This video aired at the Sabres v. Avalanche game up on the jumbotron. It’s about time to stop pretending there are no queer pro athletes. As my friend Olive said after this played, “Closets are for clothes.”
I started shouting for Sean Avery to come out already, but, oh yeah, he’s not an NHLer anymore, poor thing….
So my friend Olive comes to town from NYC and ends up being my date to tonight’s Sabres v. Avalanche game. We had a raucous good time until Colorado won in the shootout. On the way home, I saw my old favorite NFTA guy at the subway station and got to catch up with dear Bill, then proceeded to take a seat on the joke of a metro here in Buffalo. Olive and I were chatting away, and we began to make friends with a couple guys in the next seats over. I’d like to dedicate this post to them, my newest readers. Hey, guys! Thanks for reading! If you disagree that hockey is the greatest sport on ice, like my card says, check this out instead…
Now, on to the real issue: will the Sabres make the playoffs? I don’t know, and I don’t really care–they’ve played with my emotions too much this season. Either way, I just hope they don’t embarrass themselves: “Dear Team, Please don’t flame out the last few games of the season, and/or please don’t get swept by those awful NY Rangers if you do make it to the first round, Thanks, Robin”
Probably not. I don’t think I’ve had this little interest in hockey since I moved from Buffalo to New York City for college and became too busy and involved with my studies and life in general to keep up with the Sabres (and no way would I ever adopt the Rangers, Islanders, or Devils!). Keep in mind, this was the mid-1990s, before internet-streamed live video feeds or torrent downloads for things outside real time!
Today, technology is not the problem, not at all. I love how the internet opens up a lot more hockey games, like last year when I wanted to watch the final IIHF U20 game between Russia and Canada, and saw the amazing come-from-behind gold medal win by the young Russians. The problem is not one of access, though the local cable provider no longer carries the channel which airs Buffalo’s hockey games (is it so bad to save money by cancelling cable when hockey’s THE reason it ever got ordered?).
The problem, then? This season has been one long lesson in the arts of frustration and apathy. After making sure the arena and locker rooms and staff were updated to reflect Terry “Ghoulie” Pegula’s stated goal, “to win Stanley Cups,” he gets the team to make interesting off-season acquisitions like Regehr, Leino, Erhoff. He renews longest-tenured active NHL coach Lindy Ruff’s contract. Goaltender Ryan Miller is coming off a good season, as is sophomore defenceman Tyler Myers. So what is happening to me?
Too much mediocrity! Lindy Ruff is the parent who yells, and his kids, the players, just tune out the screaming. After watching another honored Buffalo sports coach, Marv Levy, take the NFL’s Bills to four Super Bowls only to lose them all, I can say with certainty, coaches are NOT of the most excellent caliber if they fail to win at least one championship in their careers. How many Stanley Cups has Lindy Ruff led a team to win? Zero? Zero. Zero!
As for GM Darcy Regier, perhaps it’s time we consider using him for his true strength, as a scout. He has proven himself as a great judge of young talent, and maybe that’s where he’d do his best work. Maybe he’s been too warped by the Rigases and Golisanos to be able to give billionaire fan-boy owner Ghoulie the core set of players that can go the distance and bring the Stanley Cup to Buffalo.
The current Sabres roster, on paper, looks pretty solid. But then, the plague of injury! Half the team on some nights could be wearing Rochester Americans sweaters, and while it’s nice to see some of the young talent any given season, when the call-ups need to be replaced by more call-ups, how on earth is the team supposed to build chemistry and points to climb in the NHL standings? Back-up goalie Jhonas Enroth sums up the Sabres slump perfectly after the last loss to Winnipeg, when he states, “It’s tough to win a game with only one goal.” Buffalo has scored just one goal in 9 of their last 23 games. Let’s plan now on some excellent springtime adventures, because I don’t think I’ll be heading to any playoff games this year… I’ll employ the almighty ice hockey language of the damned: You’re a joke!
Most unfortunate, the ennui has spread to my general interest in the NHL. Perhaps the fact that the Winter Classic featured two teams I loathe in the Rangers and Flyers didn’t exactly help. Maybe the lackluster offering from teams I’ve enjoyed watching like Calgary and Montreal isn’t helping either. Add to the list the devastating summer losses of a few enforcers, that heartbreaking piece in the New York Times about Derek Boogard–my stance on fighting in the game has shifted perceptibly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not turning into a fair-weather fan. I will just have to work harder to watch teams I like that ARE performing. Cue me up some Detroit and Vancouver games, and I’ll be back on track to my usual passion. Just not locally, not right now.
I know I’m a drop in the ocean out here on the internet. And I know I’m a tiny fish in a huge sea of hockey blogs. So it was lovely to see Buffalo’s free weekly paper, Artvoice, do a piece on local hockey blogs. It was a fun read, and it’s great to see people pay a little attention to the art of writing. But what struck me was the absence of any note about Buffalo hockey blogs that are not Sabres-specific, like this one. I enjoy being wide-ranging, offering an alternative to posts fueled by league tweets. Like I said in my comment to Artvoice, “expect me to ask about Bernie Parent and not pre-game pasta dinners.”
Folks in Buffalo are still rehashing the first meeting between the Sabres and the Boston Bruins, despite a solid showing in their second match-up this season, and much has already been said on the matter. It’s a town with fierce loyalty to goaltenders, and when Milan Lucic ran into Ryan Miller, well, it seemed to the Buffalo fans that Shanahan would have to do something after the on-ice officials called Lucic for a minor penalty only.
Shanahan began the season with a hard line on tough hits, working diligently to ensure player safety, doling out fines and suspensions for dubious checks whether they resulted in serious injury or not. So imagine the Sabre fans’ surprise when the announcement came down that Shanahan was not assigning any additional penalty to Lucic!
Now, I like Milan Lucic. He’s got that Chris Pronger-esque ability to play as close to dirty as he can, getting away with whatever possible. He’s a big man, strong on his skates, not afraid to drop the gloves. He was one of the only things I enjoyed about the Bruins last year, and everyone knows you feel different about a guy depending on what sweater he wears. Buffalo would love this guy if he played here. But he doesn’t–Ryan Miller does.
Miller’s had a rough stretch, all very public. Dropping cuss words in media interviews, insulting the fans out of frustration, speaking up at the lack of supplemental discipline from Shanahan on Lucic, all on top of dealing with the aftermath of a concussion, suffered most likely when Lucic ran into him, his helmet flew off, and his head hit the ice.
I don’t want hockey to lose its violent edge, mind you. I enjoy a good hockey fight, and was beyond surprised to see the Sabres come together and have a little bit of a line scuffle with the Bruins in the second game, which Boston ended up winning in a shoot-out. Not wholly unlike the Buffalo-Calgary brawl of ’91, a showing of some actual teamsmanship in a Sabres squad that’s looked pretty flat from lack of chemistry. Could these violent incidents, and Shanahan’s lack of involvement really be what it takes to get the team to gel?
We’ll have to wait and see what the rest of the season holds, whether Shanahan will go back to his tough stance or not. Miller’s injury at the hands of Lucic could set an upsetting precedent, though, as the pendulum swings the other way. Bogosian nailed Eakin’s head in Carolina the other night, and nothing supplemental comes down for this one either…
Toughen up, Shanahan. Enough shenanigans. Hard line or no line? Don’t be afraid to be hated, don’t become a joke–remember to protect the players and that will ensure the integrity of the game, eh!
The 2011-12 NHL season is well begun, so it’s back to the blog for the Ice Hockey Chick: 5 more items in 40 Things To Love About Ice Hockey!
30. The Open Ice Hip Check: A true thing of beauty. Safer and more spectacular than these ghastly hits to the head in recent years. Here’s a great example from Keith Ballard:
29. Hockey Night in Canada:
Who doesn’t get a kick out of Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry? I appreciate the access to Western Conference games every Saturday night (“Good evening, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland…”) and to play-by-play and commentary that pays attention to the game and its players. It’s not without its faults (it’s hard to like Mike Milbury no matter what channel he’s on, VS or CBC! ). But this season with the hometown guys breaking my heart, it’s nice to find solace in the comfort of this particular Canadian import.
28. FAKE Barry Melrose! This blogger is hilarious, penning tongue-in-cheek “commentary” and answering “Dear Barry” letters on an admittedly fake Barry Melrose Place website. Lots of mullet action to be had here. Worth a look!
27. Outdoor NHL Hockey: The Winter Classic this year may prove dreadful–really, you NHL leaders thought Philadelphia would be cold enough for quality ice on January 1st? But the concept is sweet, and outdoor games have a unique appeal to players as well as fans.
I watched the Heritage Classic, too–not sure why the powers that be don’t consider a cross-nation version, like the old Toronto-Detroit rivalry, or another combination of teams? Sure, it’s all about the bottom line, but us 99 per cent are interested in the game, not lining your pockets with more of our hard-earned silver.
26. Dancing Kids on the JumboTron! Need I say more?
Stay sharp, hockey fans…
Last year it was the abruptness of legendary NHL goon Bob Probert’s passing. This year, two more sudden losses to pro hockey, but without a heart attack to blame; this year, two players took their own lives: Derek Boogard of the NY Rangers in May, and now Rick Rypien of the Vancouver.
In the thick of post-season trades, training, try-outs and salary caps, it’s easy to think the best of the NHL. A new season is on its way, and every team has the same goal, to win the Stanley Cup. But some players don’t come back to the dressing room, a trend that is gracefully addressed in this piece by Ian Brown from The Toronto Globe and Mail.
Hope. It keeps players in the game, down to the final minutes of the playoffs. It also deserts people who go through clinical depression. Hope becomes your enemy, because why would you hope for another day of feeling incomprehensibly pained by your own suffering.
That players like Rypien, with access to team physicians, and the kind of health insurance that can get you seen by a psychologist or psychiatrist, a support network of teammates and coaches, and we assume a loving family can lose hope is tragic. That at 27 he could not get relief from his mental anguish makes me both sad and angry. Too many lives are touched by suicide, depression, drugs, pain, isolation.
This season, sure I’ll hope the hometown team goes all the way and wins the cup. But I’ll also hope I don’t have to read another needless hockey obituary.