I just want to give a very sincere thank you to everyone who's emailed, tweeted, or commented in the last few days. I also want to thank those of you who wanted to comment but couldn't find the comment button. I uh, didn't really think about that when placing the black veil of mourning over Top Shelf. I'll admit, I've had the use of S.O.S. planned for Hank's departure since the trade deadline. It seemed like a funny, over-the-top way to express what would probably be some sadness. I'm glad some of you enjoyed it. And apologies to those of you who had to explain to your co-workers why ABBA was suddenly blaring from your computers. Hee.
The truth is, as silly as the song was, I am genuinely sad, more than I really anticipated being. I had pretty much assumed that Hank was going to be moving on (and I figured it was going to be years more than money that was the sticking point) and I thought, okay, that's cool. I'm 32-years-old and he's a professional hockey player. Professional athletes move on, that's partly what they do. I'm not 9-years-old anymore, you know? But then I saw the first tweet that said "Tallinder to Devils" and well, I was a broken-hearted kid again. No tears (close but not quite) but a sad, heavy feeling that lingered for the rest of the day plus some? Definitely.
The funny thing is, I'm kind of happy about that. I'm a firm believer in that old adage that you cheer for the front of the jersey and not the back. I wish Hank well in Jersey, but I'll happily cheer for Mike Weber in his place next season. I'd drop Derek Roy off a cliff yesterday, but he's a Sabre and I'd rather him lead the league in points than any player on any other team. But the truth, for me at least, is that it does partly matter who's wearing the jerseys, and I'm happy to know that's as true for now as it was when I was a kid. I spend a lot of time here talking about things like the salary cap, small markets vs. large markets, free agency, all kinds of numbers. And while I do find that stuff really interesting and I think there's a lack of smart talk about it in Buffalo, at least from the mainstream media (lots of blogs have filled that gap), the bottom line of being a sports fan, again for me at least, is the attachment you feel to a team and the individuals who make up that team. We can certainly debate how valuable Hank was to the Sabres, whether he was worth keeping or whether the Devils overpaid, but we can't debate this: I loved Hank an awful lot. I can't even really tell you why, I just did. I enjoyed watching him play, he played a kind of game, I appreciated, but I also just liked him. I rooted for him to do well and felt an admittedly warped but genuine pride when he did. I defended him when he was criticized - even when he deserved it - and I liked seeing and hearing him. And for all the (understandable) focus around here on Hank, I really liked Toni a lot too. If you asked me to name my three favorite guys on the team, well, that's two of them. While I'm old enough to understand that players don't love us as much as we love them and the league works under certain financial constraints and players move on, it appears that I'm still young enough at heart to occasionally say, "That SUCKS and I don't like it ONE BIT!" Because speaking purely on an emotional level, this sucks and I don't like it one bit.
I wasn't really planning on changing the look of the blog yet, but when I put the black on, I forgot to write down the code for the blue I was using. I had been planning on trying out some new templates so since I couldn't get the old look back, I figured now was as good a time as any to look at some different things. The look that's up now isn't permanent - I hate the yellow background on the text boxes but I haven't quite figured out what to do with them yet. And while the banner isn't necessarily permanent either - I'm still playing with various photos - the guy in them probably is, at least for this season, even if he rarely ever goes Top Shelf. Unless it went off the goalie's head first. But more on that another time. For now, dude, I'm pretty bummed out.