Category Archive:

Tim Thomas’ Children Dragged into White House Fray


By now, you’re probably well aware that Tim Thomas skipped the Bruins’ Stanley Cup White House event.

Also, by now, you’ve probably noticed the wild arguments online about his decision. Goodtimes. 368w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

When politics and sport mix.

The worst yet to come of this may have already happened, and it has nothing to do with Thomas’ political stance, or even about his decision. No, the worst to come of this was the publication/distribution of the names of Thomas’ children by TSN’s Dave Hodge. 359w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Hodge had to make a decision before this tweet – how to claim TT is racist, without bringing injury to his own reputation. He uses the phrase “Don’t know if it’s fair to point out,” which alone insinuates that he knows that he is doing wrong. Then, instead of simply saying straight out that TT is somehow associated with the KKK, he instead publishes the names of his children.

He who would endanger the names of children – all of which are minors – in order to protect his reputation, is a danger not only to political conversation, but a menace to society.

Hodge later came out with this retraction correction “gotta try and save my cowardly ass” tweet: 361w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Because publishing the names of each other's kids' names online is HYSTERICAL.


I would hope that TSN will correct Hodge for this, but sadly, I doubt anything will come of this for him. I just hope that Thomas’ children do not become targets now that they’ve been widely exposed by this cruel online perversion of rhetoric.


For those who saw Hodge’s tweet as an honest attempt at humor, take a moment to reconsider.

Even if this truly was pure satire, Hodge still made the decision to place the names of three minors into a growing debate that was teeming with agitated vitriol – a debate which was becoming one of the top ten trending topics on Twitter.

Ask youself: if such an argument was over you, would you like the names of your children advertised during such a widespread and heated national argument?

Where, (please explain in the comments section below), is the humor in that?


From this afternoon’s Globe and Mail:

TSN had trepidations about Hodge using the names of Thomas’s children to connect him to a racist organization known for lynching and burning crosses. “Just to be clear, yesterday we corroborated Dave’s follow-up tweets that clarified his intention was not to offend, and be humorous,” TSN president Stewart Johnston told us in an e-mail. “While I believe 100 % in the sincerity of Dave’s intent, I also believe the tweet was in poor taste. We have discussed the matter at length with Dave. Beyond that, this is an internal matter and will be dealt with as such.”

Hodge has a reputation for being cutting edge. His legendary pencil-flipping indignation at the end of a segment on Hockey Night In Canadaled to his departure — and Ron Maclean’s arrival — from the show in 1987. We often find Hodge’s tweets a voice of wit in a storm of pap. But on this one he should be glad he works for such an understanding network. Other organizations might not have been as understanding.

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Hockey History 101: The Windsor Swastikas Take to the Ice

From the file cabinet: since no one really wants to read about the Sabres right now, here’s a curious old post from March of 2011. Enjoy the weirdness.

And you thought the “Broadstreet Bullies” looked mean.

Have a gander at the Windsor Swastikas – a Canadian team from Windsor, Nova Scotia, that enjoyed a lot of regional success during its 1905-16 tenure: 432w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Not the kind of pennant you'd buy the kids these days.

What are the odds of a name like that, eh?  Well, this was the happy go lucky pre-WWII and pre-Nazi era, when the swastika symbol still stood for good luck and fortune.  (Yea, the Nazis pretty much screwed up everything.)  Ok then, who were these guys, and just how good were they? From “”

The players (were) all of notable Windsor family names – people like W.A.”Billy” Stephens who later had a department store, and “Mac” Geldert who ran a dry goods store, Walter Regan who was a grocer in Falmouth, R.G.Morton a clothier in Windsor and Halifax, Frank “Sanky” Brown, a stone mason, H.S.Smith, a coal merchant, Clarence McCann, a trainman for the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Frank Sharpe, a N.S. Dept. of Highways engineer, “Ses” McMonagle a well known barber, and of course, and “Lew” Shaw, one of Nova Scotia’s greatest hockey players, who ran a very popular pool room.

Word has it that the Swastikas were flashy, exciting, entertaining and very seldom beaten.

Two Rovers who starred for the famous Windsor “Swastikas” gained wide recognition for their stick-handling and scoring ability. Lew Shaw is an honored inductee of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, having been inducted in the founding year of the organization. Blaine Sexton left the team to fight for his country in World War I and took his hockey gear overseas with him. He is credited with advancing organized hockey in Britain and Europe. He became known as England’s “MISTER HOCKEY” for two decades. Newspaper articles of the time show that he was the best and fastest hockey skater, player and goal scorer in Europe. He played hockey for England in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics.

Sexton was a big reason why Britain actually won a bronze medal at the Olympics of 1924.

The boys from Windsor weren’t the only ones to carry the doomed logo on their chests.  In fact, the name was actually pretty popular before Hitler started launching V2 rockets over the English Channel. 1024w, 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

The Fernie Swastikas. My guess is the surly one in the bottom row, center, wasn’t afraid to cross-check an opponent into a snow bank. 453w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

The Edmonton Swastikas. No history on how much those pantaloons slowed down their skating.

The Fergie Swastikas formed in 1922, and went on to immediately blitzkrieg the Banff Winter Carnival Women’s Ice Championship in 1923, taking home the “Alpine Cup.”

Not much is known of the Edmonton Swastikas, save for the fact they wore those fancy pantaloons, and that their goalie was stuck with a stick from at least before 1915, (a style which was wide on one side only).

The “Mister Hockey” of Britain.  A bronze medal for England in 1924.  Pantaloons as acceptable wear for competitive hockey.  Goalstick trivia. I’d say we have all learned a lot today.

Class dismissed!

Go Sabres.

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Hockey Strategy: The Left Wing Lock Forechecking Defense


It’s hockey lesson time! A while back we touched on the 1-3-1 Neutral Zone Trap, a.k.a. the Tampa ‘T’, as they mainly employ that style of defense. Now I’ll talk about the defensive forechecking system known as the Left Wing Lock.

The Left Wing Lock was made popular by the Detroit Red Wings in their Stanley Cup runs of the 90s. Also, if I remember correctly, it was employed by our own Lindy Ruff for the Buffalo Sabres in the late 90s. At least, I remember hearing about it and wondering what what the heck it was ever since those days.

Basically, it’s this: when a team loses possession of the puck, the left winger moves back in line with the two defensemen. Each of those three skaters covers a third of the ice, playing a zone defense. That’s really it. You have two forwards up front forechecking and three guys back playing defense.

Watch this animated GIF a few times to let it sink in: 192w" sizes="(max-width: 250px) 100vw, 250px" />

Pretty easy, eh? Why did coaches of the 90s make it sound like an extremely complicated chess move?

While the concept is pretty simple, the execution of it is much more difficult. Think about if the left winger is way up in the offensive zone when his team loses the puck. Either the center or right winger has to swing over and cover his zone. Which guy should do it? Confusion could abound in the heat of the moment and quick pace of the game. Like anything this strategy could take a LONG time to refine.

The cool part is that, when applied correctly, you can play some hellacious defense (and that’s actually a bit better than tenacious defense). With three “defensemen” back (or “defencemen” for you Canadiens), the two forecheckers can get really aggressive. The Left Wing Lock can also help prevent odd-man breakaways, as you’ll typically have three guys back – each one able to cover an opposing forward.

The history of the Left Wing Lock goes back to Czechoslovakia in the days of the great Soviet teams of the 1970s. The story goes that the Soviets were primarily left-handed shooters and so attacked moreso from the left side of the ice. The Czechs rolled their d-men over to that side and pulled the left wing back to cover the empty spot.

Know you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Go Sabres!

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There Will Be Blood: Why Fighting In The NHL Will Never Be Banned


Fighting in hockey is brutal, primitive, causes pain and lifelong damage to players… but you know what? I like it.

At first this post was going to be a devil’s advocate piece, taking the pro-fighting side of the argument only as a counterpoint (See previous Buffalo Sabres Nation post by Scott against fighting). It’s a topic I’ve been on the fence about ever since hearing about Derek Boogard’s death, but thinking about it for this post pushed me over to the pro-fighting side. 500w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Right off the bat, I'm going to lighten this post up with a lolcat. Just refer back to this if things get too serious for you.

Before you label me a horrible person, hear me out. I abhor violence. Hell, Gandhi is one of my heroes and I admire his method of Sutyagruha, or non-violent resistance. (As he said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”) Yet I love violent sports like hockey and football. I deride and look down with disdain on other sports like baseball where there’s almost no physical contact between players. It’s quite the paradox.

I think many people feel the same way. They’d never take a swing at a neighbor or the guy sitting next to them at the arena – at least not without a lot of provocation. Yet when a hockey fight breaks out, the entire place is on their feet, if not cheering, at least feeling the excitement that it brought to the place and wondering who’s going to win. We may not be rooting for blood, but something instinctual from deep down rises up; we want our guy to HURT the other guy, if only for that brief moment. 350w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

There's a reason this guy is one of our all-time heroes and doing color commentary for Buffalo Sabres broadcasts. I'd say it's not for his intellect but I'm afraid he might track me down.

This is the fundamental part of sports: the competitive edge to do whatever it takes to beat the other guy. It’s just that the sport of hockey allows players to legally take swings at each other.

What would happen if the NHL did make fighting illegal? Players would still take cheap shots at each other. Players would still get hurt because other guys hit them hard. Brutal collisions would still happen and players would still develop concussions.

The CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, that Rick Martin had would still happen to some players. As a previous BSN post said a while back:

And so we’ve got to be concerned that the jostling of the brain just from the skills of the sport of playing in the National Hockey League led to him having chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he died.

Sports like football don’t allow fighting, yet players still have all sorts of issues. Some guys don’t walk again after vicious helmet-to-helmet collisions. The speed of the game is going to continue creating these horrible injuries. Hockey is perhaps worse with the speed players can reach on skates.

I’m not saying I like it. What I am saying is that you can take the fighting out of the game but you can’t change human nature. I wish that we were more evolved people, but the animal nature is there, just below the surface, ready to rise up, take control of us and make us do nasty things. This is why alcohol creates more violence – it merely reveals our true nature.

I don’t want the enforcers of the league to have permanent brain injuries. But they also don’t have to be doing what they do. They haven’t been drafted into their career. This was a conscious choice they made and they’re making a damn pretty penny doing it. They can go get a job at Walmart tomorrow if they want. Hell, I might think about taking some punches if I made a million bucks a year.

Who didn’t love it when this happened? This was a guy going to bat for his team in Biron. We still love ya, Marty. (Also, listen to that crowd. We are all sick, imperfect beings, unevolved from the days of Rome.)

On top of that, hockey fights are typically not that damaging (although I’d love to see some stats on punches thrown/landed and am totally prepared to be corrected on this). Most of the time the guys are grappling, hanging onto each other’s jerseys. They might land a couple solid punches, but half the time one or the other still has a helmet on. Their hands might take a beating, but you don’t see a ton of solid hits to the head. Granted that over the course of a season those hits add up (and they are with bare fists rather than say, boxers with gloves on) but I still don’t think they take as much punishment as boxers do.

Also think about the word “enforcer”. Those guys are there to lay down the law. If fighting was taken out, what would stop the cheap shots on skills players? A two-minute penalty? Would a five-minute penalty be enough when you have the possibility of injuring the other teams star player?  Even a game ejection or suspension might not be enough if you can take out one of a division rivals’ top guys.

No, the enforcer has had a role in hockey for eons because of this fact. Just as you cannot legislate morality, you cannot mandate safe play. But you know what does stop cheap shots? Putting the fear of God into the other guy. Making him know that if he touches your star players, he’ll have to deal with your fists.

It may be sick, twisted, primitive and bloodthirsty. But it’s also about preventing more violence. The enforcers are guys who typically couldn’t make it in the NHL any other way, and this gives them a way to make money. Rightly or wrongly, they soak up the damage so that other players don’t have to.

The NHL knows this and they don’t want to lose their marquee salespeople for the sport. They also know the draw of a fight and it’s intrinsic value. 590w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

You might as well have had "Lucic versus Gaustad" on a marquee outside First Niagara Center before this Sabres game. Fighting is a huge draw for the NHL and they know where their bread is buttered.

Could they clean it up, and make it more family-friendly by removing fighting? Maybe. But there’s no evidence that it would grow the sport, and it might actually hurt revenue.

I love hockey and one of the reasons I do is because of the way the guys stick up for each other. And yes, I love hockey because of the fights. I will continue to love hockey fights until I somehow evolve beyond my flawed human nature. When peace on earth breaks out, then we can remove fighting from the NHL. Until that day, I’m enjoying it.

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Radical NHL Realignment

Stop the presses! Er, um… stop pushing publish on those blog posts. The NHL’s Board of Governors has approved a huge change to it’s alignment structure.

There are tons of other stories in Sabreland, i.e, the wheels literally falling off for Matthew Barnaby, theft of jerseys at First Niagara Arena, how Nathan Gerbe is doing after getting a nasty skate to the grill, and later today finding out what Jordin Tootoo’s penalty is (if anything) for his hit on Miller. But mentioning them just gave me a chance to hip you to them and now we can focus on the biggie.

So the realignment of the NHL is a complete overhaul and not just moving around a couple of teams like it was thought to be by many. The new NHL will have four conferences (as yet unnamed):

  • New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina
  • Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay
  • Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg
  • Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado

The changes group teams geographically for the most part and appear to alleviate the problems a lot of teams in the Western Conference currently have with traveling two or three time zones.

The Sabres retain their divisional rivals and add a couple new ones in Florida and Tampa Bay.

Here’s how the playoffs would work (from the article):

The top four teams in each Conference will qualify for the playoffs. The first-place team in each conference would play the fourth-place team in the same conference; the second-place team would play the third-place team.

The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

A decision on how the League will seed the remaining teams for the semifinals will likely not come until the general managers meet in March.

Now, some conferences have seven teams, some have eight. It’s unclear yet how this will be made “fair”, although the Sabres appear to benefit here by only having seven teams in their conference.

Another nice note is that now all teams will play every other team in the league at least twice a year, with a home & away game for each.

The Huffington Post reports that it’s a little murky whether or not the NHLPA has to ratify the realignment. Bettman says the NHL doesn’t need the union’s approval but the NHLPA says otherwise.

Assuming this does go through,  what would the conferences be named? Perhaps we could go back to the old NHL division names: Patrick, Adams, Smythe and Norris. They wouldn’t be the same makeup of teams or regions of course, but it would be unique and a callback to one of the many storied traditions of hockey. Or Atlantic, Northeast+Florida (Or NorFlo), Midwest and West?

Very interesting, to say the least.

Posted in: NHL, Sabres

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