I'm pretty sure I've gone on record with how much I dislike the Sabres road game presentation this season. I understand that the organization is trying to save some bucks but man, am I tired of looking at Kevin Sylvester all the time. He is perfectly fine at what he does but I think he needs other people around him. He's a moderator and when he's on the road by himself, there's no one to moderate. Add in the fact that we've been watching the other teams' broadcasts for the last week or so and I was really excited to have the Sabres back at HSBC. Do you know how weird it is to watch a bunch of games done by someone other than Rick Jeanneret? But when I sat down in front of the TV, you know who I was really, really excited to see?
I was totally caught off-guard by how happy it made me to see and hear Rob Ray again. It turns out I really, really love him and it makes total sense. Two people have been Sabres all of, or almost all of, my tenure as a Sabres fan: Lindy Ruff and Rob Ray. Both guys are burrowed deep in my fan consciousness. They're Sabres through and through to the point where it's hard to separate them from the blue and gold.
I think it's really easy to take what Rob does for granted. He stands beside the bench and says goofy things, occasionally chipping in with an observation from ice level. It seems easy. A brief shot of him standing next to Pierre McGuire however was enough to remind me that not everyone can do that job well. (I was kind of hoping we'd cut back to the bench at some point and find Pierre with his jacket pulled over his head, Rob pounding away at him.) Rob, unlike say, Pierre actually points out things going on down there between players or players and coaches that are somewhat interesting. He picks his spots as far as jumping into the conversation goes, he never steps on the play-by-play or the interaction in the booth and when he says something funny it's actually funny. When a Toronto player slipped in front of him and he immediately threw out, "Careful, it's icy down here," it was hilarious. I thought about and laughed at that the rest of the night. His job is a fine line between saying too much and saying too little and being overly serious and being too ridiculous and I think he straddles the line perfectly.
My favorite thing about Rob is that he's not the least bit afraid to be a goofball. He jokes around with everyone around him and appears to be having a ball. He knows exactly what he is - a guy who made his name with his fists and not his skill - and he's perfectly okay with that. He comes across as someone who is genuinely thrilled to still be making money in hockey. I find that all very endearing.
In closing, I would like to offer Rob Ray's take on fighting in the NHL. As commenter mcguffers pointed out in the IPB comment thread, taken out of context, it's pretty amazing:
“If two guys wanna do it, and they know how to do it, then let them do it while 18,000 watch and cheer.”
If Rob was reading the above, I'm sure he'd be giggling like a 12-year-old, just like we were. Long live, Rob Ray!