers earlier this year - but I still feel kind of bad. Please, hockey, come back soon! I need you!

Since I can't think of anything interesting to say, Lee's going to take over and finish off his 100 Things. Part three is below, part four will come at some point this weekend. Any comments in parentheses are mine. Because it's my blog, you see. I'll add editorial comments if I please.

All right, take it away, Lee!

51. I have once again started a blog. You can read it here. I know that right now it is very black and dark. I haven't played around with any of the settings yet. (In case you haven't noticed, Lee's a good writer. As someone who's read all 218 of the blogs he's written thus far I can tell you it's worth checking out.)

52. Recently my cable provider changed all the channels on me and for a couple of weeks I would flip through the channels searching for the right channel. Finally I gave in and decided to look up the channels on TV Guide. While looking through the channels I realized that I know have Versus. Yes, that means that now even us Alabamians can watch hockey games. I plan on watching as much hockey as possible this season and I'm sure I will blog about it although my blog will not be about strictly hockey. My mind can't stay on one topic like that. It's always jumping around. (Yes, now even Alabamians can watch terribly presented hockey with inane announcing and annoying commentary! Yay! Still, inane and annoying hockey is better than no hockey, right? And since the Sabres are on Versus a lot this year, Lee can be a real live fan in no time.)

53. If I could put any one player into any Hall of Fame it would be Andre Dawson in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Jack Morris although yes, that is almost all based on the 1991 World Series which is, I realize, not the point of the Hall of Fame. I don't care.)

54. My favorite girl scout cookies are the thin mints. (Thin mints are good especially cold but I could eat a couple boxes of Tagalongs easy. Mmmmmmmm... Tagalongs....)

55. I love Gonzo, Cookie Monster, Grover and Daffy Duck.

56. I hate Kermit, Miss Piggy, Big Bird and Bugs Bunny. (I can go along with all of those except Kermit. Kermit is the straight man in the middle of the Muppet chaos and therefore a very important element. Not as much fun as the others? Okay, sure. Hateable? Harsh, man.)

57. I love stories about dumb criminals. My favorite story about a dumb criminal was when one guy decided to rob a karate academy while the academy was still open. A few things here. 1) Why would anybody choose to rob a karate academy? Does this town not have banks? 2) Why would you rob the one place where every single person can kick your butt? Sweep the Leg! No Mercy!

58. I prefer hard candy or gummy candy over chocolate candy.

59. The worst championship in sports is the NBA Finals. There hasn't been an interesting NBA finals since the Bulls vs. Suns in 1993.

60. MMA > Boxing

61. My favorite late night talk show host is Conan O'Brien. (I would've said Conan was my favorite a few months ago but I'm developing quite the love for Craig Ferguson.)

62. The best re-occurring late night skit is easily Conan O'Brien's Walker, Texas Ranger lever.

63. I live in Alabama but I'm not a huge country fan. I did go through a country phase at one point in high school but the only country singer I have to listen to now is the same singer that got me to like country music, Tim McGraw.

64. My favorite cover song of all-time is Tim McGraw's Tiny Dancer. (Stevie Wonder's We Can Work It Out, Ryan Adam's Wonderwall, Johnny Cash's Hurt, and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.)

65. My least favorite cover song is a tie between Rascal Flats' Life is a Highway and Sheryl Crow's Sweet Child O Mine. (Ugh, yeah. Both of these are awful. I also hate Smashmouth's I'm a Believer which was inescapable for a while there.)

66. My favorite Alabama athlete of all-time is Bo Jackson. I remember when ESPN did their countdown of the greatest athlete of the century Dick Schaap, who many people adore, chose Bo Jackson as #1. Ahead of Jordan, ahead of Ali, ahead of Gretzky, ahead of Walter Payton. His argument was that Bo Jackson might not have won championships or awards but he was the best ATHLETE. (Bo Jackson was a god among men, yo. When Mike Weber, one of the young Sabres, stepped on the ice last season with 34 on his back my mind automatically clicked, "Ah, yes. Bo Jackson." And all the credit in the world to him for handling his career ending injuries and post-sports life with such good-humor and grace.)

67. My favorite Buffalo athlete of all-time is Bruce Smith. Bruce is probably the most underrated defensive player in the history of the NFL.

68. My favorite actor born the same year as me is Joseph Gordon Levitt. (JGL seemed to turn into a really good-looking, talented guy almost over night. He totally snuck up on me.)

69. My favorite actress born the same year as me is Kristen Bell.

70. Heather is my favorite sister and Mark is my favorite brother-in-law. (Yay! Hey, wait...)

71. When I shave I don't shave one side and then the other. I shave one stroke on one side and then one stroke on the other side and then keep swapping sides.

72. My favorite Christmas present ever was the first Playstation. Fortunately my brother did not put it in the oven.

73. When I was eight years old I wanted to be Madmartigan from the movie Willow.

74. My favorite movie trilogy is Karate Kid. If you've never seen the third movie or haven't seen it in a while then you should. Unlike most movie trilogies the third movie improves on the second movie. (I have to admit, I can't even remember the third one. I have no recollection of it whatsoever. I did like the second one though.)

75. If I was only allowed to tell people about one television show that I wanted to get better ratings it would be Pushing Daisies. (It's true. He won't leave me alone about this show.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

All right, now that I finally finished my mammoth vacation recap, let's go over all the Sabres news that developed while I was out-of-town.

Where should we start?

Let's see...



Gosh. Not much happened while I was away, did it?

The only real story I recall seeing is the tidbit about Larry Quinn getting a minority piece of the Sabres franchise but come on, what a snooze of a story. One, I'm assuming it's a little tiny piece, Tom Golisano's way of rewarding Quinn, maybe pushing the idea that you take better care of something you have a personal stake in. Two, even if this is some dastardly plan to pass ownership on to Quinn, I don't really care. He just does not rankle me the way he does most people. I wouldn't say I harbor any affection for him, certainly not the way I do for Darcy Regier, but I can't get a good hate-on for him either.

I was a little disappointed that Jason Pominville wasn't signed at some point during the week. Every time I had an internet connection I scrolled through all my favorite Sabres sites, hoping that the previous one just hadn't heard the news yet. I'm assuming that if a deal doesn't get done before the season starts it'll just be put on pause - negotiating during the season last year was a huge distraction for everyone and it's not a necessity in this case since Pominville is still just a RFA - but it would be nice to have it wrapped up sooner rather than later. I don't think Jason Pominville is going to be under the radar much longer if he still is.

Ooh, look! I start to write something last night, get too lazy to finish it and something of some interest is posted on Sabres Edge: a leaked photo of the new third jersey. Check it out:

Some thoughts:

I miss the bright blue but I don't hate this blue as much as I thought I might. The sweet logo and the gold stripes go a long way toward making up for the "new and improved" dark blue.

I really like the laces.

I hate the silver panel at the neck where the Reebok logo is and I hate the silver piping under the sleeves. I'm not a big fan of that look anyway but I think it looks especially stupid with the gold and white stripes around the sleeves and waist. You don't need both.

In a nutshell, if this is step one toward getting rid of the slug altogether which I've heard rumors of (from really legitimate sources like message boards and talk radio), then I'm all for it. I was ready to hate it but I don't know, I kind of like it. I don't know if I'll rush right out and buy one but I wouldn't be opposed to getting one eventually as long as they don't look don't look dog ugly in person.

Oh, and this is all assuming this is a legitimate photo. Which it may not be. But hey, it gave me something to write about for a few minutes.

(The Brian Urlacher honor du-al commercial? Genius. It actually gets funnier every time I see it.)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Have Returned! or Heather Does Pennsylvania

So did you miss me? Oh, I know you did, you don't have to say it. Allow me to hit you with the highlights of my whirlwind trip across the great state of Pennsylvania. Because I know you're dying to know the details. Yes, I am about to cram an entire vacation into one post. Yes, this will probably be very, very long even by my standards. Feel free to scroll to the end and leave a comment which implies you read the post whether you did or not.

The trip began in Pittsburgh. My mom and dad were both born and raised in Pittsburgh and three of their four kids, including me, were born there as well. Even though I was just a baby when Dad got transferred to Birmingham, Pittsburgh has always had a really special place in my heart. Almost any time we went out-of-town when I was a kid, we piled in the car and headed there. One of my very favorite childhood memories is when we would finally arrive late at night, me tired and groggy, curled up against the window in the backseat. When I knew we were getting close I'd peer out the window, waiting for that moment when we'd exit the Fort Pitt Tunnel and boom! all of a sudden Pittsburgh was laid out in front of us, all those beautiful bridges and buildings lit up against the three rivers. It was breath-taking every single time. The New Yorker once said Pittsburgh is the only city with its own entrance and that's exactly the way it feels. (You MUST click on the image below to get the full effect.)

Photo courtesy of

Some of us drove in from Buffalo and some of us flew into Pittsburgh. Those of us who drove - my mom, brothers Chris and Lee and me - arrived a little earlier than planned which gave us a little time to kill. When Mom asked if there was something we wanted to do, I imposed my will on the group and we headed off to see the Wall. The Wall, for those not in the know, is the remaining chunk of the outfield wall from Forbes Field, former home to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Forbes is probably best known for this moment. When I was a kid I had one wall of my bedroom pretty much covered with Andy Van Slyke but this picture was tucked away in one corner.

Bill Mazeroski hits the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history, 1960. Let's go Bucs!

I've always wanted to visit the Wall and I was in the middle of reading The Best Game Ever: Pirates 10, Yankees 9: October 13, 1960 which made the visit even more timely. (As an aside, I highly recommend the book to baseball fans out there, particularly my fellow Pirates fans. And I know there are a couple out there, Lee, so zip it.)

I'm not kidding when I say I got a little choked up. I was standing in the same space as Roberto Clemente!

Lee patrols the outfield, ready to leap into action.

Your intrepid blogger.

The first thing we did once we were all together was have a birthday party for my nephew Luke who will turn 2 in a week or so. The little guy did pretty well for himself, I have to say.

Here Luke keeps a close eye on Daddy as he opens his presents. Dad kept taking the presents Luke had already opened and taking a closer look at them and Luke was not entirely sure he liked this. Smart move by the kid. I can still see Lee standing in the middle of the street outside our house on Christmas morning, in tears while John and Chris ran his new remote controlled tank up and down the street, refusing to let Lee play with it.

Don't worry, Bills fans. I talked to the little guy about that football later.

Monday morning the group - my grandmother and aunt (both Pittsburghers), my mom, my three brothers, my sister-in-law, my nephew and me - took a ride on the Gateway Clipper. The Gateway Clipper travels along the three rivers of Pittsburgh while a tour guide occasionally shares some interesting facts, allowing you to take in the sights of the city. Here are some of my favorite views.

Bridges galore in Pittsburgh! I have this site marked just so I can look at them when I want to.

The Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet and form the Ohio River. When you're up close, that fountain is pretty impressive.

When we rode by PNC Park, I taught Luke how to say "baseball." Later in the trip when there was a baseball game on a TV in the restaurant where we were eating, he pointed at it and said, "Baseball!" Clearly, he's a genius and I'm the best aunt ever.

John and Chris (with camera) acting like the grown-ups that they are.

After a quick lunch we piled into the car and headed off for Gettysburg. Since the other car was packed full of people I rode with John, Sarah and Luke. Look how happy Lukie Ookie was to have Aunt Hea-er in his car. (I was "Hea-er," Chris was "Tris" and Lee was "Fee/Flee/Lee" depending on the day. But really we were all "Tris" interchangeably for the most of the week.)

The next morning John, Sarah (sister-in-law), Luke, Lee and I set out for a tour of Gettysburg. John purchased a CD guide to listen to in the car but between varying levels of interest and the little guy in the back, we ended up doing the abbreviated version. Oh, there was also the fact that Mom, who was supposed to be taking Grandma to Lancaster for the afternoon, called a few minutes into the tour to inform us that she had somehow locked her purse and keys in the trunk of her car which meant she and Grandma were stuck at the visitors center where we'd left them until Lee came back with his key.

Still I did learn that the improved artillery and accuracy made the Civil War the first war where it was more advantageous to hold the defensive position than to be on the offensive all the time. And I did, of course, take pictures.

I did NOT learn about communication via text messaging or pink rifles.

Little Round Top and Big Round Top. (Big Round Top is the big one.)

Pretty crazy to imagine one of the bloodiest battles in history in the middle of all that beautiful scenery.

John explains to Lee how the cannon works. Lee appears to be interested. Not that it matters because John would be talking anyway.

That night we went on a Gettysburg ghost tour but it was a bit of a snooze. At that point I was pretty wiped out though and the ol' ankle was starting to cramp a bit so it's possible I just wasn't in the mood. Anyway, I have no pictures!

On our way out of Gettysburg we had to stop at Boyds Bear Country. My sister-in-law Sarah is a huge fan of Boyds and this place is like a temple for collectors. It is huuuuge and stuffed to the rafters with bears and other stuffed animals of every size. I don't really collect Boyds but when I was wandering through the nursery portion of the store - complete with baby bears in cradles and nurses walking around burping bears - I saw this little guy and well, he had to come home with me. The tag around his neck had a name on it but I didn't like it so I named him Harry instead. Harry really enjoyed his portion of the trip, I think.

Meet Harry!

Harry passes time in the hotel by reading...

Checking in on the Pirates (he called Scott Boras some pretty unprintable words)...

And watching the Mets-Phillies game.

I'll be honest, things got a little dicey at this point in the trip. John and his family were staying in a different hotel than we were at the next stop so Mom, Grandma, Chris, Lee and I all had to cram into one car. This would be fine if we were still 4, 6 and 16 but we're not. We are not small people in the Henderson family so the squeeze, it was tight. I had to make sure I had my book and iPod out and in the correct position because once we were all in, there was no moving of the arms going on.

Fortunately, halfway to Harrsiburg (I think - I admit my days are getting muddied) we stopped at the Dollhouse Museum. Despite the name, the Dollhouse Museum is really a toy museum. There are dolls involved but there were lots of other things to look at too which is nice since outside of a Cabbage Patch preemie, I wasn't a big doll kid.

This is more my speed:

Hot wheels! (This was really supposed to be G.I. Joes but none of my photos of that display turned out.)

One of the best things about brothers who are much older than you are all the hand me down toys. Even though some of these things were before my time, I remember them being around probably because of John and Chris.

Bert. Hey, Bert. Bert?

Chris says he had the Schroeder pillow but I kind of remember it being Linus. I'm sure I'm right.

And then the last room was like one huge flashback for Lee and me. Observant readers will remember a story I once told about Chris "accidentally" melting Lee's Mr. T doll. Well, you should have heard us when we spotted this guy:

First name Mister, middle name period, last name T!

Can't you just hear him saying, "I pity the fool!" I offered to the distract the curator while Lee lifted the Mr. T - it didn't look like they had a very high-tech security set-up - but Mom frowned upon talk of theft and we didn't want her and Grandma to get mixed up in our schemes. Chris, on the other hand, totally owes Lee and should have been ready to take the fall if it came to that. (We totally had that stuffed Alf too.)

Here we have my entire late elementary/early junior high years on one shelf: MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and of course, the New Kids on the Block. (Eeeeeeeee! I LOVE YOU, DONNIE!!!!111!!!)

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! Oh, oh, oh, oh! Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! The right stuff!

Buffalo represent!

Oh. Oh, wait. Never mind. But hey, look at the young Thomas Vanek action figure!

See, because the doll is from Austria... and Vanek is from Austria. Get it? Come on, the idea of little Thomas dressed up like that isn't funny? Oh, fine. Never mind.

Despite the fun distraction of the toys, as soon as we got back in the car, misery set in. We still had a little bit of a drive to Harrisburg and quite frankly, dear readers, I didn't think I was going to make it. I totally snuck out of there before my family to see if I could find a hotspot for my laptop to connect to and I got nothing. The final blow. Harry and I plugged in the iPod and tried to think happy thoughts for the next hour and a half.

After a night's sleep in Harrisburg however I was feeling better and ready to take on the Pennsylvania Capitol building.

The main rotunda

My favorite part of the building were these mosaics in the main floor showing the history of Pennsylvania and things important to the state.

At the building's dedication, Roosevelt called the Capitol "the handsomest building I ever saw." Roosevelt was probably not wearing flip flops at the time.

Luke and Uncle Fee check out the sights. Luke kept pointing and saying, "Ooooh!"

Unfortunately most of my pictures inside the building came out really dark and I've already been working on this post for days so I don't feel like messing with them to get them to look better. I know you're all heart-broken. The building really is beautiful though. If you're interested in pictures you can actually see, check out this site.

As the week wound down, we finally headed back to Pittsburgh. It was the first time in a few years we've had a day to spend there so we did a couple of our favorite things.

First up, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The museum has the world's third largest collection of dinosaur fossils and is considered one of the top Natural History museums in the country. It's very cool.

Before we get to the dinosaurs however, a quick Top Shelf geology quiz for you, taken from a display in the museum.

Question: Granite is an igneous rock that is formed as magma solidified. What is the best way to date such rocks?
Correct answer: Bring flowers and candy.

Question: Can you date sedimentary rock which was carried along and rounded by a river?
Correct answer: No, it's already married.

(First joke is Lee's, second joke is mine. Yes, this is exactly the kind of humor the Henderson family excels in.)

Most of my pictures are the result of me telling Lee to do something ridiculous. What else are little brothers for, you know?


Lee provides some perspective.

Lee's femur doesn't quite measure up to these guys.

The view from above. Pretty impressive in real-life.

Let's go Buff-a-lo! (Okay, they were oxen. My heart's in the right place.)

Quite possibly my favorite thing in the museum. You know this sign means someone actually tried to chew one of those rocks, probably cracking a few teeth in the process.

After the museum, a baseball game! It's been a number of years since we made it to a Pirates game during our Pennsylvania trip so I was super stoked.

Let's go Bucs! Let's go Bucs!

Before we went in for the game, Lee and I wandered around a bit. We were running a little late because of the other part of the family but we wanted to look at some things outside before it got too dark.

Lee faces off with a very intimidating Willie Stargell. (We are fam-i-ly!)

These player statues are pretty popular photo stops and there's often a line of people waiting to pose with them. After the game some of us were cracking up at a guy who ran over to the Stargell statue and put an arm up behind him and leaned back for a quick picture, without really paying attention to where his hand was. He's going to be pretty surprised when he looks at his photos and realizes he was grabbing Pops' package.

The Roberto Clemente Bridge, right behind the outfield wall, is closed to automobiles during games, allowing fans to walk over from other parking areas.

PNC Park is one of my very favorite places on the face of the earth. It's built along the Allegheny River and the city skyline lies right behind the outfield wall which makes for some beautiful scenery. It consistently comes up in polls as one of the best parks in the Major Leagues. It's really very lovely. Click on the next few images to get a better look.

The out-of-town scoreboard in right field shows the score, the inning, which team is currently hitting and how many outs there are which made it very easy for Lee to keep tabs on the Mets. (As an aside, I was trying to remember if the Mets won or lost that night but the scoreboard calendar on pops up under the sidebar ad making it impossible to actually read. Nice move, My favorite tidbit about PNC is that the right field wall is 21 feet tall in honor of Roberto Clemente who played right field and wore 21.

Uuuuunfortunately, the team playing INSIDE the park isn't nearly as beautiful as the park itself. The score at the end of the first was a pretty good indicator of what it's been like to be a Pirates fan for the last oh, 16 years or so.


Around the fifth inning or so we made a trip to the main gift shop at PNC. There was all kinds of stuff to wade through as we tried to zero in on our souvenirs.

I decided against the 70's flat-top. Pretty sharp though, right?

Lee picked up a classic black hat with gold P, Chris purchased a Roberto Clemente jersey (something he's been talking about doing for years now) and I scored a pile of jersey tees - a Jason Bay (yes, I know he's no longer a Pirate but it was on clearance and I feel very strongly that you can never have too many t-shirts), a Nate McClouth (been too long since I owned a current Pirate) and a Bill Mazeroski (in honor of our trip to the Wall and my then-current reading material). I think it's worth pointing out that immediately after I pulled on my McClouth tee, Nate hit a home run for the Pirates only run of the game. Atta boy, Natey.

Nate McClouth, sporting the really awful red jersey. Which reminds me...

The Pirates' opponent this fine August evening was the Milwaukee Brewers. Once upon a time, the Brewers logo looked like this:

That logo is sweet. It's an M! And a B! In the shape of a baseball glove and ball! Come on, that's awesome! And it's drawn in bright, distinct colors!

Now the Brewers logo looks like this:

It's an M. Just an M. In dark boring colors like everyone in the world wears now. Oh, sure they made a stab at referencing the team name by slapping a piece of barley under the M but let's face it, this logo blows.

Anyway, the game ended with a 3-1 Pirates loss. Sad. Thanks goodness Andy Van Slyke was there to make me feel better.

The hearts were painted right on the poster! It was crazy!

Anybody still out there? Anybody? Hey, if you're still reading at this point, congratulations, I'm pretty sure that makes you my favorite reader! Sorry for the long and arduous slog. Now that I've gotten this post out of my system hopefully things can go back to normal: Really, really short posts that are ALWAYS about the Sabres. Heh.

Say goodbye, Luke!
Goodbye, Luke!