Posted by Scott Michalak on May 31, 2012 at 8:05 am
It’s been 53 days since the last Sabres game.
The Kings beat the Devils last night in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final. There is no game tonite. No hockey, whatsoever. All that being said, today is a good day to dust off an old time capsule and watch a clip of the NHL’s Canadian TV debut.
Grainy video or not, that Stanley Cup doesn’t look like it’s aged one day – truly a timeless trophy.
Frank “Sleke?” That’s almost as bad as a “Sabers” typo.
“Sleke” is among many other big time names: Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Hartland Molson, Terry Sawchuk, and lots more crammed into just 1:37.
American viewers would see hockey in their living rooms for the first time in 1956; CBS would showcase a game on Saturday afternoons. But it wasn’t long before the NHL and NHLPA screwed it up. From Wikipedia:
According to Sports Illustrated,the NHL dropped CBS because the NHL owners didn’t want the fledgling Players’ Association to gain a financial cut of the TV deal. This was despite the fact that CBS was at least at one point, getting better ratings than NBC’s NBA package from around the same period, especially in cities with NHL, minor-league, or major college (division 1 level) hockey clubs.
How about that? The NHL was lost to American TV viewers in 1960, and didn’t return until the ’66 playoffs on NBC. That Cup is timeless, but it would seem that “blackouts” are as well.
NHL vs. the NHLPA. Blackouts. Some things never change.
Still, it’s the good ol’ hockey game, which transcends time and the bickering of business. And we have at least 3 more games before the next Cup is engraved.
As Bills fans, most of us have heard about Joe DeLamielleure even though not all of us have seen him play. He was a bit before my time but I’ve always heard how he was a huge part of the Electric Company that blocked for The Juice. Of course our hero OJ has fallen in stature since those days, but Joe D surely hasn’t.
In fact, quite the opposite. Joe DeLamielleure has been fighting for pension increases for players. He’s been a harsh critic of how the NFL handled players before the collective bargaining agreement and free agency in the mid-90’s. He says that some players that retired before 1994 get under $1,000 a month to live on. He himself gets about $2,100 before taxes – and that’s for a guy who played 13 years and is in the Hall of Fame.
But now Big Joe D is fighting for player safety and is trying to shed light on the issue of concussions. Hit that link for a great yet sobering read. To pick out some parts, Joe says that one time he got hit so hard he thought he was working in his Dad’s bar because the smelling salts reminded him of the ammonia used to clean the bar. But of course he went right back in the game.
Put this guy on your list of people not to mess with. The word "Badass" comes to mind.
Repeated collisions over the years left two permanent divots in his forehead from the bolts in his helmet. “I bled every game for two years,” he says. “Some of the football card [photos] I wore a bandana” to hide the wounds.
(I will never complain about my job again.)
He’s lost 60 percent of the hearing in his left ear, a result of opposing linemen, most of them right-handed, slapping his helmet.
But perhaps worst of all is the short-term memory loss and anger problems:
I lose my wallet three or four times a day. I talk extremely fast, which I never did. Then you get a short fuse. Little things [set] you off. And it’s constant. I was never that impulsive.
Joe is very active in promoting these issues. To me he’s a real hero for the work he does. On his kids playing football he has this to say:
I loved playing. I was addicted to it. Now I won’t let my grandchildren play it. I have five grandsons, and I tell my daughters, ‘Don’t even think about it. Over my dead body those kids will play football until they clean it up.’
Joe D isn’t the only former Buffalo Bill to try to make the NFL a safer game. Cornelius Bennett is the chairman of the NFLPA Former Players Board of Directors and he too is fighting for player pensions and better safety. This article at al.com talks about what Bennett is doing as well as how Mark Kelso might have been ahead of his time.
For the younger Bills fans out there, Mark Kelso was a free safety who wore a double-layered helmet that looked oddly way too big for him. He’d had a concussion or two and (smartly) wanted to make sure he didn’t have another. (For a little guy he really got into some collisions.) He was laughed at by many and called “The Great Gazoo” – but he didn’t suffer another concussion.
Pic of Mark Kelso for comparison. Still funny. Still wrong to laugh because it's about safety. But still funny.
Getting back to “The Biscuit”, a.k.a. Cornelius Bennet, he had this to say:
We know the bubble helmets protect the head. But no matter what kind of helmet you have, there’s no way to protect the brain if you take the wrong kind of hit. A Kevlar helmet won’t stop brain trauma with the wrong kind of hit. But we’re making changes on a daily basis. Football is a great game, and we’ll make it safer.”
It’s a sad thing that our entertainment can lead to permanent damage to someone to the point where they even want to kill themselves (i.e. Junior Seau). Kudos to these former and current heroes of ours for the work they do and hopefully it will lead to fewer and fewer concussions.
Hasek is actively (and vocally) seeking a spot on an NHL roster for next season. He’s already narrowed his choice down to one team. From the Vancouver Sun:
The 47-year-old netminder, who didn’t play anywhere last season, has confirmed to several Czech publications he’s exploring the possibility of making a comeback to play an 18th season in the NHL.
“I know what I want,” said Hasek, who last played with Spartak Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League during the 2010-11 season.
“I know where I want to play, but I’m not going to talk about it. I think it’s better if you only know there are two sides and that’s enough.
“Now it’s not appropriate to publish anything.”
Hasek’s son Michael still attends Michigan State University and the six-time Vezina Trophy winner confirmed he recently was in the Detroit area visiting his son.
The Czech story said he also visited Buffalo, where he spent the bulk of his NHL career and has a charitable foundation.
“My agent, Ritch Winter, knows what I want,” Hasek said. “We’re working and will see how it goes, I don’t know.
“It’ll probably be decided in June.”
“I train regularly, almost every day, without exception,” Hasek told Isport.cz.
“I’m in great shape and the other sides know it. Of course, if I’d agree (to a contract), I’d go even more intensely by late June or such.
“I still haven’t gone on the ice. I went just before last season, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t prepare any differently.”
Logic would tell us that Detroit is the obvious choice here, but there isn’t much logical going on with this decision. Frankly, anything is possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was up the QEW jockeying with 4 other netminders for space between Brian Burke’s pipes next season. In any event, it is an interesting developing story to follow in the offseason.
And oh, what does this mean for the Sabres? Right now, nothing, except that if he goes pro, then we will have to wait another year to retire his jersey.
His playing days here were beyond memorable. There was so much just to the spectacle of his play, to the events on and off the ice, that some of them have been lost to history. Yesterday brought one of those more forgotten moments back. Remember May 25, 1998? From the Sports Illustrated vault:
BUFFALO, New York (AP) — The NHL admitted the play that led to the Washington Capitals’ winning overtime goal over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals should have been blown dead for icing.
“What?!?” you ask/scream? No. “Figures,” you more likely shrug. This is Buffalo sports, after all. The shrug continues:
(Bryan) Lewis (the NHL Director of Officiating at that time) informed the Sabres that the overtime play should have been blown dead the moment Sabres defenseman Jason Woolley touched the puck. He said the failure to call icing came about because the linesman thought a pass by Washington’s Esa Tikkanen had been released at the center ice line, when it actually had been released before the line.
He also said a non-call for a video replay on a goal by Peter Bondra was “at the referee’s discretion.”
Had referee Kerry Fraser consulted the replay judge, the official could have told him that Bondra’s skate appeared to be in the crease when the goal was scored and the goal, Washington’s first of the game, would have been disallowed.
No Goal, part 1.
A blown icing play and a blown crease call, both in one game. Yup. Peter Bondra had scored the “foot in crease” goal in the 2nd to knot the game at 1. While replays clearly showed that his skate was “in the crease,” referee Kerry Fraser declined a video review.
To make matters conspiratorial, this was a Buffalo/Washington game – with President Clinton in attendance. You can draw your own conclusions from that. Or you can just allow yourself to laugh over how unendingly stupid the history of sports in this town has been for the past, oh, 100 years or so.
Oh well. There’s always next year. And we just might have Hasek on board for another wild ride.
1Posted by Scott Michalak on May 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm
(For those of you who follow me on the Twitter, you’ve seen this already. For those who don’t, steel thyselves.)
Rick Jeanneret might not be on board for the 2012-13 Buffalo Sabres season. From YNN Rochester:
“I don’t know yet.” Jeanneret told YNN. When asked if he would return next season, he said. “I don’t know yet. No decisions have been made. No contracts have been signed, no decisions have been made.” Jeanneret added. “No one wants me to quit. I can tell you that. So I guess it’s going to be up to me to make that decision when the time comes. And I haven’t made it yet.”
Yikes. RJ is the one free agent that Sabres fans must have in the Blue and Gold fold next season – for as many seasons as possible, really. It is up to him as to what is possible, so we will all have to await his decision. Maybe this is just his way of continuing to keep us on the edge of our seats, but for the offseason.
(And no, I do not have his home address so please direct your “FLASH MOB AT RJ’S LAWN” requests elsewhere.)
Students attending the Canisius College undergraduate commencement ceremonies Saturday weren’t the only ones receiving a degree that day. Sabres play-by-play broadcaster Rick Jeanneret was among the few honorary guests who received a special honorary doctorate degree.
WGRZ did not indicate what the doctorate was awarded for, but we’re guessing something along the lines of broadcasting like your seat is on fire.
RJ, please DO NOT RETIRE. But if you must, as the great Thornton Melon once said:
Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out. And then bring one every ten minutes.
UPDATE:hit this link for new YNN video from the Canisius ceremony, in which Jeanneret said “I was just wondering at what point in the ceremony I was supposed tell the folks that I never graduated from high school. It’s something that I’ll always cherish.” Not sure if that’s a quip or an admission. Either way, his body of work earned him the fancy cap-n-gown.
Here’s a Youtube clip of the ceremony, and RJ accepting the honor. Thanks to the user who uploaded it.
2Posted by Scott Michalak on May 16, 2012 at 8:30 am
Hit the 4:10 mark.
This is how I’ve been feeling lately when trying to prognosticate what the Sabres will do this offseason, particularly at the draft, and even as far as to how good they will be next season. Sure, this scene is a bit dramatic and no one is actually shooting at me, but it’s a damn good quote and I love that movie (Gettysburg). And it features sabres (or at least sabers).
Predicting an offseason is always a best guess scenario, but this one really has me blinded. The Sabres spent like kings in the past offseason, making moves which were supposed to build on the previous season’s ill-fated first round playoff exit. Unfortunately, those front office maneuvers were the better days of our 2011-12 season. This group fell flat on it’s rear end (or was knocked to it by Lucic, rather), and heroically got up just in time to make a herculean charge at missing the playoffs.
It was a wasted season. Zero chance at Lord Stanley. A real WTFer.
Add in a couple other front office moves by Regier (Gaustad for a 1st, Butler for a 2nd) and right now we’re looking at 2 1st round picks and 2 second round picks in the upcoming draft. There are many, many possible scenarios that could result from this cache of picks.
And I have no idea what the hell this WTF team is going to do to get a shot at Lord Stanley next season. Let’s examine (some) of the possibilities (DISCLAIMER – prepare for some blathering. I get this way when I’m really confused. Plus I’m highly caffeinated and still pretty pissed off about how this season went down, but well, there I go already with the blathering):
Trade Derek Roy: this is the perennial favorite, so we’ll get it out of the way, right away. We don’t like him here, and so we tend to, as fans, undervalue him sometimes. However, GM’s don’t. He’s a fine 2nd line center in this league. He’s certainly movable, and can fetch a good commodity – be that a pick, prospect, player, or him as part of a package for a 1st line player. If I’m playing Bucky Gleason playing GM For a Day, I’m getting Roy out of town. It will at least make the readers happy.
The picks: this is where I am stymied the most. Keeping all of their first four picks would garner fine players, but would not garner any players ready to lace up for the NHL this season. Then again, I’m not very keen on trading up to the top to land, say, Yakupov. For me, the dreaded “Russian factor” is a scary factor indeed. I would hate for our team to spend these picks to land a guy who might bolt like Radulov to the KHL, only to return for a couple games to keep his NHL contract status legit, and then show up drunk and useless for a playoff game. Let’s face it: the golden hordes of the KHL Motherland are greatly more alluring to Russian prospects than the City of Good Neighbors, and our renowned lack of “windowless hotels.” Buffalo’s a great place, folks, and you don’t have to convince me – but you do have to do things like sending Pegula and his posse to Calgary to convince Robyn Regehr to come here.
What to do with all these picks: if we do stand pat with our picks, there are a few guys that I really do like (though we won’t be seeing them next season). Guys like Zemgus Girgensons and Radek Faksa have the size and skill to be fine picks for the #12 overall spot, but again, they’re not going to be #1 centers. Tom Wilson or Stefan Matteau would be great at pick #21, but once more, they also need pro-seasoning in the AHL before joining the big league. I’d be thrilled to land Girgensons, folks, but the Sabres must look at all options to improve for the immediate future of 2012-13.
That #1 center dilemma: everyone is pleased with the acquisition of Hodgson (another 2011-12 front office highlight reel move) and the stellar emergence of Ennis at center. However, it has been clear that the Sabres have been trying to fill that #1 void every season since Regier took the GM job in ’97 and said goodbye to Pat LaFontaine. (Drury and Briere were nice, but alas, we all know what happened with those two in the Golisano era.) The trick now is to find a way to get a guy like Brad Richards instead of Ville Leino (and the Sabres’ on-ice performance this season is going to make this #1 job a tough sell).
Stay the core: except for Roy, (and we’ll throw in the stumbling Drew Stafford) the Sabres really do need to hang onto their core veterans. Pominville is as steady and consistent as NHL captains get on the ice and on the scoresheet. Ryan Miller shows up for huge games (not involving Sidney Crosby). Thomas Vanek is an elite sniper – in fact, ESPN found him to statistically be the “NHL’s Best Shooter.” Sure, you can trade him for another sniper, but that doesn’t solve a darn thing. On defense, we discussed a long ways back how a strong veteran defense is key to winning that Cup. We have that now, plus Mark Pysyk is triumphantly on his way to teach the old dogs some new tricks. It’s odd how close the Sabres are to being a true contender. They have almost all the key components: the tested goaltender, the scoring depth (on the wings mostly, when healthy), and a deep and veteran defense. Are they just a #1 center away from the Big Dance? Plausibly.
Joel Armia: this one just won’t stop nagging me. The Sabres are going to trade this kid. Good as he is, he doesn’t really fill a need as a lightweight sniper on the wing, and was likely never the Sabres’ true draft target in 2011. Where his value is for Buffalo is as trade fodder. Load up the cannon Darcy, and fire away. That being said, if the Sabres stick with him, don’t be mad if he doesn’t show up for training camp since he has to take care of his mandatory Finnish military service this summer.
Defensive glut: this is a defense heavy draft, and the Sabres are already very deep on defense and defensive prospects. At pick #12, they’ll have much better odds at landing a stud defenseman than a forward. Which again… leads us back to the whole making trades to move up scenario, which as you now know, I am not all that fond of.
Free agency: in an UFA centerman class pretty much headlined by Jochen Hecht and Paul Gaustad, the answer to the #1 center dilemma will not be found here. Instead, expect the Sabres to happily shed the contracts of Brad Boyes, Hecht and Gaustad.
Goose: now unfathomably worth a first round draft pick, unless Gaustad takes a big hometown discount to return, then he won’t return. Sadly, our biggest memory of Goose will be his non-reaction to Lucic – a terrible legacy for a great team player. Goose, I love you, but I think this is goodbye. Expect the Sabres to make a run for a much-cheaper UFA faceoff dot specialist such as Zenon Konopka. Or, perhaps expect the Sabres to trade for a guy like RFA Mason Raymond, who plays the left wing, but was %100 on faceoffs last season – and I’m sure Lindy Ruff will never tire of cramming all of his wingers into the center position.
Regier and Ruff: are their heads on the line this season? Maddeningly for many, not likely. It would take a train wreck to convince Pegula to let these guys go, and the Sabres are currently just good enough to never really have a complete train wreck. Our proof: with GM talent like Rick Dudley out there and available, Buffalo stuck with their guy. Duds is up in Montreal now, assisting the GM process. He is going to make our divisional life miserable in the coming years. Still, I’m not an anti-Regier or anti-Ruff guy. Despite a few misfires, Regier has made some really fine trade acquisitions and has landed some real gems in the draft. As for Ruff, well, if he is good enough to help coach Team Canada in the Olympics, then he’s good enough for my team.
RJ is up for another year of play-by-play, thank the hockey gods. He is the one Sabre that I never, ever want to see go.
That wraps up our Buffalo Sabres “Lucky #11” style bullet list of predicaments. Again, I can’t predict what the Sabres will do with their lot of options this time around. But, things are gonna’ go down. And like the old street smarts saying goes, “when things go down, there ain’t no comin’ back.”
Which is good.
Because I don’t want to come back to another lost season.
Note: apologies for any spelling errors up in there. The caffeine has worn off, and so has my willingness to spell-check. Or is it spellcheck? Whatever. We’ll just call it “F7.”