Monday, April 30, 2007

Downtown Buffalo at night

The Electric Building on Roosevelt Square, crowned in Sabres blue and gold at night. One Team - One Goal... this entire city is living life vicariously right now through the fortunes of our hockey team.

Artvoice "Best Of Buffalo"

Pete and Artvoice publisher Jamie Moses grinning ear to ear at the "Best of Buffalo" party

Tonight we headed to the Town Ballroom downtown for the annual "Best of Buffalo" bash sponsored by Artvoice. For the past two months, our readers have been voting online and via paper ballots for their best picks in all sorts of categories... restaurants, bars, eateires, politicians, celebrities, events, just about everything. So tonight the winners were announced, with a back drop of musical entertainment, libations and complimentary food samples.

The good news: the place was jammed wall to wall with revelers, contestants, fabulous drag queens and assorted bon vivants wanting to be part of the action. The bad news: twice the people and half the food from past years. So we said "hi" to some people we know, chatted around a bit, had a drink, did the photo opp with the Big Boss, and headed out to Casa Di Pizza with uber-blogger and cool new friend Nathan Strang to share a large c&p pie and watch the Devils/Sens game.

Congrats to all the winners - they will be listed in this Thursday's edition of Artvoice.

An update on Cisco Field in Oakland

The more we look at the plans for the proposed new ballpark for the Oakland Athletics, the more excited we get. Imagine an intimate 32,000 seat venue with state of the art technological enhancements.

Says A's owner Lew Wolff, "In the batter's-eye area in center field, that will open up into a public park where fans can look into the stadium before the game and watch batting practice. At game time, the area will close up and we'll provide either a feed of the game if it's sold out or a movie for people to enjoy. The area will also open up to our version of Yawkey Way, about a half-million square feet of shopping areas."

Cisco Field will provide a cellphone system fans can use to purchase tickets and upgrade them on game day. There will be digital signs everywhere and embedded cameras around the ballpark to promote amenities and goings on. "If we have a surplus of hot dogs, we'll use our digital signs to reduce the price so we can get rid of them," he said.

The other thing is, you'll be able to literally live at the ballpark.

The Baseball Village will include 3,000 townhouses of various styles and prices ("We'll even let non-baseball fans buy them," said Wolff). Income from the residential portion of the project will help pay for the ballpark, which is expected to cost $400-$500 million, not including the land.

The ballpark will be cozy, with comfortable sight lines, little foul territory, and the feeling of being on top of the field, an idea Wolff proudly says was stolen from the Red Sox and Cubs but with the benefit of modern architecture. "It will be a complete departure from what we have now at the Coliseum," Wolff said. "Our pitchers are good. They'll have to be even better."

Complete information on Cisco Field including renderings are on the team's website.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blogging stuff in the news

Jim Fink of Buffalo Business First talked to us earlier this week about the explosion of fan websites and blogging, and the article runs in this week's print edition of Business First. Our comments appear in the article. Here's the online link.

Stephen Watson of the Buffalo News wrote this feature article which deals with the growth of online fan sites and focuses in on Bfloblog in particular. Our congratulations to Mark and Kevin as well as all their loyal followers and linked sports sites for an excellent piece and well deserved coverage.

In the "small world" category: Kevin Hosey, who is pictured in the article as a regular blog poster, was once upon a time Editor of the Cheektowaga Bee. And I, once upon a time, was a Cheektowaga Councilman. So basically he "covered" me and my Board when I was there and he was the consummate professional journalist. I had some rough personal patches early on in my stint in office and Kevin treated me with fairness and concern rather than just beating up on me like some other media outlets were doing. I will always be grateful to him for that. So a big "shout out" to "KJHosey"!

Quick thought on today's game...since I missed parts of it as did Peter. Take the fact that it took the Rangers almost 5 periods to put away the Sabres in their own building in a game they desperately had to win. I think that bodes well for us, no?
I said Sabres in five before this began... I am sticking to it.

Random thoughts on the NBA playoffs.....

Been watching as much of the NBA playoffs as possible between NHL games as possible(dammit, when's that new HDTV coming in!)....and just chiming in with a few rambling observations.

Place to be as a fan: Oakland. The Oracle Arena witnessed its first postseason game in thirteen years and the fans in the joint treated it like a Finals game. The Warriors responded to the fandemonium by annihilating the top seeded Mavs 109-91.

Worst title defense in recent memory: Miami goes out with a whimper in a four game sweep. I didn't catch much of this one, I'm glad.

Ummm....D-Wade, maybe getting that shoulder fixed should have been a higher priority.

Sucks to be a fan of: any NBA team in the state of Florida. 0 for 8, OUCH!

Not yet ready for prime time award goes to: The Toronto Raptors. I really like what's being built up north and there's a nice young core in TJ Ford, Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh. But Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson they ain't. They need another year or so to develop....

Kobe won a postseason game this season. Wonder if he feels like he put one over on Shaq, who got swept this season.

AI....7 for 20, throwing up a few prayers in game three.....sigh.....a lepoard's skin never changes.

Can we just end the Cavs/Wizards series now??

And I still have nothing to say about the Jazz/Rockets series. Maybe later. (Going off topic here...but where can I get my AH YOU jersey at??)

"Chacarron Macarron!"

Andy Marte is back in Buffalo, sent down from the parent Cleveland Indians on a rehabilitation assignment. Last season, Marte played in 96 games for the Bisons and hit .261 (93-357) with 23 doubles, 15 home runs and 46 RBI.

The Bisons return from their road trip this Saturday, and it looks like we'll be grooving to the beat of the Chacarron once again at Dunn Tire Park!

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet Mike Haim

If you ever have the good fortune to step into a big league pressbox around these parts, chances are you will run into Mike Haim. But you won't often see Mike's name in a newspaper byline or up in lights, for he is one of these media guys who does much of his work behind the scenes, and he does it well.

What are some of Mike's assignments? He covers games for Associated Press; He covers games for Sports Ticker; He freelances for several area publications; He is a member of the statistics crew at Buffalo Bills games. Want more? He even picks up writing assignments from time to time for visiting clubs who face the Buffalo Bisons. And at Bisons and Sabres games, while most of the local media contingent goes en masse to the home team dressing room, you will find Mike sauntering over to the visiting club for postgame interviews and comments, because that's the job he usually gets to do.

Mike got his first taste of all this media stuff as a kid attending games of the NBA Buffalo Braves. "I would find a way to sneak down to the scorers table and media row after games and collect press notes and media guides. Everntually they just kind of knew me down there and I was in" Mike recalls.

Fast forward to the present and the "new kid" is sneaking into the pressbox, as Mike brings his young son Marshall to Bisons games from time to time, and one can predict that it will just be a matter of time before the next generation of Haims joins the media contingent.

Mike has always been a big fan and supporter of the USRT, soaking in the stories of our travel adventures. We too like listening to Mike's stories, the people he has met, the articles he has written, the experiences he has encountered while doing what he does. We tip our hat to a good friend and colleague!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Go away Ronan Tynan!

Peter posted on this topic yesterday but I've got my own thoughts and here they are...

The Sabres have formed quite a bond with the “Irish Tenor”, and the story of his return to Buffalo was front page headlines in the Buffalo News.

I’m not buying into it…and it has nothing to do with Tynan.

I grew up hating the Irving Berlin spiritual “God Bless America”. My memories as a teenager was watching that Dead Fat Woman in Philadelphia step out onto the ice at the Spectrum and croak out that song. And that was it. Game over. Flyers win. The Flyers always won.

A generation later, this song holds a much more bitter meaning for me. The Bushies and the Cheneys and the Halliburtons just love to truck out this song whenever the temperature gets too hot wtih criticism of their Iraq misadventure… forget about the half trillion dollars (and counting) for their fucking war, forget about the 3300 (and counting) dead soldiers. Let us sing to the heavens... let our spirits soar... and together we feel so good and all is well with the world! UGH!

As for last night, I could write you the same sorry story… Tynan sings the song, the Jumbotron displays photos of soldiers, dressed in their desert khakis and holding their rifles, sitting on their tanks and displaying their missiles and other instruments of death.

As I look around the seating bowl and see happy children eating their popcorn and cotton candy, my thoughts turned to other children who might not be smiling. I ask, how many Iraqi children had their homes and villages flattened from those very same tanks we’re viewing in those pictures? How many Iraqi children are orphaned from that same missile battery we saw on the screen last night?

The results of the Tynan show was predictable – a collective orgasm from the crowd. Nothing like images of soldiers and armies and war to get a sports audience going.

What did I do? I did what I always do in sports venues when they play the Dead Fat Woman’s song. I took a seat. Hey, I’ll stand for the Star Spangled Banner and sing loud and proud anytime. But I will not pay homage to that piece of propaganda bullshit.

If you don’t like my take on all this, then go ahead and let me have it. I’ve sat my ass down through many a 7th inning stretch and gotten an earful from people around me. I held my ground then. I’m not about to back down now.

Friday, April 27, 2007

GAME 2: Sabres 3, Rangers 2

Giddy-up guys!

For two periods, the Buffalo Sabres played like they were doped up, managing just nine shots on goal and thanks to some very solid play in net by Ryan Miller, they were kept in the game, staring at only a 2-1 deficit after two periods.

Giddy-up guys!

When the third period started, everything changed. Buffalo got an early goal, a Chris Drury tip in on a perfect pass from Toni Lydman. A few minutes later Thomas Vanek jammed in the game winner, after setting up a perfect pass to Campbell on the point and then crashing the net to bury it.

From there the Sabres put on the burners…wave after wave of attacks which had the crowd up on its feet time and time again.

But the real drama was in the last two minutes, as Buffalo was called with a penalty with 1:48 to go. The Rangers pulled their goaltender, giving them a two skater advantage, and from there it was heart in your throat time and gut check time. “I really wasn’t all that panicked” said Ryan Miller after the game. “I didn’t get to see the call on Briere but I certainly did see Avery punching Briere in the face after the whistle and that wasn’t called.”

Buffalo did a bang up job clearing the puck during that last minute, and the officials missed a seeming offsides call with 10 seconds that had Lindy Ruff steaming afterwards. Even the Rangers attackers held up expecting a whistle but none was called. Ruff was awarded a gross misconduct penalty at the end of the game for his bottle throwing rant.

So what happened in the locker room between the second and third periods? Brian Campbell replies "We just needed to get the puck in front of the net more and create scoring chances. We all talked about it and that quick goal early on so totally lifted the entire bench."

On my pedestal - what more can you say aboout Dainius Zubrus? Again he threw his body around, forechecked with total abandon, played puck control in the attack zone and delivered punishing hit after hit. If the Sabres advance and end up playing Ottawa, the Sens will have a handful to deal with and a force they didn't see in Buffalo when the teams last played.

In my doghouse.. Max Mr. Giveaway Afinogenov and the fact that you didn't see him on the third speaks volumes. Oh.. and yoo hoo, Jochen!!! Feel free to show up some night.

Lastly, props to Ryan Miller for not only his stellar play tonight, but not getting sucked in to a war of words with the Rangers. When told that Jagr had remarked "They probably think it's over," Miller calmly replied that the Rangers deserve every bit of respect and that this is only one game.

So on to the Big Apple it is for a Sunday afternoon game on NBC. Score early..take the crowd out of it.. show why you're such a great road team. Can't wait!!!


Do not let this man sing prior to game time tonight!!!!!

Listen, nothing personal against the guy, he's a great story about overcoming obstacles in life. But part of the lore of the playoffs is superstition and traditions.
Playoff beards-in.
Stepping on every crack in the sidewalk - in.
Tossing an octopus on the ice prior to game time - in.
Keeping every routine thing the same...where you watch the game....what you
Having the same person sing the anthems prior to every game - in!

Oh by the way, Ronan is 0-1 in the postseason singing "GBA"...if the Sabs lose tonight, let's hope it's the last time they bring him in to sing during the playoffs. Too much is at stake.

Morning skate stuff.....

I finally have a day off from my real job that coincides with a morning skate, so off I went!!!

I notice that the media contingent is beginning to swell with more of a national presence from up north and the Ranger media as well. Despite basically carrying the same market there appears to be a larger contingent of Ranger media than Islander media.

All the Sabres who took the day off yesterday(Stafford, Lydman, Campbell, and Connolly) were up and skating today. In his comments Coach Ruff stated that"all will be able to play tonight" and that "if we play to our strengths, it's our best hockey".

Coach also was asked about advice on being shorthanded(concerning Roszival) and answered" to concentrate on who you have and not who you don't."

The word is similar coming from the Ranger dressing room concerning Michal Roszival, he was skating during the Ranger warmups this morning and while Coach Renney wouldn't tip his hand he did say Roszival "look good and felt good" and didn't rule out dressing seven defensemen for tonight.....

Sean Avery was a bit low keyed answering questions saying that the team has to concentrate on doing the little things needed to win a game. But Avery being who he is found time to pop off at a local reporter(initials AB) for asking what he perceived to be "a stupid question".

Gee Sean, maybe you ought to "hold the throttle back" as the reporter said. You did find the box twice and had a -3 on the night.

Other things of note....

The playoff beards in the Sabre locker room are starting to take shape, about all the players are in on it though I noticed that Tim Connolly is maintaining the sahved head look and the matching shaved face to go with it. Assistant PR guys Chris Bandura and Rob Crean seem to be in on the act as well.

Newsday columnist Mark Hermann has been taking some good natured ribbing about his presence as guest columnist in the News for the past two-three weeks. One person joked about him being hired full time on the Buffalo News staff....after a certain blogger asked him about whether he covers the Devils too, he joked that he already had a house up here....seems like a good guy. And a far better columnist than that Ned Barnett in Raleigh....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Entering the city on the 33......

Does there need be any more proof of the existence of Sabre fever...

Beer is back on the Plaza!

Last night at HSBC Arena the "Party In The Plaza" went dry.

And the crowd was noticably smaller.

Well, the beer is back! News release just hit my email box from Kevin Snow at the Sabres...


BUFFALO, NY (April 26, 2007) --- The Buffalo Sabres announced today they will once again make beer available for sale at the “Party in the Plaza” pre-game parties before each home playoff game. There will now be a limit of three beers per person for the duration of the event each night.

In addition, the Maid of the Mist has made rain ponchos available -- in the event of inclement weather -- to the fans in attendance who will be outside watching the game on the video monitor.

The festivities begin at 4:30 p.m. outside HSBC Arena in the Plaza area located near Perry and Illinois St. where fans can enjoy live music from Juxtaposse. There will also be appearances from Buffalo Sabres Alumni and Sabretooth, as well as a 12' by 9' video monitor where fans will be able to watch a live Jumbotron feed of the game.

Fans should also be reminded that the event has been expanded, as Perry Street will be closed from Washington St. to Illinois St. by 4:30 p.m. to allow families to enjoy the festivities. Fans driving to HSBC Arena should plan alternate routes to account for the street closings.

The parties will take place rain or shine with free admission, as a game ticket will not be required for entrance to the party.

This week in Artvoice

"Should We Be Scared?"

This week's Puck Stop. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

GAME 1: Sabres 5, Rangers 2

Was it me, or did it seem that the postseason REALLY got underway tonight?

The Sabres used a three goal burst late in the second period to propel them to a 5-2 win over the Rangers. Thomas Vanek picked up a pair of goals. Pominville and Kotalik each added one a piece and Drew Stafford added an empty netter to finish off the Sabres scoring.

The Rangers came out and held their own in the first ten to fifteen minutes of play using a physical style of play to keep Buffalo in check. After that the Sabres seemed to turn on the jets as rush after rush of attacks came down the ice for Buffalo. Only some stellar play by Henrik Lundqvist kept the game scoreless in the first.

It was more of the same until Vanek finally broke through with just under six minutes left in the second, and soon after it was like the dam had burst as Kotalik would add his and Vanek would strike again all within a four minute span.

The Sabres pretty much had the game iced thanks not to a fourth goal but from killing off a five on three power play that ended with about eleven minutes to go. Taro lit the cigar at that point.....

Sean Avery yapped about how he was going to hurt Sabre players....Game 1 stats: eighteen minutes on the ice, four minutes in the box, minus three rating for the night. Thanks for the assistance Sean!

In the postgame the Rangers lamented the fact that they gave the Sabres many power play opportunities. Brendan Shanahan said that " I liked the way we started for the first ten minutes....then we gave them the momentum...we put them on the power play time after time and we kinda let their offensive players get into the game.."

Toni Lydman seemed upbeat after a night of chasing around Jagr but noted the difficulties in that task:"Jagr is tough to defend against. We try our hardest to stop him but he has size and strength. We need to work on that more but we have so much confidence with Ryan backing us up it makes our job easier."

Hey Drew you just nabbed the empty netter, how'd it feel? "I was down on the ice and I could see the refs arm up and a penalty being called. Next thing you know the crowd is roaring. I never saw the puck actually go in the net."

(And I'm sure they practice the dragged-down-on-the-ice-while-shooting-puck-into-the-net-play EVERY DAY in practice.)

Other thoughts, useless or not.....

The Sabres five goal outburst is one shy of the entire series output of the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round....Jaromir...I don't think we're in Atlanta anymore...

Unique fan jersey of the night: A Tretiak USSR jersey spotted in the 300's.

The walk down Washington Street to the arena featured a new dot matrix board in front of Dunn Tire Park, I then looked to my right and saw a countdown to the Cup mural at the top floor of the City Grill building.

Also wondering if it was the weather or the lack of alcoholic beverages that kept the size of the crowd down in the plaza tonight.

The new marquee is up and running in front of the ballpark

Check out the countdown in the windows at this office building on Main and Swan. (Click on photo to enlarge and get a better look)

Ontario Hockey League footprint heading towards WNY

The ongoing saga of the OHL Mississauga Ice Dogs has now been resolved.

The Toronto St. Michaels Majors are moving into the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, the Ice Dogs were sold and told to vacate, and the buzz had them going into a new arena in Niagara Falls, Ontario, until their city council gave the team a big middle finger.

So the team has been scrambling for a new home, and today the announcement came that they have found one... St. Catharines Ontario, where they will be known as the Niagara Ice Dogs and will play at the 2800 seat Jack Gatecliff Arena. The city will spend $250,000 for upgrades to the facility. There are no current plans for a new arena, although several OHL franchises have rolled out gleaming new venues in recent years, including such cities as London and Oshawa, with Kingston and Windsor set to open new arenas soon.

More from the St. Catharines Standard.

We have visited a number of OHL cities on the USRT, and have loved the rinks, the atmosphere, the Canadian brews and the quality of play. A quick hop to St. Catharines this fall is a complete no brainer!

Big props to Kevin Jordan at OHL Arena Guide for giving us the heads up on this.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Things still low tech at HP Pavilion

Take the drive down from San Francisco to San Jose, and you will pass the gleaming headquarters and towers of every familiar high tech company known to man... Cisco, Oracle, just about every dot com comany. Even in downtown San Jose, the first logo you see outside the arena at the top of the nearest skyscraper is that of Adobe Systems.

So why is it then, that you step into the shiny HP Pavilion at San Jose, home of the NHL San Jose Sharks, and find only the most rudimentary and basic scorebaord and signage? Here, in the epicenter of technology, one would think that this venue would be the marker and example for the newest and most dazzling high tech fan amenities.

And indeed, all that is about to change, as it looks now that the city will be spending a whopping $16.5 million on sophisticated technological upgrades, and as this article in the San Jose Mercury News states, these are improvements that have been bandied about for years.

Monday, April 23, 2007

In Edmonton, the debate for a new arena

Mayor Stephen Mandel of Edmonton wants a spanking new arena built in downtown Edmonton for the NHL Edmonton Oilers. "Not so fast" say members of the City Council, who want no part of heavy public subsidies.

The mayor is appointing a new panel to come up with recommendations. Meantime, the Oilers continue to play at the old school Rexall Place, with a lease in place that runs through 2014.

More from the Edmonton Journal

Sunday, April 22, 2007

B-O-X! B-O-X!... Bandits in playoff action

Yet another cool sports weekend downtown ends at HSBC Arena this afternoon. I got a chance to cover the Bandits game as part of our "Puck Stop" column in Artvoice. Here's a game recap...

The Buffalo Bandits hosted the Minnesota Swarm this afternoon in the first round of National Lacrosse League playoff action.

After the first six minutes of the game, Annoying Screeching P.A. Guy had to have a big yellow puddle under his chair, as the Swarm took an early 4-0 lead on just 5 shots and the situation was dire for the Bandits. Buffalo then came roaring back and even took a brief lead in the second, but a late “hidden ball trick” stunt with the Buffalo goalie out of the net backfired, giving Minnesota a last second goal and an 8-7 lead at the half.

Then after halftime everything changed...Buffalo came out storming in the second half, playing almost a perfect game and playing excellent defense, stifling the Swarm attack. The Bandits completely dominated and ended up winning 14-8, with John Tavares scoring three of the goals in the second half.

Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour gave credit to his defense. "We really shut 'em down in that second half and Mikey (goalie Mike Thompson) came up big and I give them all the credit for that." Kilgour also admitted that there was some panic after those early goals. "It felt like deja vu from last year's Champion Cup game falling behind like that."

The Bandits go on to play at Rochester this Friday. Said Kilgour "Hopefully they (Rochester) are due for a game where their shots don't go in and their goalie doesn't stop everything, but other than that we just have to stick to our system."

The Knighthawks swept the Bandits in their two games in the regular season. Coach Kilgour did report that injured star goaltender Steve "Chugger" Dietrich might not be ready to start but will most likely dress as the backup. If Buffalo finds a way to win Friday's game, they will host the Champion’s Cup Final right here in Buffalo on Saturday, May 12.

The teams shake hands on the field after the Bandits took it to the Swarm by a 14-8 score.

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet Kevin Lester

If there's one guy who has been an indelible part of downtown Buffalo's ballpark, it is Bisons Official Scorer Kevin Lester.

Kevin has been around the team throughout pretty much its entire modern era, even going back to the days at the Old Rockpile. For years he served in uniform as the team's bullpen catcher, appeared in a cameo role in the movie "The Natural", and for over a decade now he has held the post of "Official Scorer". Actually working for the League and not the team, his job is to keep official track and record of the entire game. He sits in the second tier of the pressbox, inches away from the in-pressbox PA system which he coordinates.

One of his toughest jobs is making the call between a "hit" and an "error". Kevin can regale you with countless stories of players and managers who have called on him and confronted him after a game to question his decision, some of the exchanges becoming quite heated. "It's all part of the job" Kevin laughs.

One more thing we've got to say about Kevin... there is no bigger die-hard Yankees fan than he is. He lives and dies with the fortunes of his beloved Bronx Bombers, and while the Bisons game is in progress, he is regularly on the phone between innings, getting game updates from his family back home, who are as equally crazed as he is.

A cool pressbox tradition takes place when a pitcher in the game...home or visiting team, craps out with a horrendous performance. As the pitcher departs the field, Kevin Lester will announce the line, something like "2 2/3 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 runs, all earned, 5 walks, 3 wild pitches" across the PA, and the report will prompt a round of applause from the media contingent.

Kevin appreciates that applause. He feeds on it. And while we're at it, we also want to give him a round of applause, just for being a great baseball guy and a good friend. "CHOI!"

Sunday brunch at Dunn Tire Park

Before each game the Bisons put out a nice spread for the operations staff and the media, but the Sunday buffet is always the best... fruit plate, bagels, scrambled eggs, sausage, roasted potatoes and waffles. One awesome perk if you're a sports reporter!

Quick snap from downtown Buffalo

The top of One M&T Plaza, illuminated in Sabres colors. How cool is that?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The FIRST PLACE Bisons come home

Time to chime in on a little Buffalo Bisons baseball.

The team traveled to Columbus and Toledo on an eight game road swing, and managed to earn a 6-2 record on the trip, including a sweep at Columbus, with one of those games a 17-1 throttling of the Clippers.

How good was the offense? They outscored the two teams 40-17 in the eight games and were led by outfielder Jason Cooper
(.333, 6-18, 3 2B, 5RBI), Ben Francisco (.345, 10-29, 3 2B, HR, 4RBI) and Shin-Soo Choo (.313, 5-16, 5RBI).

Buffalo is home for a five game set beginning tonight, and in a true Mike Veeck moment, have come up with a cool promotion - the 60 degree guarantee. They are guaranteeing it will be 60 degrees for the next two home games, Saturday, April 21 (6:05 p.m.) and Sunday, April 22 (1:05 p.m.) against the Pawtucket Red Sox. If the weather doesn’t match the very promising forecast for the weekend, everyone in attendance will get a free ticket to a future Bisons game in 2007.

With a 9-3 record, Buffalo leads the IL North.

UPDATE... 6:08PM at Dunn Tire Park... official game time temperature 62 degrees...lots of fans in the building on a great night for baseball... Better luck tomorrow for a free ticket folks!

UPDATE... 8:30PM at Dunn Tire Park... Brad Bisbing just told us that even though the temperature officially crossed the 60 degree threshold, the team is still giving a freebie ticket to everyone in attendance tonight. Nice job Bisons!!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tailgating with the Bfloblog guys!

After countless email exchanges, cross reporting and media networking, I finally got the chance to say "hi" to Mark and Kevin at Bfloblog. They were in full tailgate form in a parking lot down Perry Street. A quick beer, some hockey talk, and a promise for a more substantial get-together down the road.

Mark and Kevin, soaking up the nice Buffalo day and the pregame festivities outside HSBC Arena

Gotta throw this one in - thousands of fans enjoying the "Party on the Plaza" outside the arena. Many fans without tickets stuck around to watch the game on the special videoboard set up outside on the plaza.

GAME 5: Sabres 4, Islanders 3


Series over.

The Sabres played a nearly perfect game for two periods, using their speed and aggression to attack the offensive zone and make play after play. Only the lack of finishing scoring chances kept this one from becoming a total laugher, and after two it was 3-0 Sabres.

That's when things got hairy - the Isles' Mirolav Satan finally got a goal in this series early in the third, but Buffalo answered right after by a pretty goal by Max Afinogenov. Light the cigar right? New York cut the lead again to two at the tten minute mark, then three minutes later scored again to make it 4-3.

"Yeah things felt a little desperate on the bench at that point" admitted Toni Lydman. After the game, Daniel Briere told the press, "The important thing is we found ways to win these games."

Ryan Miller stopped nine shots in the final seven minutes, but none bigger than with 10 seconds to go, robbing Miro Satan on the doorstep with a blind save.

The feeling in the locker room afterwards was not one of jubilation, or that of relief; basically a sense of accomplishment that they got this round behind them, and every player and Coach Lindy Ruff admitted that the few days rest will do some good. After the game PR Director Mike Gilbert announced that Wednesday is the earliest possible date for the next game.

In my doghouse - Toni Lydman, who was a -2 for the night and on a couple occasions failed to clear the puck from the zone. And I like Jochen Hecht, but we're at the point that maybe sitting him for a game might send this guy a message,

Penalty and game misconduct to... the game day entertainment crew. Whipping up the stupid wave with 9 minutes to go, then playing Sweet Caroline (bah! bah! bah!) with a tenuous one goal lead.... UGH! This stuff is OK when the game is salted away, but otherwise totally inappropriate. So shut the goddam hell up, or play some organ music, and let the fans do the rest.

Props to... the Sabres players, who again gathered as one after the handshakes were over, to salute the fans with their sticks. The crowd ate it up, of course... Plenty of love going back and forth, a nice, nice feeling.

So onward we go, with either NYR or TBL our next opponent... and still... "the chance that maybe we'll find... better days."

Reporting in from the Sabres morning skate

The Sabres held a light practice this morning at HSBC Arena, which looked like an optional skate, and about 15 of the players participated, including all of the reservists (Paetsch, Paille, Peters). Also on the ice was recovering forward Paul Gaustad, wearing the red "non contact" jersey and he was the last one off the ice, participating for about 70 minutes of ice time.

Thomas Vanek said that the Sabres aren't taking their opponents lightly. "They are a good team and they have been in every single one of these games because they have the talent to do so and have worked to get to that point." Vanek said that the team has to play smarter and expects to see that on the ice tonight.

I also chatted with Paul Gaustad, starting with the same question he hears five times a day.. "How's the ankle?" "It's getting better every day and I am skating with more authority every time" Gaustad replied. His comeback schedule is still up in the air, and his doctors participate with him almost daily to evaluate his progress.

Gaustad admits that he is dying to get out there and compete in the playoffs. "It's so tough just watching and being helpless to do anything" he said. "But my job and the other guys who aren't dressing as well have a role to lift our teammates and offer support in any way we can." Gaustad did make the trip with the team to the Island.

Has the team played its best game? "No", was the unequivocal response by Lindy Ruff. "We can play a stronger all around game." He gave props to his defense which he says is maturing nicely, and also shrugged off any questions about the video reviews. "I'm going to continue to stay out of it."

Islanders Coach Ted Nolan has faced adversity all season, and when asked if the team thrives on the sudden elimination scenario, he replied "we know where we are and we know what we have to do." He called out his big guns, Yashin and Satan and said he expects more. "Our hitters have to hit, our scorers have to score, everyone has a role."

He spoke of the changing culture in the Islanders organization, bringing in players such as Sillinger and Smyth and the roles they play in the clubhouse. "That has helped in these do or die situations" Nolan said.

Couple rapid takes -
-Much of the Buffalo media camped out by the Satan stall waiting for his comments. We should have brought our ponchos instead and just joined him in his verrrrrrrry lengthy shower. That interview didn't happen.

-Markerboardgate update: no lineups in the Isles room on display today, just the bus schedule to the hotel and the buffet time. Judging from the history here, if I'm an Islanders player and the display reads food at 2PM, I'd probably have the number of Jim's Steakout as a backup plan.

-Chatted with Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star and Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun, both Leafs beat writers and now down here covering the Sabres run. I get the sense they are really rooting for our guys. Probably because they just want to see more hockey. I gave them advice on some good wing places and other restaurants; when I asked them to reciprocate and advise me on where to find a good $6 pitcher of beer in Toronto, one could hear the crickets chirping in the background.

Puck drops at 7:08 or so... I've got the pressbox chair tonight; Pete will be in the stands. Let's hope the boys put an exclamation point on round one with a convincing wih tonight. My heart and my head tells me that will be the case.

New York Islanders defenseman Sean Hill has been suspended 20 games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The suspension begins with tonight's Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Quarterfinal game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.

"All you can eat" at Dodger Stadium

This season the Los Angeles Dodgers have turned the right field bleachers into an "all you can eat pavilion". One price gets you unlimited soda pop, nachos, peanuts and hot dogs, in other words, classic ballpark dreck.

This hilarious article on Slate recounts two fans' experiences of their recent food fest at Dodger Stadium, and offers us all a few lessons in return.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NBA Playoffs coming up!

I have to admit that at heart I am a fan of the roundball above all others. I have a strong basketball background in my family with two of my uncles having played hoops at the Division I college level and growing up as a kid my winters were spent shoveling the snow off of the blacktopped halfcourt in the backyard every time more than a half inch of snow fell on the ground.

My adolescence was during the Doctor/Magic/Larry/Michael days that everyone waxes poetic about today. (And as a Knicks fan during that era, I have a different opinion than most on that issue).

But anyhow, the recent run of Sabres success has turned this former NBA League Pass watching/wild feed satellite searching/staying up till 1:30 am for the Hawks/Clippers tilt hoops nut into a former basketball junkie.

(But again, the wildly inept front office and pathetic on court play of the Knicks going on simultaneously has to be a bit of a factor here as well, doesn't it?)

I guess the point of this rant is that I've watched NBA hoops less in the past season or so than I have in the last quarter century. But gosh darnit, that doesn't mean I'm not gonna put together a preview of this NBA postseason. It might not be of ESPN quality, but I bet I'll be as accurate as they will be, so there! So for the dozen or so NBA diehards who live in the Buffalo area, here goes my NBA playoff preview....

Some intriguing stories are abound in this season's first round(with predictions)....

The Cavs(2) and Wizards(7) meet in a rematch of last season's superb first round matchup. The Wizards appear to be sitting ducks for Lebron James and company with Gilbert Arenas out indefinitely. No Hibachi in this series I'm afraid....

Pick: Cavs in 5

Chicago(5) and Miami(4) is another rematch from last season's first round. How much of a factor will D-Wade's shoulder be for the Heat? Shaq v. Wallace is going to be quite a matchup of two of the East's(the only two??) premier big men. Should make for the best first round series......

Pick: Bulls in 6

Magic(8) v Pistons(1): I'm guessing that Dwight Howard and Grant Hill won't be talking about the second round like McGrady did a couple of years back after going up 3 games to 1 in the series between these two clubs in '03. Never mind, the Pistons won't let that happen against the only NBA playoff team with a losing record.
C-Webb is still in the NBA??...amazing what a change of scenery can do for a player.

Over/Under on Rasheed Wallace technicals in this series(2.5). That's down one thanks to Joey Crawford's banishment by Godfather....ahem....Commisioner Stern.

Pick: Pistons in 4

Nets(6) v. Raptors(3): good ol' Vince Carter is coming back to the ACC to destroy the Raptors seaon. While I like the nice gang of young talent that Brian Colangelo has put together in Toronto(Bosh,Bargniani,et al), something says to me this is going to Jersey....maybe it's just my hatred of the Leaves boiling over.

Pick: Nets in 6

Lakers(7) v. Suns(2): Kobe averages 55 per game in this series, posterizes Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire in the span of a single game.....and the Suns win in five games at most. Phoenix is just too damn stacked and hell they're so much fun to watch with their uptempo style of ball.

Pick: Suns in 4(not 5 due to my heavy anti-Laker bias)

Warriors(8) v. Mavericks(1): Chris Webber was a rookie, Chris Mullin was in his prime, Tim Hardaway probably still hated gay people and Don Nelson was coach the last time the Warriors made the postseason. Now Mullin is in the front office and after eight different Warrior head coaches since 1994 Nelson is back as the head coach. Combine that with a 3-0 record over the Mavs in the regular season and one might think there's a shot for the Warriors here.

Nah, Nelson will pull some silly schemes out of his a## in a vain attempt to knock off the club he last coached but the Mavs advance in a very entertaining series.

Pick: Mavericks in 7(instead of 5 or 6 due to my heavy pro Chris Mullin bias)

Jazz(4) v Rockets(5)....this series has no shortage of characters here....Yao, T-Mac, Boozer, AK-47, Van Gundy....ok I admit it, I got no clue about either of these two teams....well, John Amaechi did play for both clubs during his career, there's a nugget for you!

Pick: Rockets in 6

Speaking of Nuggets.....

Nuggets(6) v Spurs(3): Forget what I said about the Heat/Bulls series, THIS one will be the most interesting to watch. Have 'Melo and AI jelled as teammates in time for the postseason? And how will they stack up against Tim Duncan/Tony Parker? Does anyone else want to throw down with Duncan? Denver does come in winners of nine of their last ten....

Pick: Spurs in 6

So there ya have it, an informal yet somewhat informed look at the postseason in what I like to call "The True American Sport." And trust me, by the time the first round ends(sometime in mid-June, thank you Commish,NOT!) my picks will probably be about as accurate as all of those "experts" out there.

And remember, Knicks take it all in '08. You heard it here first!

This week in Artvoice

"Better Days"

This week's Puck Stop. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

GAME 4: Sabres 4, Islanders 2

The Sabres take control of the series in another hard fought game at the Masoleum....err...Coliseum.

Chris Drury tabs a pair of goals for the second time in this series and Jason Pominville adds the critical insurance goal late in the third period as the Sabres survive another last minute Islander goal and a controversial "no goal" late in the third to defeat the pesky Islanders 4-2. With the win they boys in blue and gold take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

The Islanders struck first with a goal by Jason Blake, but the Sabres answered back with goals by Drury and Vanek. All seemed well heading into the opening period's dying moments until Ryan Smyth was able to grab the puck to negate an icing call and next thing you know...Sillinger puts the puck in the net with a half minute left in the period. Hmmm, where have we seen that before...

But a penalty to Richard Park put the Sabs on the power play to start the second period and they converted with Drury's second of the night to put them back in front.
The scoring remained that way until a scrum occured in front of the Sabre net with about two minutes left in the third resulting with the puck in the back of the net with what appeared to be the game tying goal....

Not so fast, the referee had blown the whistle(and in later comments) because Miller was shoved into the net with possession of the puck. The play went to Toronto to be reviewed, but since the whistle blew it was considered a non reviewable goal(again, according to an NHL official).

Pominville then struck to ice the game, and down rained the least it was better than game 3.

Nolan was adamant in the post game that the goal was a good one. You gotta feel for him, first the Vanek goal in Game 3 and now this. With his scrappy club fighting the top seed tooth and nail it must be frustrating not to get a break here and there.

At the end of the night though, Sabres lead the series 3-1 and head back to Buffalo to attempt to close it out.

Some random thoughts on tonight....

Saw Satan and Yashin arguing the "no goal" call.I think that's the first time they've been heard from all damned series.

Exactly twenty years ago to the day Patty LaLa ends one of the longest postseason games in history with his OT goal to beat the Caps in Game 7 of their Division Semifinal series.

Some boarding call that was on Numminen, Blake got tapped from behind then jumped into the boards.....

Noticed the Tim Horton's ad on the boards at the left end. Has the Horton's empire reached the NY Metro area yet???

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Seattle Supersonics to OKC... could happen by 2008-09

The Washington state legislature has given a flat out "NO" to a proposal to raise $300 million in various taxes to fund a new arena in suburban Renton for the Seattle Supersonics.

The righteous and moral owner Clay Bennett is now prepping himself to deliver a big "fuck you" to his fan base in Seattle and might move the team, reportedly to Oklahoma City, in time for the 2008-09 season.

More from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

GAME 3: Sabres 3, Islanders 2.

And the home ice swings back to Buffalo with a hard fought win.

All scoring took place in the second period with Danny Briere connecting on the five on three power play. The Islanders took advantage of some sloppy defensive play late to score a goal in the dying seconds of the period.

Adam Mair opened the scoring with a sweet feed from Chris Drury on a rush, Thomas Vanek made the score 2-0 by jamming the puck into the corner of the net. The play had to be reviewed(for an awful long time) before the officials signaled for the goal.

But the two goal lead disappeared quickly as Trent Hunter got one past Miller's glove, players around the net seemed to slow up thinking that he had possession, but not Hunter. Briere's goal came afterward as Max sent two different Islanders to the box on the same rush.

Nice to see that the Sabres kept up the pressure in the third despite not finding the back of the net, hopefully a direct result of the lesson learned from the end of the second.

Things got ugly in the stands as bottles and other junk came flying onto the ice after a penalty was called on Robitaille in the final two minutes. This coming just after an Islander went crashing to the ice(dude was trying to get a call after closer look).

Buffalo won the special teams battle shutting out the Isles while picking up a ppg(Briere) though 1 for 6 isn't all that impressive and quite frankly one more late in the second or third would have slammed the door shut.

Game four is on Wednesday, hopefully Buffalo takes full control....

The best ballpark eats? Try Citizens Bank Park!

Last night the Food Network honored Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, for having the "Best Ballpark Eats".

From the Phillies news release...

"Citizens Bank Park , home of the Phillies, was honored last night for having the “Best Ballpark Eats” during the premiere of the Food Network’s first-ever awards show, the Food Network Awards. The 90-minute show celebrated achievements in the world of food and entertaining in an offbeat awards ceremony unlike any other on television.

Citizens Bank Park offers many features that make it “Not Your Typical Ballpark.” From foods with Philadelphia flavor such as Rick’s Steaks, Tony Luke’s sandwiches and cheesesteaks, Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab Fries, Planet Hoagie and The Schmitter sandwich … to eateries such as Bull’s BBQ, Harry the K’s Broadcast Bar & Grille and McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon. Plus, there are many traditional favorites such as hot dogs and fries at the Hatfield Grill stands, pizza from Peace A Pizza, ice cream products from Turkey Hill, Bubba burgers and many local and national brews. For more information, please go to

An internal panel led by Food Network Kitchens selected the nominees for the awards; the same panel, which represents all departments at the network, chose the winners, in addition to five viewer’s choice categories that were determined by votes on

Citizens Bank Park beat out the other ballpark finalists: Camden Yards in Baltimore , AT&T Park in San Francisco and Safeco Field in Seattle ."

Philadelphia's ballpark won top score in Major League Baseball in the USRT venue rankings, and yeah, under the food category we scored them a 9.5 out of a possible 10 points. Great ballpark... and make sure you go there hungry!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet George Kuhn

A couple weeks ago we talked about seating assignments in the HSBC Arena pressbox, and who we get to spend time with as neighbors. Well, we've got a blue chip journalist sitting to our left, and his name is George Kuhn of Sports and Leisure Magazine.

This season started sort of chaotically for Sports and Leisure when it came to Sabres coverage, trying to find the right type of person to fill the chair and deliver the sort of monthly feature that such a publication demands. By December George had arrived to take over the reigns, and since his assuming responsibilty he has delivered some top notch pieces on the Sabres, a couple of them even becoming cover stories for the paper.

And why not? George is just a bit older than me, so we grew up with childhood memories of the Sabres in the early days, and he can spout off names of past Sabres greats, stats, personal histories, and other useless trivia. Sometimes when we are both at the games well before faceoff time and they're showing some vintage Sabres clip from playoff days of yore on the Jumbotron, George looks at the reel, and can immediately cite the year, the game, the situation, who scored and who won.

He boasts of a huge collection of sports books, programs, media guides, videos and other collectibles from across the hockey spectrum. He has shared friendships and associations with past Sabres greats... Rick Martin and Randy Burridge come to mind. And like all of us who participate in the Sabres media corps, his assignment covering the team is one that he values highly.

Coming to the games and spending time with George Kuhn makes this job so much more enjoyable. Though we've known him for only a short time, he is one of the guys up there who holds an esteemed spot on our media "A" list!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

GAME 2: Islanders 3, Sabres 2

Maybe one problem is too many articles in the press like this one in today's Buffalo News. Heck, even two of us predicted a Sabres sweep in this past week's Puck Stop column. Perhaps we are just too full of ourselves and a game like this was a cold harsh dose of much needed reality.

But the Sabres blew one big time tonight, and have no one to blame but themselves. "We didn't play at all for the first 18 minutes" said Lindy Ruff after the game, looking clearly disappointed at his team's performance tonight.

The Sabres had no legs early on and spotted the Isles a 2-0 lead. Amazingly though, they got stronger as the game went on, and even managed to tie the game early in the third. Rick DiPietro looked very sharp in net however.

The winning goal happened on a power play, after Max Afinogenov got called for hooking Miro Satan on what looked like a very suspect call. After the game Max took full responsibility. "I made a bad choice, and it cost our team. Yes I did commit the penalty" said Max. Lindy would also hear nothing of any sour grapes about the call. "The rule is you don't put your stick in that spot in the mid section. I don't care if Miro grabbed it or not.... Hopefully in the course of a long series these types of calls will even themselves out."

Couple side takes -

A crowd estimated at 1500 watched the game outside on a huge video board assembled as part of the "Party in the Square" event.

After the game we headed out for a couple pops with Matthew and Brian from Metro. Matthew pointed out that, contrary to earlier reports, he did not see Briere participating in the optional skate this morning, and the few guys who did skate seemed to be almost too relaxed and jovial, not the intensity we would hope to see at this point.

Game 3 and 4 happen on the Island Monday and Wednesday... We return for game 5 on Friday, and hopefully our guys will get it all together by then. They'd better.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Minnesota Twins unveil ballpark renderings

The long awaited unveiling of the new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins happened yesterday, as the Twins front office, in conjunction with HOK Sport, showed how their new venue will look.

The retractable roof once contemplated is gone, meaning they will have to deal with the elements in Minneapolis. They are planning on a heating system for the field which would bring field temperatures up to 65 degrees and hope to avert postponements.

At first glance, the park is a combination of the brand new (Pittsburgh's PNC Park), the semi-new (Cleveland's Jacobs Field) and a golden oldie (Chicago's Wrigley Field). Now mix in another cherished relic (Milwaukee's County Stadium), a concept first seen in Baltimore a decade ago and an idea hatched from the "cookie cutter" parks of 1970 and you get the picture.

Construction is set to start this summer, with an Opening Day 2010 debut planned.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

GAME 1: Sabres 4, Islanders 1

My cool downtown sports day comes to an end, 14 1/2 hours after I left my house this morning...

Tonight at HSBC Arena the Buffalo Sabres dispatched the New York Islanders 4-1 to take game one of the best of seven series.

Buffalo threw wave after wave of attacks early on, while limiting New York's chances and allowing only one shot on goal in the first period. Brian Campbell and Chris Drury each netted a pair for Buffalo. New York's only goal came on a breakdown by Derek Roy, who really should have left the ice for a shift change.

Who's hot? Dainius frikkin' Zubrus played like a house on fire tonight, making smart plays, setting up scoring chances and generally looking like the quality forward that Buffalo was hoping to get. "He's just so happy to be back in the playoffs after a long absence" said Coach Lindy Ruff.

Who's not? New York's Miroslav Satan. You think he'd be chomping at the bit to have his top game going... Buffalo, Lindy, Darcy... instead he was a pile of puss out there.

Dubie! Dubie! Gotta tip the hat to Isles goalie Wade Dubielewicz, who faced 35 shots and did an adequate job, but this is not a Stanley Cup goaltender, not by a longshot.

The bombshell was dropped at the postgame press conferences - Goalie Rick DiPietro has been medically cleared to play and Coach Ted Nolan said he would be inserted in practice on Friday, and a decision will be made then on whether he is fit to start in game 2.

Lastly, the fans had their "A" game on big time - raising the roof with noise, waving yellow pom poms, and the traditional old "Ooh Ahh Sabres on the Warpath" chant got going late. The Sabres pregame montage, done to the song "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls, had me choked up and I'm sure I was not the only one. And by the way - I did not spot a single Islanders fan in the stands. Oh how nice to own our building!

Game 2 goes Saturday at 7:30 PM... Pete will be covering, I'll be in the stands and assisting him with post game... and hopefully our after the game outing over beer and wings will be a festive one!

Torey Lovullo is one happy guy today!

It's 4:30PM... my cool downtown sports day continues...

Bisons 2, Lynx 1 at Dunn Tire Park
After turning a strange 1-5-4 double play in the 6th following by Choo's diving catch in right to end the inning, Manager Torey Lovullo had to be pleased. "After some of the defensive outings we've had here, it was nice to see that kind of performance. The lead out was the key out, and those plays essentially saved the ball game for us." Offensively, solo home runs by Keith Ginter and Ryan Mulhern were the difference in this one.

The team now hits the road for sets in Columbus and Toledo before returning home (to hopefully better weather) on Saturday, April 21.

In between games...
So with the Sabres game not starting until 8PM, this means some time to kill, so I'm going to catch up on some writing and some web surfing until they shut down the pressbox here at the ballpark... then head down to the arena. I think I'm in the mood to check out the team store and buy some souvenirs, and maybe see if the pregame concert is still a go. The rain has started though.

Lotsa cookies, ice cream bars and popcorn...but no wi-fi.
Let me start by saying this... the Sabres media department are the best bunch of guys you would want to meet. Mike Gilbert, Chris Bandura, Kevin Snow and webmaster Brian Wheeler always cooperative, always professional, and a joy to interact and work with.

Unless... you have the temerity to ask them to jump on their wi-fi internet service. That's when the Guardians of the Bandwidth and Lords of the Surf come harshly into play. Bottom line... I'd gladly take a reliable internet connection at the arena over the pressbox junk food buffet any day.

Reporting from the Sabres morning skate

The Islanders were working it at their morning practice at HSBC Arena

Ted Nolan says the story is no longer about him, it's about his guys who fought hard to get to this point.

Calm… businesslike… The Sabres went through a spirited morning skate at HSBC Arena, and the atmosphere on the ice and in the locker room seems to be relaxed and focused leading into the game tonight.

Thomas Vanek seems to be excited to be back at this point, and is not taking the Islanders team lightly. “All 16 teams that are in the playoffs are there because they deserve to be there.” Vanek also called on the fans to help the team out. “Hopefully the crowd will be there doing there thing and we can get an early jump on ‘em” said Vanek.

“Excited” is the word Jason Pominville used to describe the mood of the team. Pominville knows what it’s like to be in this situation, and admits that even with a year of experience, there are still butterflies.
“Sure it does, but we’ve been through this before, and just hitting the ice and the cheering of the fans will be a good feeling, and for now we’re just excited to be getting it going.”

Lindy Ruff was anxious to get the jitters out of the way at the morning skate, but sensed none of that among his team. “I didn’t see none of that. I think the guys are focused and they’re ready to play.”

Some random observations...

-A way of telling what is going on with the team roster is by looking at the stalls in the Sabres locker room. There are only a limited number so if you're on the DL or otherwise indisposed, your stall is forfeited and your name plate removed. So who has a stall and equipment all set up? None other than Paul Gaustad. Might we yet see Gaustad back this season?

-While his guys were stretching at center ice, I watched Islanders coach Ted Nolan just staring at the rafters, his gaze transfixed for about 15 seconds. And what was he looking at? Well, his stare was pointed straight at the 1996-97 division champion banner. Would have loved to know what was going through his head at that very moment.

-In the Islanders locker room... one of those felt tipped marker boards and listed there were the Sabres projected lineups and line pairings. Listed there... Tim Connolly - injured. Dan Paille and Clarke MacArthur, 4th line. WTF???!!! This got more than a few snickers from the Buffalo media.

This week in Artvoice

"An Extraordinary Year"

This week's Puck Stop. And Andrew, Peter, and Artvoice Editor Geoff Kelly make our predictions for all the first round matchups in the Eastern Conference.

Check it out!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NFL Schedule released!

The 48th season of Buffalo Bills football features the return of Monday Night Football to Orchard Park for the first time since '94 with the Dallas Cowboys' visit on Columbus Day weekend.

Personally speaking, I think there could be a record for arrests and ejections at the Ralph that night.....but that's just me....anyhow, schedule:

All games are 1pm starts unless otherwise noted, and of course subject to last minute and seemingly indecisive changing.....

9.16 @Pittsburgh
9.23 @New England
9.30 NY JETS
10.8 DALLAS( 8pm monday night)
10.15 bye week
10.28 @NY Jets(4pm start)
11.11 @Miami
11.25 @ Jacksonville
12.2 @Washington
12.9 MIAMI
12.16 @Cleveland
12.30 @Philadelphia

Some thoughts:

Another visit by Miami in the cold weather....

If Cleveland still sucks this year, how big of a presence will Buffalofan have in Cleveland?

Wondering just how negative things will get when McGahee comes back on October 21st..

Anyone notice that the Bills don't leave the Eastern Time Zone at all this year?

Season begins on 9/6 with the Saints visiting the Colts. Will the Saints drag out Archie Manning to make this another silly, overhyped Manning matchup?

But did Roger Dorn get to pinch hit?

Apparently the Cleveland Indians' debut at Miller Park in Milwaukee was a smash hit after all.

The team was forced to move their games to Milwaukee because of the unplayable conditions at Jacobs Field. So with a bunch of games already cancelled, they opted to shift venues and the enclosed ballpark in Milwaukee was the best fit.

So some highlights from the wild affair last night:

- Over 19,000 fans bought tickets, available for $10 each, and filled the first and second decks.

- Tribe mascot "Slider" made the the trip and took over Bernie Brewers house high above left field.

- The Indians e-mailed the video graphics to Milwaukee's scoreboard operator to upload them onto Miller Park's Jumbotron. The Indians' theme song – "Are you ready to rock? Are you ready to scream? It's Tribe time!" played at the intro.

- That drum guy who sits out in left field at the Jake was flown in by the team to...ummm... bang his drum.

- Pitcher Joe Borowski entered the game in the 9th to close, accompanied to the strains of the Troggs "Wild Thing".

- Milwaukeeans got their mojo in the act as well, doing their slow motion version of The Wave as done at University of Wisconsin football games. And yes, the Sausage Race ran in the 6th as scheduled!

And oh yes, Cleveland beat Anaheim 7-6. Wow does this sound like a lot of fun! Wish we had been there to be a part of it all.

More from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time to bring Sabrefan down to earth here......

"We're gonna walk all over the Islanders!"
Sure about that?

"We're the President's Trophy winners! They just snuck in!!"
Ummm, yea....and??

"We're more talented! There's no way they can match up with us! We have too much depth, we're better in goal! This will be a cakewalk!!"
Sorry pal, history says something totally different. Frankly...

The above quotes seem to be the prevailing sentiment here in town about the upcoming series with the Islanders. The superior talented Sabres will have their way with the injury plagued Islanders filled with enigmatic players such as Miro Satan and Alexei Yashin. Sure they'll play under coach Ted Nolan, but his will will be of little difference in the Sabres eventual walkover of the Long Islanders. I'm here to tell ya that after a little research, that scenario while somewhat possible is not a certainty...not even close.

On a lazy Tuesday night before the playoffs, Taro hit the books to get a looksee at the results of Stanley Cup series pitting #1 vs. #8 seeds. If history holds true to form, yes the Sabres could walk away with a quick series win. That possibility is about as likely as the Islanders walking out of this one on top.

Think I'm joking? Take a look at this:

Since the advent of the current format in 1994 (24 series total):

The number 1 seed has won in 4 or 5 games a total of 8 times. This is one better than the amount of times the 8 seed has won outright (7 times).

Every time a 1/8 series has reached seven games, the 8 seed has won. Not a good thought if this one goes the distance (and you are contemplating that now, aren't you).

The other 9 series' went six games obviously...and while I won't run them all down, there were a few doozies in that group...all involving Detroit. No reason why...

'04: Nashville roughs up the Wings
'02: Wings rally from down 2-0 to stun Canucks. Who remembers the goal from the blue line in game 3???
'96: The White Noise howls one last time in Winnipeg.

Just saying folks, I thinks that a quick and easy series is the last thing that Sabres fans should have on their minds.

Taro Sez...."Simon says: Sabres win in a Dubieous six game set."

This series will make the most arduous of Nolan fans despise him....

We want our HD!

Time Warner acquires rights to broadcast Versus in high definition, according to this news release issued yesterday. Whether Time Warner's WNY systems will add the channel is yet to be determined.

Televised hockey is such a natural for this technology... why the Sabres haven't gone to high definition telecasts on MSG and why games in high definition are an occasional curiosity instead of the broadcast standard is a mystery to me.

Greetings from the pressbox at Dunn Tire Park

Amy Moritz from the Buffalo News and Dave Ricci from Metro Community News are in the saddle today... Outside it's sunny...40 degrees... a little bit better than yesterday.

And memo to Torey Lovullo... Inside its 68 degrees and toasty.

Bisons 5, Lynx 3 (5:00PM report)
No Pete and I are not going to do a game report each game we'll leave the hard core reporting to Buffalobaseballblog, but if we're in the building we will chime in with some takes.

Anyways, the Bisons make it two in a row this afternoon DESPITE three errors on second baseman Hector Luna. He coulda been tagged with a fourth when he turned a double play and the relay skipped into the dirt at first base, but scorer Kevin Lester correctly ruled it a fielder's choice. After the game Torey Lovullo defended his player, saying he really didn't have to talk to Luna on the bench; he is a seasoned pro and if it becomes a pattern then it's time to work on it. Luna did redeem himself with a RBI single in the 6th and later scored.

For the second day in a row, Keith Ginter serves up the heroics - a two run double in the 7th to give Buffalo the lead for good, this after falling behind 3-0 and being no-hit through the first 5.

About 450 in attendance, up from 300 on Opening Day. Can we make it 600 tomorrow?! Just kidding... hey warm spring nights and full houses of happy fans are just a homestand or two away, we promise!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Major League IV?????

No, there's no new sequel coming out....but in real life? Hmmmm.

Anyone who remembers the original movie Major League probably knows that the stadium used for the Cleveland Indians home was actually Milwaukee County Stadium.

Well, thanks to the brutal weather that Cleveland has been experiencing lately it appears that the real life Indians will be playing at least one series as the home team in Miller Park against the Los Angeles Angels.

Considering the short advance notice that baseball fans in Milwaukee will be getting for this impromptu series, one can just see the real life Harry Doyle(longtime Brewer radio play by play man Bob Uecker) stretching his microphone out of the booth straining for the sounds of fan enthusiasm within close earshot.

Then again....considering how the Brewers have been for the past two decades, hasn't there been plenty of opportunities for him to do that anyhow???

Buffalo Inner Harbor Update

To our readers outside of Buffalo who don't get the daily hub-bub, the news here is that the kooks and obstructionists are coming out of the woodwork to try and derail the exciting plans for the rebirth of the Inner Harbor next door to HSBC Arena.

Our friend Buffalo Pundit has an excellent post which lays out a common sense dialogue to the entire issue. Some excellent posts replying to the main article as well.

Our position is simple... this land has laid vacant and empty for 50 years...a signature retail destination such as Bass Pro, ancillary development which is certain to follow, buildings designed in 19th century wharf style, life and energy and people on the streets year round in a vibrant Cobblestone District. Enough procrastinating... just get it done!!!

Yes it's finally "Play Ball" In Buffalo!

Sun and clouds... temperature 35 degrees... maybe 300 fans in the stands. But after four days of cancellations, it is just GOOD TO BE DOWN HERE!

I left my flash card reader home so no pics to attach... I will add a game recap later.

Bisons 8, Lynx 3
Short game update... the Buffalo Bisons took the Opening Day game with a convincing 8-3 win at Dunn Tire Park, collecting 7 runs on 10 hits in the first three innings. That was enough to make a winner out of starter Adam Miller, who was pretty solid himself, pitching 6 innings and batting out of a bases loaded jam in the 3rd inning.

After the game I asked Manager Torey Lovullo on how the team can maintain its focus after such a lengthy layoff from baseball. "We had the guys down here Saturday and Sunday and tried as best we could to simulate a game in the cages, but actually it is quite nice to get out on the field."

As we walked into his office, Torey greeted the media with a big smile and welcome, and asked "So was it nice and warm up there in the pressbox?"

Heh..heh... Yes it was Torey... but best of all, great to see all the familiar faces and old friends... Mike Harrington, Amy Moritz, Dave Ricci and Bob Matuszak in the press crew... Scorer Kevin Lester... Brad and Jon from the Bisons as well as guys in the game day crew.

One more take... Ben Wagner was totally solid in his first game as Voice of the Bisons. Looks like the team has found itself another blue chip choice!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Die Leaves Die!

It will be Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders in the first round.

I got to watch today on TSN, and just shook my head as the Devils tied the score with 0.8 seconds left in regulation, putting a dagger in the heart of Islanders fans and jubilation in the homes and streets of Toronto.

But the game was not over. After the overtime the season for two teams came down to a shootout, and it was Scott Clemmenson for NJ vs Wade Dubieliewicz for NY.

Both teams traded goals in the first round, the Islanders got one in the second while NJ's chance was poke checked away. In the third round with the win on the line, Ryan Smyth missed the net for the Islanders... NJ's last chance ended up with Dubie poke checking the puck off Sergei Brylin's stick, and the celebration was on.

Ted Nolan looked EXACTLY as he did back in 1997 when the Sabres beat the Senators in game 7 of overtime. Just unbridled childlike joy!

And TSN also showed a live shot from Gretzky's restaurant in downtown Toronto... heh heh heh.

10PM update...
Round 1 schedule
Thursday 4/12 8:00 @Buffalo
Saturday 4/14 7:30 @Buffalo
Monday 4/16 7:30 @Islanders
Wednesday 4/18 7:30 @Islanders
Friday 4/20 7:00 @Buffalo
Sunday 4/22 7:00 @Islanders
Tuesday 4/24 TBD @Buffalo