Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seattle Supersonics unveil their arena plans

Seattle taxpayers are already bristling under the weight of debt payments for Safeco Field, Qwest Field and yes, the demolished Kingdome. Now they are being asked to pony up another $500 million for a replacement venue for the NBA Supersonics, who play at a perfectly fine Key Arena. The Sonics unveiled these architectural renderings this week, for a dramatic 20,000 seat edifice which would be built on the south end of Lake Washington in the suburb of Renton.

But while co-owners Tom Ward and Aubrey McClendon aren't busy threatening to move their team to another city unless they get their free playpen, they are spending their time funding and propping up organizations such as Americans United to Preserve Marriage, a group tied into uber-sleezeball and crackpot Gary Bauer and his Family Research Council. What's next? Tim Hardaway named new Sonics GM?

So let's get this straight - two people are in a loving relationship and want to commit themselves to each other but are of the same gender - IMMORAL! Billionaire sports franchise owners unashamedly hold a gun to the heads of the fans who have supported them unless they spend yet more money to build them a new arena - MORAL!

Whew! Glad we got this cleared up!

Chastaham and Foudabox redux

Can't wait to hear Jim Rome start ripping on this again.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sabres 6, Leaves 1

Yet ANOTHER scratch in the Buffalo lineup tonight, as the other co-captain Daniel Briere sits this one out because of the flu.

This time around, the Sabres played one man short on the roster, meaning plenty of ice time for Stafford, MacArthur, Kaleta, Ryan and Mancari, the "Saberks" crew.

If there was any one night to just pack it in, coast through a game and regroup for Friday, this would be it. Briere will then be back, Zubrus will join the lineup and we'll see where Drury is at.

Yet if it's anyone who packed it in it was Toronto, who did outshoot the Sabres but were pretty much late getting to the puck, late on hits and earned every bit of the scorn they got from the boo-birds at the ACC.

MacArthur tallied his 2nd; Stafford scored as well. My man Jochen Hecht has the heart of a lion and picked it up tonight in a big way when the other skill guys were absent, scoring two goals.

With the Montreal Canadiens reeling, Friday night is looking pretty good for our boys right about now.

Reflections on an incredible day...

I fired up the laptop well before 10 AM... then turned on WGR-AM to listen to the discussion... Had the TV going as well on TSN... Amazingly I did get out to do a couple service calls for my business but got back by mid-afternoon... Back and forth on the phone with Pete to discuss the goings on... writing the column for this week's Artvoice and thankfully our editor Geoff Kelly extended our deadline so we could get today's news into the piece...Checking out my fellow Sabres sports bloggers including Kevin and his open thread at Bfloblog to watch the chatter... Running the column by Pete who was working OT today so I'm reading him the column as he's walking... Thought about going down to the arena to catch Darcy's conference in person but decided to stay put... Then caught more radio and pregame, and then the 7:30 PM Sabres-Leafs game... And of course flipping to the other games on Centre Ice...Dave Staba at Buffalo Rising offers an excellent analysis of the Sabres trades.

It is now 10:40 PM. I have been eating, living, breathing Sabres hockey for 13 hours.

So let's now check the TV dial... Phx at Edm... Cbj at Col... My night is not over yet!

Ain't life great!!!

Random hoops ramblings.....


Last night was Senior night in the Carrier Dome and in front of a national tv audience the Orange stunned Big East leader Georgetown by a 72-58 count. The win gives them 21 for the season and at 10-5 in the conference these guys may have gotten the big win they needed to vault them into the Big Dance.

With teams being sent to venues close to home....don't be surprised if the Orange head down the Thruway for the second time this season in a couple of weeks.


MAAC Tournament to get underway in Bridgeport Friday with Canisius taking on St. Peter's in a prequarterfinal game.....Niagara gets the winner of the Rider/Iona game.....Iona has one conference win all season, over Rider of course.

It's NHL draft deadline day

All eyes are on the NHL and the 3PM EST trade deadline. In recent days the Forsberg to Nashville and Tkachuk to Atlanta moves have sent shock waves, and looks now like Gary Roberts will indeed be shipped out of Florida before the day is done.

I caught one interesting comment last night on TSN (yes I do get that channel don't ask me how I'm not telling) from Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, who said he has no intention of parting with Kevyn Adams. There has been much talk about bringing Adams to Buffalo, him being a WNYer, his comparative modest salary, his penchant for toughness and a good locker room guy would seemingly make him a good fit.

So here in Buffalo, will we see Darcy Regier pull the trigger on any deals, including the most widely speculated move involving trading goaltender Marty Biron?

And if Buffalo doesn't make a move, will they be medicating and administering oxygen to the sportswriting tandem of Gleason, Sullivan and Dicesare over at the Buffalo News offices later today?

We'll be watching the tickers all day long and listening in to WGR 55. Peter will have his rundown and recap of the day's events later on.

Oy vey! It's time to "Play Ball" in Israel

Coming to six cities in Israel - Tel Aviv, Bet Shemish, Modi'in, Ra'anana, Netanya and Petach Tikva, is the new Israel Baseball League, which is set to take the field come June 24.

The fledgling league has more than a healthy dose of involvement from former MLB players and executives, and is being run by former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette.

Our longest USRT excursion ever was to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl, and that was 4680 miles. Buffalo to Tel Aviv is 5792 miles. USRT to Israel??? Hmmm..... nah!!!!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

NCAA 2007 Buffalo... NCAA 2008?... Tampa!!!

By now we're counting down the days to the big event here at HSBC Arena. So today we're thinking, just where is the tournament going next year?

So away we go to the NCAA website and lo and behold! A subregional next year at the St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa!

Yep... another pigout of NCAA college hoops... some Grapefruit League baseball games, including a must visit to the last season at Dodgertown at Vero Beach. 80 degrees and sunny.... yeah baby!

So it's a no brainer. We've just added that trip to the Ultimate Sports Road Trip schedule.

Sens 6, "Saberks" 5

Well, by and large cooler heads prevailed in the much anticipated rematch of these two clubs in Ottawa.

The bad news of course is that our guys lost....but if there's any good news to come out of this, it's that the Saberks didn't lose any one to injury for the first time in recent memory.

Despite the rash of recent injuries, Buffalo came within a missed penalty shot and a goal that came jussssst a bit too late at the end of the first period from walking out of Scotiabank Place with a win. And Buffalo's resilience was in full effect as they rallied from down three goals to tie the game at five on Tallinder's second of the game.

A couple of fisticuffs took place....Peters and McGratton went to a draw and Neil got the better of Mair, who jumped on Neil when Neil got a good shot on Kaleta.

Speaking of Kaleta.....pretty nice hit he put on McGratton.

It was a game with some unusual goals...Vanek just shoving the puck under Emery.....Pominville reaching out and barely getting the puck over the goal line before Emery could get to it....and finally Ottawa winning the game on a Spezza goal off of a weird bounce off of the boards.

Still atop the conference with a five point lead on Jersey thanks to the Devils loss earlier in the day. And the Maple Losers are still outside the playoff picture. All in all life is still good.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Buffalo's Cobblestone District - The Bad

Now undergoing renovation along Mississippi Street, a block away from HSBC Arena, is this former loading dock structure, and that building is finally taking shape as the new home of Morrissey's Irish Pub.

So why am I labeling this "The Bad"? Well, basically the progress for this entire development, which includes a four story office building, retail space and 36 loft condominiums, has been agonizingly slow. Avalon Development and Savarino Construction got approval from the Buffalo Planning Board for this project way back in September, 2005, they launched this cool website and stuff is now getting done there in dribs and drabs.

I met proprietor Dennis Brinkworth during the Buffalo Old Home Week last August, and he then predicted a Thanksgiving opening; in December they said March 15. Check out the photo - does it look like they'll be pouring cold Guinness Stouts in three weeks?

My props to Savarino Construction for even taking this on... if it all gets built out (including the lofts) I'll give them all the love in the world for being the visionaries. But for now I guess you can call me impatient.

Buffalo's Cobblestone District - The Ugly

Here is the new Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino going up three blocks east of HSBC Arena, and don't feel bad if you don't confuse this structure with the Wynn or Bellagio in Las Vegas. For this hideous abomination is the "temporary" 5000 s.f gambling hall that will open soon, while the permanent structure gets built in the next couple years, as this rendering should give you an idea what the place will look like.

I'm not crazy about the idea of a downtown casino, but if it is meant to be, then I want it to be the snazziest thing this side of Atlantic City. My fear is that lawsuits or other delays will kill the permanent casino, and we will be left with this sleazy storage garage with its few dingy slot machines and snack bar.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Edmonton - the next new NHL arena?

The New Jersey Devils' new Prudential Center is set to open this fall, and all eyes are on Pittsburgh and what will become of the franchise's fate as they grapple with a replacement for Mellon Arena. But it is Edmonton that might be the next NHL affiliate to unveil plans for a new building.

A couple days ago a consultant's report was released indicating that A renovation of the 33 year old Rexall Place would cost between $225-$250 million.

But a day after the release of that report, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said he wants a bold new arena to be built downtown, as reported in this article in the Edmonton Journal. And today, the Edmonton Journal also reports that the Edmonton Northlands Corporation wants to be involved in the process.

Our USRT visit to Edmonton in 2001 was an extraordinary one - it was the site of our first radio interview ever, which we did as part of the Oilers' post game show. The Oilers front office gave us a warm greeting during our stay, and we really enjoyed the entire Alberta experience. Is a return visit to Edmonton and Calgary in the cards for us? Let's hope!

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet Brian Wheeler

We first got to know Brian Wheeler back in 2003 when he came over to the Buffalo Sabres after an internship stint at One Bills Drive. Brian was then assigned as the Buffalo Bandits Media Relations guy (The National Lacrosse League Buffalo Bandits are owned by the Sabres). Of course, we were still in media diapers shlepping around for Sportsblast.

For Brian, this was his coming out party too, and handling the Bandits' media duties, did a very capable job. Most importantly, he accommodated us with anything we ever needed, and gave us the same level of respect as he would to national sportswriters for SI or ESPN. Our involvement with the Bandits back then gave us invaluable experience in gathering a sports story, interviewing players and coaches, and conducting ourselves in a media environment.

Gratefully, Brian survived the staffing cuts at the Sabres during the NHL lockout, and after the Sabres came back on the ice he was given broad new duties as Web Content Coordinator, where he also serves as sort of an "in house" reporter for the teams' websites. Check out the Sabres and the Bandits websites. They are polished and professional sites and Brian Wheeler's imprints are all over them.

We see Brian at the morning skates and the games all the time. For us, it is a friendship and a professional association which we hold highly.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Buffalo 6, Ottawa 5 (SO)

Did someone say that this game was gonna be a snore?

Does anybody out there still believe that the Sabres aren't a physical club?

Plenty of pucks in the net and the latest edition of "Goalies Gone Wild" all taking place down at the arena tonight. The action was fast from the get go, but the tempers reached a boiling point to say the least when Chris Neil blindsided Chris Drury on the way to the net. The hit took Drury out of the game with a vicious cut to the head and following the whistle a free for all took place with multiple players in throwdowns....the main event being Biron v. Emery.

Heck, for a moment we were gonna see Ruff v. that would've been a hoot.

Yes, I was thinking Shields v. Snow as well at that moment. Chalk up a W to Emery in that one, and pat on the back for him holding his own against Peters.

Vanek got two in 36 seconds.....if you're wondering, the Sabres record is 10 seconds shared by Derek Plante and Danny Gare.

Sabres got to the shootout by holding off Ottawa on a power play(which had no business happening considering what the officials let go earlier in the OT)

Other key moments...Ryan Miller killing off a 5 on 3 fresh off of the bench after the scrums had Biron ejected......

Kaleta's first game is in the books...dude looked a bit nervous and maybe a bit intimidated by his surroundings that night....

Ruff not divulging about Drury's availability...sigh....another home game...another injury???

45 hours until faceoff in Ottawa Saturday, not that anyone is counting....I'm sure you're not.....

Patrick Kaleta makes his NHL debut

The buzz at today's morning skate at HSBC Arena all had to do with Patrick Kaleta, the newest callup to the big team. Kaleta will make his NHL debut tonight when the Sabres face the Ottawa Senators.

Kaleta has undoubtedly never been such a center of attention and has had to face the crush of media that he did today. For he is a WNY born and bred player, grew up cheering for his beloved Buffalo Sabres, and now gets to live every player's dream -to suit up for his very own team.

Other than handling all the questions and not becoming awestruck, Kaleta's other big task is coming up with enough tickets for all his family, friends and neighbors. "Most of my family already has season tickets, but I need about 60-75 more tickets. The team has some seats set aside for players, but it's going to be a big bill for me."

Coach Lindy Ruff has no qualms putting Kaleta out there against the likes of a Heatley or Spezza. "I have complete confidence in him" says Ruff. "Let's see what he is made of."

Kaleta's debut should make for a big night at the arena tonight!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More delays for the Minnesota Twins

This was supposed to be the week that we were going to get our first glimpse of the schematics and exciting new drawings of the Minnesota Twins new ballpark. The stadium will be located in the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis, behind the Target Center, and is set to open for the 2010 season.

Only problem is, the owners of the land want more money. Lots more.

The Twins and their architects, HOK Sport, have postponed the unveiling show. No new date has been announced.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sabres 6, Philadelphia 3

Typical Sabres game....or maybe not.

A Philly team tries to bring back the "Broad Street Bullies" ethic to the new NHL...same ol' result. A Sabres win.

Umberger tried to do some retribution on Campbell, the fisticuffs was a draw....wonder why it took until the third meeting for this to happen????

Andrew...freaking...Peters lit the lamp tonight. Let that one sink in. Adam Mair scored as well, let's see if that combination strikes again in the same game....ever.

And oh yes, ANOTHER Sabre lost to long term injury as Daniel Paille is lost to a busted finger.

The optimist in me says: Good to see we are getting the injuries out of the way now before the postseason.

The pessimist says: at this rate come April there won't be a lineup to put on the ice...anyone left in Rochester....Elmira....hello???

Still atop the East with 85 points, 5 over the Devils.

Leaves skunked by Bruins 3-0, Toronto is in the ninth spot in the East. Toronto: feel free to stay there or drop lower.

Tom Brady is gonna be a proud papa

B-rate actress Bridget Moynahan is pregnant, and Tom Brady is the dad. Only problem is, the two have split up.

Yet some corners of the media, fueled no doubt by the Feminazis and Harradins among them, are castigating Brady... that bad, bad evil athlete, just going around and getting women pregnant.

So does anyone wish to question dear sweet Bridget and her morals and her scruples? After all, it does take two to tango.

Meantime, Brady has moved on to a new interest, a gal named Gisele Bundchen. Gisele is a great gardener and housekeeper, enjoys poetry and mixes a delicious strawberry daiquiri. Oh, she models lingerie too? Betcha Brady never even noticed!

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Jersey's Prudential Center might not be ready in time

The New Jersey Devils plan to move into their new digs in downtown Newark in time for the 2007-08 season. But with seven months to go until the first puck drops, the building has yet to be fully enclosed. An article in today's New York Post speculates that the arena might not be ready in time. Not to worry, replies Devil's GM Lou Lamoriello, but then he goes on to admit that contingency plans are in place.

Are Nicholas Picholas' days numbered?

He is the in game host during Sabres games at HSBC Arena. During media breaks, he does the contests, kiss cams, welcomes special guests, all that kind of stuff.

And lately, the Sabres fans have been raining down "boos" on him.

What has triggered all this scorn is a mystery - it's not like he went out and robbed a bank or murdered puppies or anything like that. He does a solid, if unspectacular job as the game host and his love for the Sabres comes across well. He is just a regular Buffalo guy. Would we really rather have some hot blond babe or some underwear model doing this job who is impassionate about the team?

Picholas' appearances on the Jumbotron have become shorter and snappier to try and deflect the boos. C'mon Buffalo fans, Nicholas is one of US - let's show the guy some love!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

HSBC Arena concourses get a fresh new look

About a year ago in Artvoice we did a column called "Making Over HSBC Arena", where we outlined a number of ideas for improving and upgrading our hockey venue.

An excerpt:
"Concession signage: The food items are pretty good, but those concession canopies are really hideous. New marquees, designed with bright colors, perhaps neon, would brighten up the food stands and add much to the concourses."

And another:
"The “Adelphia” kiosk: Fess up! Were you one of the morons who stood in line to swipe your Adelphia Advantage Card to earn points for free merchandise? Yep, thought so. Time to pack up the screens, the monitors, dismantle the equipment and come up with a creative new use for this space."

So weren't we surprised to see all the new marquees and canopies on the concession stands...not the snazziest things you've ever laid your eyes on, but a marked improvement nonetheless. And a deli sandwich station has supplanted the old Adelphia kiosk space.

Hey Sabres front office - feel free to use any more of our suggestions as you see fit.

Boston 4, Buffalo 3 (SO)

Surprise, surprise! Another player goes down....this time Ales Kotalik with a lower body injury....looks like Dr. Aquino is going to have his hands full over the next couple of weeks with the endless stream of Sabres headed into his office....what next....Lindy Ruff gets taken out by fallout from a check into the players bench?

Jochen Hecht drops the gloves! I haven't been this surprised to see someone in a brawl since, well.....I got tackled from behind in the middle of a kickball game during recess in elementary school and started throwing haymakers.

Danny Briere lights the lamp....though the red light didn't go on until after the period ended....his can't miss shot of a wide open net seemingly missed with under a minute to go. But it was reviewed following the end of the period and was found to have crossed the goal line before Tim Thomas could get a stick on it. They were able to go back and count the goal because there hadn't been another whistle after that until the period ended....still wondering why they couldn't tack on the remaining fifty seconds or so onto the next period like they did earlier this season during a game when a glass panel needed to be repaired.....

The shoot out was a dandy, a true goaltenders duel as no one scored on either side until Petr Tenkrat slid one under Ryan Miller in the eighth go around....

Drew Stafford scores.....the kids are pitching in.

Hey....Andrew Ference!!! Didn't I just see you here a week ago in a different jersey....thought so.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hoops note for the night.....

A year ago tonight, Jason McElwain entered a high school hoops game in Greece. I just saw the highlights of those final four minutes and change.....I still tear up inside, even now....

Sabres 2, Edmonton 1(OT)

Dear Sabres management:

Please sign Daniel Briere to a long term deal ASAP!

The Sabres won in front of a full house that had too many cases of Bandwagoning Canadian Hockey Fan(translation, way too many fans from across the border that root for Canadian based clubs in the house tonight).

The Sabres seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, I thought the Peters fight seemed to get things going for the Sabres and woke them out of their five day off lull. Notice how we bitch about the schedule when they play back to back and when they have a few days off....damn schedulemakers can't win.

Max has an "upper body injury"....still waiting for what happened to Novotny....

In other news....Peter Forsberg is a Nashville Predator. The Preds need him not just for the Cup run, but simply to fill seats in a town that has been somewhat ambivalent to them(if attendance means anything).

Tonight's win was the first over the Oilers for Buffalo since March 27, 1998 and it was the first win ever over the Oilers in the MMA/HSBC Arena....