Thursday, May 31, 2007

Torey Lovullo - going to the All Star game.

Bisons Manager Torey Lovullo will be heading to Albuquerque in July as a member of the International League's squad coaching team.

Congrats to our skipper!

More info on the Bisons website.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Charlotte Coliseum - BOOM!

It's coming down this Sunday.

Charlotte Coliseum was the venue for TWO official USRT visits... In January, 2001 we visited to see the NBA Charlotte Hornets; the Hornets eventually departed for New Orleans, but the city got an exapnsion team two years later. In November, 2004 we returned to see the Charlotte Bobcats take to the court in their one season at the old Coliseum, before moving to their new downtown arena the following year.

HERE is our venue profile.

Road trip duo doing all 30 MLB parks

From the email box comes news of two fellas.. Neal Koral and Alon Mass, who are in the midst of a 22,000 trip by car to every Major League Baseball venue, and are also raising moneys for various charities including the Make A Wiah Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the RBI Program.

In checking out their schedule, turns out the guys are in our region today, visiting Niagara Falls enroute to the Rogers Centre in Toronto. We would have liked to give them a shout and hook up, but with Pete moving into his new house in Amherst and me wrapped up in Cheektowaga Democratic Party affairs, free time is at a premium this week.

Check out their website. And we send them our best wishes for a successful journey and great adventures!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cubs to Vero Beach... yeah, right.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers slated to leave Dodgertown after the 2008 Spring Training season for a new headquarters in Goodyear, Arizona, the folks in Vero Beach will be scrambling for a new tenant.

But the Chicago Cubs?

So says TCPalm columnist Russ Lemmon in this article, which he must have jotted down after waking up from some wet dream of his.

Ain't happenin'... and here's why. The Cubs are the flagship franchise of Arizona's Cactus League. They regularly are the spring attendance leaders, the top revenue producers, and with easy non stop air service between Chicago and Phoenix, have been a huge tourist draw for Windy City snowbirds. Getting to Vero Beach by air is far more cumbersome.

The Cubs will be staying put at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, in my humble opinion. As for Holman Stadium in Dodgertown, they might be able to attract the Milwaukee Brewers, now based at the Maryvale Baseball park in Phoenix, or even the Cincinnati Reds, whose attempts to upgrade their venue in Sarasota have been one disaster after the next.

As for us, we've got a 2008 USRT visit to Dodgertown right on our road trip schedule. It will be a combo NCAA basketball subregional at Tampa's St. Pete Times Forum, and stops to a few baseball parks, Vero Beach being among them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet Mike Harrington

This is one tribute that is way overdue considering we've been blogging a few months now.

No one, but NO ONE, has had as profound an impact on the Ultimate Sports Road Trip as Mike Harrington has. When Mike first met us and learned what we were doing, his passion and support was immediate. His coverage of the USRT through two feature articles in the Buffalo News, in 2001 and in 2003, made it to national news wires and media outlets. The rest, as they say, is history... the News stories resulted in a live appearance on The Today Show and a writeup in Sports Illustrated. For two average blokes like us, it was the "15 minutes of fame" that most people just dream of.

We first met Mike back in 2001 in the pressbox at the ballpark, when we were still starting out ourselves as media guys doing the Sportsblast stuff. We had just gotten back from our official USRT visit to Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, and we had snapped a photo there of a fan in the stands who bore a close resemblance to Mike, in fact it was scary how much alike this guy looked. We emailed the pic to Mike, he got a kick out of it, and asked us what we were doing out in San Francisco. We replied, "Stop #87, Mike. We're doing all 121 teams in the four major sports." Mike was so impressed, he pitched the idea of a story in the Buffalo News, and the first piece ran in the fall of 2001.

Since that time, Mike has kept closely abreast of our travels, and when we hit the finish line in Detroit in December 2002, he was one of the first people on the phone the next day, offering his congratulations, wanting to hear the details of the adventure, and of course another news story.

In February of 2003, we held a celebration in the party suite at HSBC Arena, culminating the USRT at the place where it started (Stop #1 - Buffalo Sabres 1998). Mike joined us at the party and was there to raise a glass to our accomplishment. It's one thing for a reporter to cover a topic and write a story; that Mike Harrington would take time out of his schedule to take part in this occasion and meet our families and close friends speaks volumes for the type of guy he is.

We get to see Mike and spend time with him often during the year, as he is a fixture at Dunn Tire Park as the lead baseball reporter covering the Bisons. Mike also handles college basketball for the paper and we've bumped shoulders at numerous tournaments over the past few years and have even hung out a few times when the work day was done.

Mike is also blogging now on the Buffalo News website and we trade comments often. Check out his blog postings or his weekly Inside Baseball column in the Buffalo News. From time to time he will share a story about a sports venue he has visited, or commentary and critique about an arena, a behind the scenes peek that most sports reporters would ignore.

We shamelessly take credit for that. For while Mike Harrington has had a deep impact on the USRT, we think the USRT has rubbed off on Mike Harrington as well. And that's a good thing!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Coney Island amusement park will be no more

When we visited KeySpan Park, home of the NY-Penn League Brooklyn Cyclones, the entire experience blew us away. Here sat this amazing minor league ballpark, right on the Atlantic Ocean, attached to the famed Coney Island boardwalk, and right next door was the seedy and rundown yet awesome amusement park bearing the famed Cyclone roller coaster. And right down Surf Blvd is the original home of Nathan's Famous hot dogs, and they taste sooooo good there!

Put it all together and it is a tremendous baseball/entertainment experience.

And soon it will be gone.

In today's New York Newsday, comes the announcement that a $2 billion hotel and entertainment venue will replace the venerable amusement park, but the ballpark will remain, and for the road tripper remains a truly top notch stadium destination.

By the way, the obligatory pilgrimage to Nathan's is still a must!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

So much for the American teams

Well all my sarcastic chants for U-S-A! U-S-A! have gone for naught.

It will be the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Vancouver Giants facing off on Sunday for the Memorial Cup, the trophy symbolizing supremacy in Canadian junior hockey.

Plymouth lost last night in the semi final by a score of 8-1 to Vancouver. Ouch!

The finals take place tomorrow at 4PM at GM Place in Vancouver. This tournament has shattered all Memorial Cup attedance records.

I had predicted Lewiston to win it all, and they looked like the worst of the four teams. What the hell do I know anyway!

May 27 update.... Vancouver 3, Medicine Hat 1, final.... Vancouver Giants win the 2007 Memorial Cup

Friday, May 25, 2007

They are sprucing up Damaschke Field

The New York Penn League has rolled out some glitzy baseball parks in recent years, none nicer than KeySpan Park on Coney Island and Medlar Field on the Penn State campus in State College.

Then there's Damaschke Field.

If you want the "old school" minor league baseball experience, there is no place more tumble down and humble than the home of the Oneonta Tigers. Owner Sam Nader holds court in his "box seats" on the first base side, bragging that this is the only "dry ballpark" (translation - no beer) in professional baseball, son Bill is running back and forth between the ticket booth and grilling hot dogs, the baselines and outfield are surrounded by a wooden fence with, yes, real knotholes to get a peek of the action. and the rolling hills in the distance make for a bucolic setting.

In other, words, this a slice of baseball heaven.

We got to visit this venue on a USRT journey back in 2003, got to talk with Sam which was a priceless experience in itself, and were just shaking our heads at how truly bad this place was, and how much we loved the experience.

Apparently, Damaschke Field is getting a bit of a touch up, as this article in The Daily Star indicates. The NY-P season opens June 22.

The nice thing about attending an Oneonta Tigers game is that it is just a short hop from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and less than five hours away from Buffalo. Wouldn't mind heading back and checking the place out... and having a beer, ummm... soft drink with Sam and once again being regaled with timeless baseball stories.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Today's Bucky Gleason - how a good column ends in mush

I am not crazy about critiquing or picking apart the work of other journalists in the Buffalo sports media. For the most past everyone here does a solid job, and Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason falls in that category, even if he is a trifle cold and aloof to people (like us) who he does not deem as his contemporaries. We're fine with that.

In today's Buffalo News, Bucky presents this commentary offering some unique insight on Maxim Afinogenov's mindset about the Sabres playoff run, more or less stating that Max was perfectly fine with the outcome of the season and what the team did achieve. Hmmmm. Interesting.

He then goes on to take jabs at Assistant Coach Brian McCutcheon and players Jaroslav Spacek and Dmitri Kalinin. OK.

Now time to put a wrap on the column, end it with a bang. Here goes...
"If they give half-hearted efforts next season like they did against Ottawa, they’ll have 10,000 people inside HSBC Arena rather than 10,000 people outside."


The Sabres capped their season ticket sales at 14,800 this year, and have a waiting list in excess of 6,000 more requests. Most current season ticket holders have already renewed for next year.

Or didn't Bucky know that?

Furthermore, I've been told by sources that the team will most likely scrap the mini pack product next season, because it is too unwieldy to manage and the tickets just aren't there. The team will leave between 2500-3000 tickets per game for single sales, and my bet is they get snapped up as soon as they become available.

Will it ever go back to the days where the season ticket base falters and there are yawning gaps of empty seats in the corners and end zones game after game? Sure it can, but with the season ticket price structure being so attractive, and the variable pricing policy for quality of opponent, it would take years of dreary and depressing play for the ticket base to erode. I'm confident that we're looking at years of continuous sellouts.

It would be nice if Bucky could focus on some of the good days and great moments that have come from the Sabres these past two seasons, yet he seems to only want to dwell on the negative, almost hoping that the future brings misery and hard luck. Perhaps there's something gooey in the water cooler at One News Plaza, because I flip the page, and there's Donny Osmond, ripping once again on Canalside... "Big Box!" "Abomination!" UGH!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kauffman Stadium to get dramatic facelift

It is one of the most beautiful ballparks in all of Major League Baseball - Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, has always been best known for its dramatic outfield fountains.

And now it is about to get much better, as the Royals today have announced a $250MM renovation plan which will be built in several phases, with completion targeted for Opening Day 2010.

More on the plans here at the Kansas City Royals website.

In the USRT rankings, Kauffman Stadium earned 19th place out of 30 teams, with deductions coming thanks to some snooty ushers and generally a horrible location. There will be absolutely NO problem having to twist our arm for another Ultimate Sports Road Trip visit. Will the Sprint Center have a major sports tenant by then as well?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Coming in 2009... "The MLB Network"

It will be the largest cable tv and satellite tv rollout in history... approximately 47 million homes will start receiving the "MLB Network" when it begins broadcasting on January 1, 2009. Included on the channel will be a Saturday night Game of the Week airing on 26 consecutive weekends.

More news at this article on

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Garrioch watch - Report #5 (Final)

Alrighty. Enough already.

Time to lighten up on Ottawa Sun hockey writer Bruce Garrioch, the fella we demonized after he made his ridiculous rants on MSG back in February, back then ripping into Sabres owner Tom Golisano and poking fun at injured star Chris Drury.

Garrioch's stories in today's Ottawa Sun, linked HERE and HERE, are balanced stories and good reads from the Ottawa perspective.

Zero tee-hees. Happy trails to The Joe or The Pond, Bruce.

Oh heck, one last time for good measure... tickle that tummy!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Now time to focus on a REAL sport.....The NBA

Hey....there have been more cheap shots and dirty hits in those playoffs than in the NHL this season. See any Spurs game for proof....

I'd like to say I'm really anticipting the professional version of the Final Four, but really all the good fun teams to watch are gone. Miami's title defense goes without so much as a postseason victory, Golden State aroused us with the latest version of Nellieball, and Phoenix was the victim of several cheap shots from the Spurs followed by a big one from the Commisioners Office....

(Quite frankly, Stern's suspensions didn't do nearly the damage to the Suns as he did to the Knicks back in '97, but the Knick fan in me digresses)

Anyhow, we're stuck with this loathsome foursome as we head towards the awarding of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.....

Cleveland v. there any other reason to watch this series than to watch the brilliance of LeBron James? Unfortunately, he just doesn't have a supporting cast to avoid being the wrath of Detroit's suffocating defensive system. This one will be a yawner even if it goes seven games.

It won't: Pistons in six games

Utah v San Antonio: Ah, yes...the Spurs, the Patriots of the of three titles in the past eight seasons and until this season a rep for being a classy team. In steps Bruce Bowen(literally) and Big Shot.....errrr....Cheap Shot Robert Horry among others. It makes you wonder if referee Joey Crawford wasn't too far off in challenging Tim Duncan to a scrum late in the season. This team has developed quite the nasty edge, for certain.

Wow! So that's where Deron Williams went after leaving Illinois.....what a breath of fresh air that guy has been, and who knew that the Jazz would get to the Conference Finals this quickly after the end of the Stockton/Malone era. I like this group, they have been able to play whatever style has been thrown at them by the opposition...whether it be the uptempo Warriors or the slower Rockets.

But unfortunately, the Spurs are too deep for these guys I thinks. Would love nothing more than to see a freak injury hit Bowen or Horry.

Screw it: let my heart think this time. Cinderella lives in Salt Lake City. Jazz to the Finals in seven with stunned silence at Riverwalk when it's done.

GAME 5: Senators 3, Sabres 2, OT

The dream died tonight.

From the very moment the Sabres lost game 7 in Carolina last June, everything was geared towards this season - the perfect storm of keeping this team largely intact, a year of maturity, of seasoning, a mantra of "One Team. One Goal." The energy began early on... the winning streak in October set the tone, fans snapped up every remaining available ticket and for the first time since the 70s there is a "waiting list" for season tickets.

In February adversity hit the team with injury after injury, yet the team worked through their troubles, and by March the run for the division banner and the President's Trophy was on.

By playoff time there came that queasy feeling - the stumbles against the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers, and somehow just the feeling that this was not the same as last year.

Then came the Ottawa Senators.

Said Daniel Alfredsson, "I think they ran into us at the wrong time."

Alfredsson was right on the money. His team played like they were possessed through the last two months of the regular season. That epic brawl in Buffalo on February 22 set the tone for the coming playoff matchup. Was anyone in Buffalo really looking forward to seeing Ottawa in the playoffs?

After the game, a dejected Lindy Ruff looked like he was fighting back tears as he saluted the fans. "The positive was how energized this city was. How much fun this whole area and city had. We had a lot to be proud of." Then choked up he added "We let the fans down. The expectations were so high. That room was as quiet as quiet can be."

Chris Drury's comments sounded more ominous. Sporting eight stitches below his lip and three more inside his mouth from a puck to the face he took in the third period, Drury remarked "great chance we're not going to be a group anymore. We know there will be changes made. Ultimately that's what we do."

Uh boy.

Our guy Mike Harrington from the Buffalo News broke up the room when he asked Ray Emery this question: "Greektown or Disneyland?" Emery replied, "I got into a lot of trouble last time I talked about this so I don't think I should answer." Harrington pressed on, and Emery cracked back "I'll be in the hotel either way."

Pete missed this game as he worked his USPS shift plus overtime so I was furiously sending him text messages throughout the game to keep him updated. I'm sure he will have his own thoughts to post here, but for now I will post mine.

This was another amazing season. It's been an amazing two years and I can wrap myself in the great memories of the post lockout era and how much being a Sabres fan means to me. We have every reason to be proud of this city and I am prouder than ever of my community and how they have embraced this team. Yeah, we're going to lose players. But so are other teams. This organization is positioned to compete next year and beyond for the Cup.

Thank you Sabres. I am looking forward to next year already. Can't wait!

And yeah, Ottawa is now our bitter rival, and next season I will start hating them again. But for me, right here and right now? "Go Sens Go!"

Friday, May 18, 2007

More "love" from across the Peace Bridge

So tonight I'm flipping through sites and articles and checking out Anything Sabres, and I come across this attempt at a clever piece in the Welland Tribune. (For anyone not from these parts, Welland Ontario is about 25 miles west of Buffalo just across the border.)

The salient points? We lost our NBA team, never won a Super Bowl, never won a Stanley Cup, thousands of jobs gone and more leaving by the day. And we pathetic WNY'ers are just sooooooo desperate for any sort of championship so we could feel good about ourselves again.

Then the kicker... ain't happenin! The writer, some beady eyed, flapping headed Canuck named "Bernd" goes on to gloat how his (suddenly beloved) Senators will be fine, wraps himself in his maple leaf flag, and concludes the piece by saying "Buffalo, better keep those Stanley Cup parade plans on hold."

I have no problem with Canadians from Nepean and Kemptville and Cornwall and Hull, QC supporting the Senators. I do have a problem with any Canadians who can easily catch 2, 4 and 7 with a set of cheap rabbit ears doing likewise.

Wayne Redshaw is a long time hockey writer from the Welland Tribune.. . Heck I remember reading his articles in Sabres programs when I was 12 years old and the top row in the Aud was colored grey. Wayne still covers the Sabres, and I'm going to make a point of giving him an earful in the pressbox tomorrow about his colleague "Bernd".

As an aside... too bad this wasn't a Bruce Garrioch piece... the 'tee-hees" would have been off the charts!

U-S-A! U-S-A! Memorial Cup action starts tonight

My patriotic fervor is climbing... my love for the red, white and blue manifests itself through the glow all over me and the love I have for our country.

Hey, all of Canada is tuned into CBC and TSN and are all of a sudden rooting for their beloved Senators and their fellow countrymen, guys like Daniel Alfredsson and Anton Volchenkov, to bring home the Stanley Cup to the place where it rightfully belongs, right? So tit for tat - I and all of America are gripped with Memorial Cup fever. And not one, but TWO American based franchises are representing Old Glory in this year's tournament, which begins tonight at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

Four teams participate - the winner of the three major leagues in Canada - the WHL, the OHL and QMJHL. The fourth entrant is the host team, which this year is the Vancouver Giants.

The Medicine Hat Tigers won the WHL, but it was the Plymouth (MI) Whalers taking the OHL crown, while the Lewiston (ME) Maineiacs became the first American based team ever to win the Q. So we have two shots at bringing the Memorial Cup to American soil.

The teams play each other in a round robin format, with the top two finishers then facing off in the championship game, set for Sun May 27 at 4PM at General Motors Place. Would it not be awesome if those two teams end up being Plymouth and Lewiston? What would Don Cherry then have to say? Oh, how the Canadian hockey purists would howl!

I am no expert analyst at junior hockey, just someone who loves the atmosphere and feeling of attending at game at this level. But my pick to win it all is the Lewiston Maineiacs... they swept Val D-Or in the QMJHL finals and did so in impressive fashion. All of French Canada is still horrified asking themselves how this could have happened, and in the next 10 days the rest of their country will be pondering the same question.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Complete Memorial Cup schedule (all times EDT)
Fri 5/18 9pm VAN 4, PLY 3 OT
Sat 5/19 4pm LEW 3, MH 1
Sun 5/20 4:30pm VAN 2, LEW 1
Mon 5/21 8pm MH 4, PLY 1
Tue 5/22 8pm PLY 2, LEW 1 OT
Wed 5/23 10:30pm MH 1, VAN 0
Thur 5/24 10:30pm tiebreaker game PLY 5, LEW 1
Fri 5/25 8pm Semi Final VAN 8, PLY 1
Sun 5/27 4pm Championship VAN v MH

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Garrioch watch - Report #4

As Pundit likes to say, "I read it so you don't have to."

Frank Finnigan came from Shawville. Oh, and he played for the Senators 80 years ago. And his number was retired.

And Senators coach Bryan Murray hails from Shawville. Yip, yip, yippee! Isn't that cool?! Isn't that great?!

Link to Bruce's column here. I'll be generous here and keep it to a respectable 7 tee-hees. I could've come down harder.

Tickle that tummy!

Sens fans show their ugly side

Kevin at Bfloblog shares this story about a female fan wearing Sabres garb who got punched in the face at Scotiabank Place last night following the Sabres 3-2 victory. This brought back memories of my first visit there.

It was 1997, and Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs, and my brother Taras and I made the journey up there; he had gotten some awesome club tickets thanks to a contact he had at the Sabres.

As we walked towards the arena, we got the typical hoots and jeers from the tailgaters in the parking lot... all good fun and we dished out the trash right back. But one particular group of knuckleheads were especially vile and condescending, sitting on the gate of their pickup and drinking their beers. We ignored them.

Gratefully, sitting in the pricey seats we didn't take any crap and were in fact surrounded by other Sabres folks like Jay McKee's mom and Matthew Barnaby's brother, along others. The Sabres' Dixon Ward scored with, I think, 18 seconds left to stun the crowd and give Buffalo the win. Of course, we were on cloud nine, and as we exited the building, we ran into that same bunch of age or so. I walked up to them, extended my hand, and said... "gee tough loss guys, but it will be a long series may the better team win." (Little did we know 7 OT.. Derek Plante...) The one dude looks me over up and down and spits a huge honker right into my palm. And then the profanities. I was going to swing a punch but decided not to. So we just walked, but not before my brother took his boot and kicked over their little hibachi grill, coals and brats spilling onto the pavement. I thought for sure this would be it, the fight would be on and we'd all be arrested, but these guys just stood there and continued hurling profanities.

It gets better... we find a Kelseys Grill in Nepean (one town away) and go in for some late night brews and appetizers. We're both wearing Sabres jerseys. The place is half empty, but the hostess says it will be a 15 minute wait. Half an hour later, and we ask when can we be seated, and the hostess summons her manager, and Mr. Snooty says that they are closed for the evening, and to please leave... dripping in sarcasm and nastiness (four other parties were seated while we were waiting and the sign on the door said the place was open till 1AM).

At this point we left, shed the Sabres garb and went to another place and got waited on pronto.

I like Ottawa, and for Pete and me it is one of our favourite USRT destinations. And I admire the passionate fans and Lyndon Slewidge is THE best anthem singer in the four major sports. But fair warning...all this myth about polite and friendly Canadians goes out the window when it comes to their Senators... the fans there become real bastards. And having seen Sabres games in both Toronto and Montreal, I would never make the same categorization in those cities.

This week in Artvoice

"How Could This Have Happened?"

Thus week's Puck Stop. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Garrioch watch - Report #3

Daniel Alfredsson levels a cheap hit on Henrik Tallinder during the overtime of Game 2.. Garrioch's take? "There is no chance Alfredsson will receive any kind of suspension from NHL VP Colin Campbell ..."

Did we expect any different sort of commentary from the biggest mouthpiece of the Ottawa Senators' Amen Corner?

Absolutely 8 tee-hees.

Tickle that tummy!

Buffalo 7, Ottawa 6

An awesome game turn out into a nailbiter... Buffalo scores seven times and is in total command of the game, only to see Ottawa crawl back into it late. But it was good news for our guys in the end as Buffalo takes it and sends Ottawa fans home disappointed.

OK... this is really about the Buffalo Bisons game last night at Lynx Stadium in Ottawa. But I sure as heck wouldn't mind copying and pasting this text into a Sabres recap 14 hours from now.

Keep hope alive!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The greatest stadium ever built?

Those who will be attending the FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Chelsea at the new Wembley Stadium in London will be the judge of that. This stadium will final open its doors after much controversy, delay after delay and cost overruns.

More info here from The Independent in the U.K.

A USRT journey to the United Kingdom has been bandied about from time to time. Wembley Stadium would certainly be the marquee event.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet Chris Bandura

We've remarked on numerous occasions how great it is to work with and interact with the Buffalo Sabres' media department. They are all top notch professionals, easy to work with, and responsive to our needs.

Media Relations Coordinator Chris Bandura is a key part of that team. But we knew Chris before he joined the Sabres. He held the same position with the Rochester Americans prior to his "call up" to Buffalo. Living in West Seneca, he commuted every day to Rochester, putting in huge hours not only with the long ride, but also the time that such a job demands.

In February 2005, we did a nine day USRT journey through New England, and one of the stops was Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the only day we could fit that one in was the skills competition of the AHL All Star Game. We contacted Chris, and he was only too eager to jump through hoops for us to make sure we got credentialed for the event. Sure enough... Chris gets a hold of Jason Chaimovitz, the PR guy at the AHL, and bam! Our tags under the Sports and Leisure Magazine banner were waiting for us at the door. Looking at the media seating chart that day, we knew there was no other media outlet in attendance who was smaller or less significant than we were.

Go to a morning skate, a team practice or postgame, and Chris is at everyone's service. "Who you need to talk to?", he asks. "Can I help with anything?" This is just the kind of guy he is.

Chris travels with the team to all their road games, and also handles the Buffalo media corps who goes with the team. We had the chance to cover six road games this season, and Chris handled our needs and requests promptly each time.

We are always grateful to Chris Bandura for his support, his good cheer, and for doing his job according to the title - media relations. That is something we will always appreciate in Chris!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Garrioch watch - Report #2

Game 2 of this series wasn't even in the books yet, but Bruce Garrioch was already focusing in on the battle between Ray-Ray and Dominik Hasek.

So on our BG tee-hee scale with a range of 1-10, we give this story a solid 6 tee-hees.

Tickle that tummy!

GAME 2: Senators 4, Sabres 3, 2OT

Maybe it's just not our time.

I am thinking about how exciting and electric these games were a year ago, heart stopping, edge of year seat moments, magical outcomes. When Dan Briere scored in the frenzied closing seconds and the arena erupted in joy, could this be yet another improbable finish in the making?

But here is the painful fact - the Sabres should have never put themselves in that position in the first place. Once again, this team got their "A" game back, came out smoking, dusted off the disappointment of the disallowed Vanek goal ("You hope they get it right" said Lindy Ruff again), and scored two goals. Two goals! Several more scoring chances went for naught; Lydman's bouncer clanged off the post. This game should have been over early.

But the Sabres attack mode seen in these playoffs in occasional spurts was gone by the second period. Shots on net, scoring chances were few and far between. And AGAIN the Sabres found themselves shorthanded by two men, and when Ottawa seized the opportunity late in the second that goal was a real crusher.

Lindy referred to this power player scenario two separate times in his post game comments. "They got handed another five on three. I'm disappointed with that." Then later..."Give us a couple of five on threes. We've had tough calls that leaves us five on three. Zubrus lifting the stick. Campbell with the nudge..."

The third period was dreary, depressing and painful to watch... on several rushes the players seemed out of position. In one sequence to the left of the Buffalo net Afinogenov checked his own player; Once again shots and scoring chances were virtually non existent, and dare I say it, but it was actually fun watching Ottawa win every little battle, making the smart plays, moving the puck to a safe place time and time again. I could only watch in frustation knowing deep down who the better team was.

Once Buffalo scored to tie it, you had to wonder if this would be a deflator in the Sens locker room, just as the Rangers had gone through almost the identical scenario just eight days earlier. The Sens Jason Spezza replies, "We knew we had to put this one behind us fast and regroup. Nobody here panicked. We're figuring we had the upper hand in this one."

Spezza was right. The Senators came out smoking in the first overtime, controlling tempo of play and keeping the puck bottled in the Buffalo zone for most of the period. By the second overtime, they had darkened the shot clock at HSBC Arena. Perhaps it was another errant squirrel that chewed through the wiring, or more likely the team had had enough of displaying this embarassing stat for all to see. Nonetheless, the Sabres started throwing every puck in front of Ray Emery, and at last perhaps something good would happen! But when Spezza won that draw and got it over to Corvo...just like that the Senators had won the game. Said Joe Corvo afterwards, "This was the biggest goal of my career... by far."

Everyone in Buffalo is so heart broken and so disappointed this morning. Since September we have all geared ourselves up for these days, these games, and nothing short of a Stanley Cup parade will suffice. Is this team really that bad? Do these guys really lack what it takes? Yes Ottawa is the team that is "scary good" in these playoffs, but didn't I see the Buffalo Amerks take it to these same guys back in February?

So I will wrap myself in the warmth of this thought - Scotiabank Place is not Buffalo's house of horrors, but the venue of some of our greatest triumphs - 1997, Steve Shields stonewalls the Sens in game 6 to send the series back to Buffalo; 1999, Hasek stops 40 plus shots to secure the opening game 1-0 win, then Miro Satan with his 2OT game winner in game 2; 2006, the crazy track meet in game 1 and a 7-6 overtime win, then Jason Pominville's shorthanded goal in overtime to take this series.

Yes it will be noisy and loud come Monday in Ottawa. They are awesome fans there and love their team and they should be loud.

That being said, see you in Buffalo next Saturday - 2PM faceoff. I will have the AV pressbox chair. Believe.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

How can you not love this guy!

An awesome, upbeat article on Sabres owner Tom Golisano in today's New York Times.

These two quotes jumped out at me, first on the financial state of the Sabres:

“We can remain profitable as long as we play decent hockey,” Golisano said. “If the team were to evolve into a lower-echelon team, I think there would be significant concern about losing money.”
It seems, for now, a faraway concern. Golisano considers the young roster of the Sabres perfectly positioned for years of Stanley Cup contention. The importance of profit may be less of a concern for Golisano, who considered his foray into ownership more an act of community service than investor prudence.
“The personal satisfaction of seeing the enthusiasm, the excitement of the people of western New York toward this hockey team, is worth to me a hell of a lot more than the money that we may or may not make,” he said.

More encouragement about the future of the Buffalo Bills:

He has no plans to rescue other ailing sports franchises, unless it means helping western New York.
“The only thing I will say along that line is that I would hate to see the Buffalo Bills leave the area,” Golisano said of the N.F.L. team, owned by the Wilson family since the franchise began in 1959, and not for sale. “And if a situation arose where I needed to be involved in that, I probably would consider it.”

I'm proud to say I voted for this guy for Governor... three times... and that is long before he had a whiff of owning the Sabres.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The media throngs at HSBC Arena

The first hint I got that this would be something different was while hanging out on the Plaza 90 minutes before the faceoff. I was people watching, and paying particular attention to the media types, and the camera guys, who were mingling within the crowd. And I saw the mic flags... TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, The Score, Global, A-Channel. That's when I realized that all of Canada had sent media to Buffalo to cover this event.

Then my next the hell are they going to fit all these people into the pressbox?

Last year during the Conference Finals series, it was a pretty full pressbox, and that was for the paltry contingent of 'Canes media... the Cletuses, Roscoes and Goobers of the world... and Ned Barnett. Now multiply that visiting contingent by five, and change the names to Gord, Brent, Luc and Lanny. That adds up to a crush of people.

Here''s how the Sabres handled it all... there are two seating tiers in the pressbox, at the west and east ends. Then in the corner right off the elevator is an auxiliary pressbox which is rarely used during the regular season. That one was opened, and then the team did one better... they added a set of risers in all three pressboxes, with a row of tables and chairs, and thus created a third seating tier.

As for how we fared... here is the email we got from Kevin Snow at the Sabres before the series started.
MEDIA CREDENTIALS: Sabres credentials issued for the 2006-07 regular season will be honored for the Eastern Conference Finals, but press box space is limited. Please contact Kevin Snow to verify your attendance. Please include name and affiliation for each request. All individual game requests must be submitted 24 hours prior to the desired game. We will do our best to accommodate each request, but nothing is guaranteed. If a seat is unavailable in the press box, there will be space in the Sabres media room downstairs to view the game (on a big screen TV) and allow for post game access.

So I'm thinking.. no frikkin' way is Artvoice getting our usual spot on media row. The non dailies (Artvoice, Sports and Leisure and Metro Source) are usually relegated to the farthest three seats on the lower tier... seats 2, 3 and 4.

But as I checked in, I looked at the seating chart, and there we were, in SEAT 1! They removed the TV monitor that normally sits in that spot, mounted it on a bracket three feet behind the chair, and created another position. Kick ass!

Memo to Ottawa Citizen, La Presse, RDS and other compatriots... please don't send anyone else to Buffalo... seat 1 is absolutely the end of the food chain!

Garrioch watch - Report #1

I've been revved up... waiting for Bruce Garrioch to start his rips and rants and his "in your face commentary". I even hijacked Buffalo Pundit's MKG mockability ratings, the hilarious critiques of Mary Kunz Goldman's inane Buffalo News columns. I was ready to start picking apart Garrioch's missives, in true Pundit style.

So wasn't I disappointed to check out today's Ottawa Sun, this story and this story, just regular ole' game reporting.

I probably didn't know what to expect... but there's still plenty of hockey to be played and we keep hope alive.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

GAME 1: Senators 5, Sabres 2

What can one say? This was by far the worst effort of the Sabres in the playoffs.

Despite some shoddy play, the Sabres managed to crawl out of a 2-0 hole to tie the game after two, then totally became unhinged in the third period. Oleg Saprykin's tap in 7+ minutes into the third turned out to be the game winner.

Buffalo's power play has been a sore point all season long, but the special teams took the ineptness to a new low tonight, failing to generate any real scoring threat despite numerous opportunities. Buffalo's first power play resulted in a shorthanded goal as Kalinin made one his first dumb plays of the night giving away the puck and allowing a breakaway. "We weren't very good with the puck, and Dmitri wan't the only player who struggled out there. Our puck management wasn't very good." said Coach Lindy Ruff after the game.

With Ottawa clinging to a 3-2 lead with 5 minutes to go, I turned to my seatmate, Matt Ondesko from Metro Source, and said "Matthew, if Ottawa wants to salt this one away, they should now commit a double minor penalty. That would be lights out." He laughed. He didn't argue.

Ruff also criticized his players for the unforced turnovers. "It was a turnover that led to the winning goal." said Ruff, adding "We came out great to start the game, maybe our guys got a little rattled."

If there was one bright spot on the Sabres team, it was the play of the Afinogenov-Roy-Vanek line. Max was absolutely filthy out there, making plays, controlling the puck, taking hits and dishing it right back to the Senators.

Bottom line - special teams! Five on five the Sabres win 2-1.

Peter was in the seats tonight, I was in the very crowded pressbox, and I'll have a story up on all that hubbub tomorrow. But the report from the 100s was that there were only a very small and scattered contingent of Senators fans in the audience. We expect that to increase in game 2.

As always, Peter likes to spot the cool jerseys in the crowd, and tonight he reports that it was a toss up between an Afinogenov Moscow Dynamo and a Hecht Team Deustchland.

Here's a scary stat - Buffalo has dropped the opener in a best of seven series 14 times in franchise history. They have come back to win the series but one of those times.

One could sense a lot of confidence, perhaps even a swagger, among the Sens players after the game tonight. Unless Buffalo figures this team out and fast, this series could be over soon.

This week in Artvoice

"Sabres and Senators at it again."

This week's Puck Stop. Check it out!

Plus, Peter and I and our editor Geoff Kelly offer our round three predictions.

The Bruce Garrioch watch is on!

You remember Bruce Garrioch?

This loathsome piece of crap from the Ottawa Sun is lionized up in Canada as some brilliant hockey columnist, but my first and only recollection of him is getting his pudgy ugly mug on MSG two days after Chris Neil blindsided Chris Drury and sent him to the injury list. Garrioch went toe to toe with Kevin Sylvester and Rob Ray justifying the hit and making his weak and lame arguments for his Senators, a discussion which had many WNY Sabres fans fuming and screaming at their TV sets.

Well Garrioch is on his way to Buffalo, and apparently he is hopping in his car and driving, since John Muckler kicked the media off of the team charter.

From Garrioch's blog...
Off to Buffalo.
The Sun team - Don Brennan, Chris Stevenson, Sean McKibbon and your hero - are headed to Buffalo to cover the big series against the Buffalo Sabres. I told Brennan I was bringing my computer and he told me not to forget my cooler. So we packed both. With flight connections tough between Buffalo and Ottawa _ and since Senators GM John Muckler gave the media the boot from the club charter - the five hour drive is the easiest way to get o Buffalo.
Look, I know a lot of people dump on the place, but's actually a good city that we like to visit. Might even drop by the Anchor Bar (the original home of the chicken wing) where my picture is posted on the wall eating wings at 8 a.m. with CFRA's Steve Madely in 1997.
Should be fun.

Garrioch's mug is on the wall at the Anchor Bar? Ewww what an appetite killer that is!

So will Bruce Garrioch be this year's Ned Barnett? Time will tell, and we will be watching and providing updates!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

BCHF (Bandwagoning Canadian Hockey Fan)

Did you catch this story in the News today. Gee, isn't that least Ft. Erie is kinda sorta rooting for the Sabres....

One quote in particular that galls me.....

“Go Ottawa, anybody but Buffalo,” Fort Erie resident Christine Carty said Tuesday. “I like Toronto, but Toronto’s not in, so you have to go with the Canadian team.”

Why Christine? Can you please explain to me why you have to root for a team in Ottawa, that more than any other club(except maybe the 90's Wings) built itself into a consistent playoff contender using players from just about every country on Earth EXCEPT Canada. Not to mention as a Leaf fan(allegedly) your hated rival.

Daniel Alfredsson....Anton Volchenkov....Oleg Syprekin....remember the old Sens with Alexei Yashin...Zdeno Chara....Hasek. I could go nuts with this....if a purely Canadian team was a GM, then this club has been a Toyota building its team with foreign born parts.

Oh yes, remember when your goalie Ray "McGahee" Emery stunk up the joint so bad in last season's playoffs? Yep the Sens went out and got Martin Gerber....real Canadian boy there.

Message to Canadian hockey fan....and particular Leaf fan in Southern Ontario. You NEVER root for a hated arch rival, especially not in the postseason! Does Yankee fan root for the Red Sox against the Jays??? NO!!!!!

Go to a Jays game at SkyDome when the Yanks or Sox are in town. Do you think the visiting team's fans there are simply there to cheer against the Jays since they play on Canadian soil! No, it's simply their favorite team.

Listen, I get the whole complex that Canadian fans may have about us and that a team on their soil winning the championship in "their sport" means plenty(way too much). But hey, baseball is America's pastime and basketball is the one game that is played the world over that Americans dominate, but we sure as heck didn't slap high fives when the Raptors were eliminated from the NBA playoffs last week nor do we snicker when the Jays come up short year in and year out.

Message to Canadian hockey your patriotism for international competitions....the Olympics, World Cup, World Championships. It has no place in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Baseball is back in Niagara Falls

We have been told that Sal Maglie Stadium has gotten a really nice facelift, and this season will be the host venue for a NEW baseball team... the Niagara Power of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Their season begins on Friday June 8.

Tim Schmitt at the Niagara Gazette gives us the poop with today's article.

Here's another bulletin... Peter grew up cheering for his dear Elmira Pioneers at beautiful historic Dunn Field in Elmira, his childhood team which once played at AA, then in the NY-Penn League, before going into the Independent Northern League. That team is also long gone, but the current version of the Pioneers now play in the NYCBL.

Hmm...I'm checking the schedule and I don't have to look far.. Elmira Pioneers at Niagara Power, Sunday, June 10 at 7PM. Got the calendar already circled...and if you do go on that date and see some shirtless guy in the stands wearing a Davy Crockett style hat, his face painted in Pioneers blue and gray, and "GO PIOS" emblazoned on his chest, stop on by and say "Hi Peter!"

Monday, May 7, 2007

So just move the games to Buffalo!

Last year it was the appearance of "Dora The Explorer" which threatened to disrupt the playoff game schedule between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators.

This year, it's the possibility of a strike by 61 Scotiabank Place operations employees, and according to this report in the Ottawa Sun, such a walkout could really mess things up as the teams prepare to do battle in Ottawa next week.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Round 3 game tickets can be had... at Scotiabank Place

We all know the ticket situation here in Buffalo... with a season ticket base now capped at 14,800, few "additionals" available to season ticket holders, and no window sales, the single ticket buyer has had to scramble to find their way into HSBC Arena.
"Window prices", which is a bit of a misnomer, has tickets for round 3 starting at $90 and climbing to $250 for 100 level sidelines and clubs.

But the situation in Ottawa is far different. While the Senators have sold out all their playoff games this postseason, it has been a relatively easy ticket, and tickets for game 4 against New Jersey were available to walk up customers the day of the game.

Check out the pricing chart on the Ottawa Senators website. Tickets run from $86.21 - $217.24 (prices in Canadian dollars which these days doesn't mean much). They go onsale Monday at 10 AM. It's a 330 mile hop to Kanata... hope Sabres fans are paying attention and jump on these seats! Because you know damn well that the Ians and Brents and Trevors from Welland and Stevensville are going to be in our building this week cheering on their *harumph* beloved Sens.

I watched almost the entire game at WNYM headquarters on Elmwood and got to enjoy seeing firsthand all the "open thread" comments coming in on Bfloblog. Peter couldn't make it down but joined us on the thread as well. It was a kickass time!

Our weekly series on cool media folks - Meet Dan Hickling

How would you like a sports writing job that takes you tens of thousands of miles across the Northeast each year? To minor league and junior hockey venues, minor league baseball, NHL and other events? For Buffalo native Dan Hickling, this is indeed his assignment, and he has become an institution in media rooms across the sports spectrum.

Dan now lives with his beautiful wife Deb outside of Portland, Maine, is the 9th generation of "Dan Hicklings" and is known as "Dan the 9th". His newest grandson, "Dan the 11th" was born a few years back.

As a sportswriter, his primary gig is with the Providence Journal, where he covers the Boston Bruins, Providence Bruins and Pawtucket Red Sox. He also free lances for many other publications and websites, and it is that work that takes him on the road for roughly half the year, and that includes regular visits here to Dunn Tire Park, as well as to Sabres gmes when the Bruins come to town.

Dan might no longer live in WNY, but his sports heart is with our teams here. Back in 2004, he predicted the Bisons would win the IL North by ten games and go on to win the Governors Cup. They did just that. He is unashamedly a Sabres fan and follows the team closely from afar.

As we have traveled across the region, Dan has often offered us his advice and material support to assist us in our journeys... everything from who to talk to to get credentials/interviews etc... to where the best media food is... he has introduced us to more than a few media celebrity types. In 2004 we attended the AHL All Star Game in Manchester NH, and as we're talking with Dan and running down our itinerary, which included a Providence Friars basketball game at the Dunkin Donuts Center, Dan said "what do you mean you guys don't have press passes for that!? Call so and so, better yet, email him and mention my name and he'll take care of you!" So we email this guy, mention Dan's name, and sure enough, there were two press credentials at the door for the game, and one of the most awesome media spreads we've ever enjoyed on the USRT!

Dan loves his work... and everyone who knows Dan loves the guy. Having a good friend like him is what makes doing this all so worthwhile. Still left on the USRT "to do" list is a AA Portland Seadogs game. We're hoping that once we do get up there, we catch "pesto night at the Hicklings." Deb will then have to set two extra places at their dinner table, because we are crashing!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Holy crap!!!!!!

How's this for a line score...

Pawtucket 3 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 5 / 14 / 12 / 4

Buffalo..... 0 0 5 0 1 0 0 0 9 / 15 / 17 / 2

The Bisons plate NINE RUNS in the bottom of the 9th to steal this one. A walkoff base on balls with the bases loaded seals the deal. Final score... Buffalo 15, Pawtucket 14 at Dunn Tire Park.

With the pitching staff stretched thin, infielder Trent Durrington came in to pitch in the top of the 9th, recording one out to end the inning. For his effort he earns the win, the first position player to accomplish such a feat for Buffalo since Chris Coste did it in 2002. This also ties a Bisons modern era record for the greatest comeback ever by the team.

More baseball to come... this is a doubleheader and the second game will go 7 innings.

11:45PM update... Bisons take nightcap by a score of 5-0, and now lead the IL North by 1/2 game. With Torey Lovullo tending to family matters, Coach Dave Myers led the team tonight and admitted that he hadn't called the boss yet to share the news. "He's going to know soon enough he's going to have to call this in" said a smiling Myers. The Bisons sent 13 batters to the plate in the 9th inning, resulting in five hits, three walks, a hit batter, and three Pawtucket fielding errors.

"We need a little hatred"

Yes it's early, and yes there's still a lot of baseball to be played this season, but as the calendar flips to May, it is the Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Red Wings battling out for supremacy in the International League North. If the season ended today, the two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs, with Buffalo as the wild card team.

The two ball clubs share a friendly rivalry, their fans exchange friendly banter through the "Thruway Cup" competition, but such was not always the case. Buffalo and Rochester held an intense and heated rivalry for decades... in 1933 the teams faced each other in a deciding game at Offerman Stadium before a packed and overflow crowd, a game won by Buffalo 8-1 and a night referred to as "The night the Great Depression stood still". In 1959 Bisons fans were horrified to learn that team icon Luke Easter had been released after a slow start that season. A week later he signed with the Red Wings, and played and managed for several seasons in Rochester, where he became a fan favorite and an oft Bison killer. In 1961 the team moved to the Old Rockpile, and the Kirby Farrell managed team defeated the Red Wings in the Governors Cup championship. It was unfortunate that Buffalo was out of baseball in the 70s, arguably the golden era for Rochester baseball. The teams resumed their rivalry when the Bisons entered the "AAA Alliance" in 1988, and fans packed Pilot Field in May to see these two teams meet for the first time in almost two decades.

Last year Red Wings GM Dan Mason and I talked about this legacy and history, and I asked him what could be done to really reignite that passion and rivalry like it was in the old days. "We need a little hatred" replied Mason. One of the best tonics, said Mason, would be for the clubs to face each other in the playoffs. Unfortunately, because of the IL's arcane playoff format, these two teams could never meet in the finals, but a first round matchup always remains a possibility.

Buffalo and Rochester play for the first time next weekend - Friday and Saturday at Dunn Tire Park, then on to Frontier Field Sunday and Monday, and first place in the division will be at stake. So enough of fluffy mascots, hugs and warm and fuzzy feelings between these two cities. Time to talk trash and show some ugliness. Somewhere, the spirits of Luke Easter, George Toporcer, Kirby Farrell and Danny Carnevale would be nodding their heads in approval!

Rochester Knighthawks give up home field

News from earlier this week which we picked up last night at the arena...

They were the best team in the National Lacrosse League this past season, winning their last 12 regular season games to end the season at 14-2. Then they won two straight playoff games, including a 14-13 thriller over the Buffalo Bandits last weekend at Blue Cross Arena.

For the league championship, the Rochester Knighthawks will face the 9-7 Arizona Sting, winner of the West.

And they will do it on the road, Saturday, May 12 at 4PM at Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

This all comes about because the brain surgeons and Rhodes scholars who run Blue Cross Arena in Rochester booked the facility for the entire week for a traveling circus. The Knighthawks then tried to move the date to Monday, but the event is scheduled for national television on Versus and has been slotted since last summer. Undaunted, Knighthawks owner Steve Donner then petitioned the league to move the game close to home, to HSBC Arena in Buffalo or the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The Board of Governors refused.

"It's frustrating because we picked this date about 11 months ago," said NLL commissioner Jim Jennings.

"Every building knew it, every building cleared it. We have major league buildings that have NHL, NBA, and arena football and they were able to clear the date, so it is frustrating."

Last year the Rochester team lost to Buffalo in the semifinals. Had they won that game, THEY would have had the right to host Colorado in the Champions' Cup game. Incredibly...Blue Cross Arena was booked for that day as well - they would have had to play that game on the road.

Friday, May 4, 2007

GAME 5: Sabres 2, Rangers 1 OT

On the plaza before the game...

Welcome back The Earl of Bud!!!

It was over....all over. Just 16 seconds remained and then the Sabres would head to New York to face their elimination on Sunday.

At least that's what about 95% or so of me was thinking before that fateful faceoff.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Drury on the ice and thought "you know....maybe."

And then it happened, Drury nailed the tying goal with seven seconds left and in that instant the agony of defeat became the thrill of...ummm....well....extra time. The shock and devastation of the Rangers late third period goal changed to outright euphoria. Much as I love Rick Jennaret, Van Miller's "Fandemonium" call would have been at least as appropriate for that moment.

And "Fandemonium" would strike in the overtime as well when Maxim Afinogenov, he who was relegated to the bench in game four tipped in the game winner to send HSBC Arena into a frenzy and the Sabres into control of this series with a 3-2 series lead. This could easily be called the most electric moment in this postseason, and the crowd replied by practically blowing the roof open.

A loss by the Sabres would have been devastating not just from the standpoint of falling behind in the series but also from the fact that this was their best effort of the round, if not the entire postseason. Buffalo peppered Henrik Lundqvist with forty shots in this one and from the second period on owned this one but couldn't solve the Swedish netminder. And when the Rangers went up with under four minutes left....well one could feel the game, and maybe the season slipping away.

"I knew that there wasn't much time left.....didn't know seven seconds" said Drury when asked about the game tying goal for Buffalo.

A beaming Max told the press, "This was the best goal of my career." Lindy Ruff added, "He got the biggest hug from me on the runway.... Max was himself tonight. He was the old Max and that is what we needed.

Paul Gaustad got his licks and hits in early and was happy to be playing tonight, although he seemed to tire in the late stages, which wouldn't be unusual. Would they have been toast if they had lost tonight? Said Gaustad, "Had we lost we felt we could pick right up and take it to them in game 6. But now we have the chance to put this one away"

Random stuff from tonight.....

Jerseys spotted in the crowd: Drury's BU, Stafford's ND, and Max's Team Russia in the house tonight. The winner is the Lydman Team Finland jersey though.

Game 5! Featuring special guest star.....The Earl of Bud! What a great moment as the Earl made an all too rare appearance in tonight's game and brought the house down with his epic rendition of "Tequila".....could have sworn the dude was dead or something.

Crowd estimate in the Party In The Plaza..about 4500 on a perfect spring night in Buffalo.

As reported to me by Andrew, spotted leaving his seats and exiting the arena with 16.7 seconds left: NYS Senator Bill Stachowski (D-Cheektowaga) and his companion. Hey Billy, hope you at least had the radio on in your car! And "ha-ha" to any of you morons who left the building during the timeout!

So Sunday it is Buffalo's turn to ride into Manhattan on Cloud Nine...puck drops on the MSG slush at 2PM.

Reporting in from the Sabres morning skate

The big attention this morning was on Paul Gaustad, who was the first guy on the ice for what turned out to be an optional skate for the Sabres. Thirteen players, including all the reservists and both goaltenders, participated. Interestingly, a second "morning skate" was on tap for 1PM, as Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth was bringing his 11 Amerks callups onto the HSBC Arena ice surface to do their paces.

Gaustad was not officially informed that he would be in the lineup tonight, but all indications said that it would be him in the lineup and Drew Stafford out. "This is one of the most exciting games I've ever played in" said Gaustad. "I am looking forward to it."

Does the fact that this is the first time in over a year that the ENTIRE Sabres lineup is intact give the team a psychological boost? Gaustad replied,"I hope it's a boost. I think it's pretty huge for us."

Lindy Ruff was told that Gaustad is excited to be coming back, and he replied. "He'd better be. It's a great time to be excited."
Ruff admitted he was disappointed in the effort in Game 4 and is looking for his team to play their game and generate more scoring chances.

One side story..great watching the media throng looking for the Sabres locker room for a sound bite. I counted 39 reporters and camerapeople all milling about, and scant few players to talk to. Kind of hlarious actually!

Pete has the AV pressbox seat tonight... I will be in our seats in sec 114, and Pete's brother John and John's bud will be driving up from Rochester and joining us as well. Let's keep our fingers crossed... Better Days!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Those snazzy Sabres tickets...

For years and years season ticket holders got their playoff tickets in the mail, and they were the typical, computer spit out dreck which looked like this...

So wasn't I surprised to open my Priority Mail envelope from One Seymour Knox III Plaza yesterday, the package which contained our Round 3 and Round 4 playoff tickets, only to find these beautiful works of art...

If I had known what was inside, I would have tried to recreate that moment from the movie Fever Pitch. The scene where Jimmy Fallon with great pomp and ceremony opens up the Fedex package from the Red Sox containing his precious season tickets is hilarious! And something every die hard fan can identify with.

This week in Artvoice

"Giddy-Up Guys!"

This week's Puck Stop. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Stanley Cup comes to Kandahar

Why is it, that I see a clip on Hockey Night in Canada with the Canadian troops in Afghanistan holding up the Stanley Cup, I get all choked up? Yet when I see pictures of American soldiers in Baghdad on the Jumbotron at the arena, the bile rises to my throat.

When the CBC segment was over, I thought about this for a while and then it occurred to me that it has nothing to do with the troops or being pro military or being a peacenik.

Our cause in Afghanistan is just - the cradle of planning for 9-11; the home of the Taliban; the terrorists who were at the heart of Al-Qaeda; the hiding place for Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri. Our work there is to go after the scum suckers who came after us, and I applaud our efforts.

But Iraq? This was Bush avenging "his daddy"; Halliburton and petro dollars and the stench of everything that is morally wrong and it is a cause I despise. Saddam was a scumbag, but he was our scumbag. Now we have a broken country, horrific sectarian violence and the real scary people in that region, the fundamentalist Iranians, are getting the upper hand. Mega billions of dollars squandered; thousands dead, and no end to this in sight.

God Bless and protect our servicepeople - American and Canadian. They are making a sacrifice for us that is something I can't even imagine .

Goal or No Goal? Different takes from VS and TSN

We're not going to break down last night's game and repeat some of the same analyses offered up by Bfloblog and the other linked capable bloggers, who have offered some excellent points and observations.

Pete and I watched the game separately at our homes, hooked in to each other via AIM, and following the game we were on deadline to have our column into Artvoice for this Thursday's edition, so there was work to be done.

I was watching the game on TSN (yes I get that channel at my home in Cheektowaga); Pete was watching on VS via Time Warner Cable.

When Briere seemingly scored the game tying goal with 17 seconds to go, the commentators on TSN were calling it a goal while the review was going on. "It's a goal. There is no way that could not have crossed the line it's simple geometry" said their color commentator. I'm typing furiously to Peter --- "Hey Bro... we're going to ohhhhhh-ver-time!".

"Not so fast" Peter replied. Over at VS, they were calling the replay "inconclusive". I'm not sure if VS showed that real grainy close up, but over at TSN they had that enhanced shot up, and the commentator was circling the puck on the telestrator and drawing the angle of the camera, stating that if the camera had been directly over the goal, the small swath of white between the puck and the goal line would be clearly visible.

So here at my house in Cheektowaga it was premature jubilation; over at Peter's in North Buffalo - quiet resignation. A minute later the referee made it official with the "no goal" gesture. This series would come back to Buffalo tied at two.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Crosstown rivalry alive and well in the Big Apple

And now this rivalry is taking shape with a new twist, as both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets have their new ballpark plans well underway and both teams are projecting a 2009 opening for their new digs.

In today's New York Times, we get the latest on the progress of Citifield and the New Yankee Stadium.