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Slapshot, and the North Tonawanda Norsemen

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Here’s something that you probably don’t have in your jersey drawer.

It’s also something you’re going to want to add.

norsemen jersey1 Slapshot, and the North Tonawanda Norsemen

 

The history of the Buffalo Norsemen is brief, but awesome. The team played in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) during the 1975–76 season. There were a few notable names on the roster, such as player/coach Bison Guy Trottier. Their rival was the Johnstown Jets.

If the terms “player/coach” and “Johnstown Jets” ring a bell, well they should. A playoff game between the two clubs was the inspiration behind the iconic movie, Slapshot.

Norsemen logo Slapshot, and the North Tonawanda Norsemen

He’s adorable. Not sure why he’s chained up though.

So what happened to inspire the film?

The Norsemen entered the NAHL playoffs two weeks later despite a losing record for the season.  They faced the Johnstown (PA) Jets in the quarterfinal round.  During an early game in the series in Buffalo, a black player on the Jets roster was subjected to racist taunts and signs by the Norsemen fans.*

When the series moved to Johnstown, Jets players retaliated by instigating a full-fledged brawl during the pre-game skate around.  The melee sent Norsemen players Greg Neeld and Charlie Labelle off to the hospital.  After the fight subsided, the Norsemen retreated to their locker room at the Cambria County War Memorial and refused to come back on the ice.  NAHL officials handed the Jets a victory by forfeit…which also gave them the series victory and eliminated the Norsemen from the playoffs!  The incident inspired a pre-game brawl scene in the classic hockey movie Slap Shot, released the following year and based largely on the Johnstown Jets.

“Naturally we took the team off the ice,” Norsemen General Manager Willie Marshall told the press at the time.  “We had two players who couldn’t play.  They beat up a couple of our stars…Hockey is secondary in this league.  I hate to say I’m a part of this league.  The people running the league have lost all touch with reality.  We’re here to develop young hockey players, not goons.”

The Norsemen never played another game.  The club folded following the season.  The Jets went on to win the league championship.

*Allegedly. I haven’t been able to turn up any more on this side of the story, which is not surprising due to the age and lack of resources on this lost hockey lore.


norsemen bumper sticker 300x85 Slapshot, and the North Tonawanda Norsemen

 

Norsemen Puck Slapshot, and the North Tonawanda Norsemen

 

Dave Hanson described the connection for ESPN’s now defunct “Page 2:”

In reel life: The Chiefs start a fight with an opponent during pregame warmups, and in the championship game the Syracuse Chiefs forfeit after a fight and Ned’s striptease, giving the Chiefs the victory and the championship.

In real life: According to Dave Hanson, the Jets brawled against the Buffalo Norsemen before a playoff game started, when no refs were on the ice. “They (the Norsemen) skated off the ice and went into the locker room and refused to come out to play the game, and we won the playoff series by forfeit,” said Hanson.

We’ve had some pretty ridiculous things happen to our teams in Buffalo, but this underappreciated event might be the best of the worst.

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HARBORCENTER Fest: Thanks, Pegulas

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This whole experience was fantastic. The rides, the tastes, the smells – and it was all free.

Well, we did pony up three bucks for parking.

Harborcenter Puck HARBORCENTER Fest: Thanks, Pegulas

This was a glorious day.

It didn’t even have a sports feel (at least early, when we were there) – there are big games scheduled for tonight and especially for tomorrow – but this was game-free. Worry-free.

Just a bunch of kids, running from station to station, wondering when the fun will end. Followed in hand by a bunch of parents, wondering where this fun even came from, and please, let’s keep on rolling. Bounce houses, rides, you name it. All free.

Thank you HARBORCENTER, and the Pegulas, of course. The fun continues until Monday. Enjoy.

Go Sabres.

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Getting Unstuck.

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Get ready: the 2014-15 regular season is about to begin.

For the Sabres, the players have been selected, the captains have finally been named, and the playoffs are the goal. The Sabres’ playoff odds as seen from the rest of the hockey world? Well, c’mon.

We’re going to lose a lot of games.

A lot.

Here’s the problem: while we will be joyous for the draft odds, at the same time, we will be miserable. We will want a losing team to secure one of McDavid or Eichel in the upcoming draft, but we’re going to want to have fun, to be loud, to get wins, at least at home. We’re going to want to be entertained.

Losing sucks.

And what is home these days, exactly? The Pegulas bought this team with a singular goal to win the Cup(s). A locker room was built. A Cup-board was built. Hope was established, and for the first time in perhaps the history of the franchise, it was real. HARBORCENTER began construction. Meanwhile, the team on ice failed, and it was painfully, piece by piece, dealt away. Doubt took its familiar root in our souls, and the FNC turned solemn and quiet.

Because losing sucks.

We’ve been focusing on that initial instant-Cup-delivery failure (if it’s truly fair to call it a failure, which it’s not), and then putting so much more focus on hope for yet another even more horrendous season in order to draft a generational savior. With all that on our minds, we may forget that it’s OK to root for the guys on the ice this year.

Don’t root against them. Don’t get ahead of yourselves, Buffalo. Don’t boo. Don’t stay quiet.

We’re going to lose – a lot – but it doesn’t have to suck. It’s time to get up and herald what we have, and what is coming.

Cheering is awesome.

Cheer for the guys who came here to help lead our youth. Cheer for those kids, trying not to make a mistake in front of you. Trying to win a game. Cheer for that win. You can chose instead to sit, cross-armed and silent, maybe a little belligerent about how former and/or current ownership put a stink in your arena beer. That’s a stubborn choice, but I get where you’re coming from, if you choose to stick with it. We’ve been stuck for a while. Blame the GM, the Rigases, the city, the Ruff Era, Danny and Chris, the “enigmas,” or even blame the fax machine. But after all that blaming, we’re still stuck in this together.

Eventually it’s going to be up to each and every one of you to unstick yourself from your seat, and give a cheer. Make as much noise as you dang well please. It won’t make a difference, really, in the final score. We’re going to lose – a lot – but it doesn’t have to suck. It’s time to get up and herald what we have, and what is coming.

sabres stuck 300x227 Getting Unstuck.

Help me help you.

The Cup-board is empty, but the incoming prospects can very well change that. Let’s help give them a rousing start this season, through all the peaks (and mostly) valleys.

Let’s have some fun. Let’s get unstuck.

And, of course, a big ol’ get well soon to our beloved Buffalo legend, Rick Jeanneret – the man who always can find a way to make everything feel fantastic. As he has said many times: “PLENTY MORE COMIN’ UP IN A MOMENT!” Perfect advice, really, for fans of a young team just about ready to explode.

Go Sabres.

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3 Dream Draft Scenarios for the Buffalo Sabres

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Without wasting your time on a wordy lede, here’s 3 ways the Sabres can make a big step forward in their quest for a Stanley Cup today.

 

1. Reinhart-Ehlers

This has been my dream scenario for the draft.

Reinhart has the highest IQ of this draft, along with arguably the best passing abilities (as Kevin Devine said, plausibly the best passer to come into the draft in the last 10-15 years). Add a complimentary player in Nikolaj Ehlers, widely considered as one of the top finishers in the CHL, and you’ve got a recipe for lots of goals.

Of course we need goals, but it goes deeper than that.

For CHL players, Reinhart is at the top of his prospect pool for time on ice while playing shorthanded (66.6%).  He’s fourth in power play time (77.3%).

Meanwhile, Ehlers has been knocked around in articles and posts stating that his stats may be inflated playing alongside Jonathan Drouin – but a great majority of Ehlers’ even strength numbers (about 70%)  came with Drouin on the bench. His goals for % at even strength tops the CHL class (76.7%), and he is ranked quite high in plenty of other offensive categories (hit the link and do some sorting by category, you might be surprised).

Finding a way to get back into the top 10 (or maybe even a bit higher than that) would be very hard – but not impossible. A Reinhart-Ehlers combination could be the best 1-2 value in this year’s draft.

2. Give me a Sam (or Leon), and Barbashev

It takes a number of years for prospects to make it to the NHL. With all the accumulating youth, getting more than one first rounder this year makes an awful lot of sense in making the team better sooner.

I’d be satisfied with either Sam at #2 (or Leon Draisaitl – I trust Murray in his talent evaluation), but I’d be happy if they found a way back in to get that extra guy.

For me, Barbashev is that guy. His motor is relentless (not so much as Girgensons, but about as close as you get in this draft class), he’s an all-zones and all-situations guy, and he can score. Again, I trust Murray to make the right pick, so take my preference as simply that. There are plenty of names that should be available in the mid-first (McCann, Fiala, Fabbri, Larkin, Tuch – and more) that we’d all be pretty thrilled with coming out of today.

Get me two guys. Make me happy.

ho sang 300x181 3 Dream Draft Scenarios for the Buffalo Sabres

We need goals. We need excitement. We need to find the edge of our seats again.

3. Ho-Sang!

Once touted as a talent on par with Connor McDavid, Ho-Sang has seen his stock fall almost as dramatically as he plays the game. His crimes? Speaking his mind. Being too honest. Oversharing his opinions.

I’d like to extend a hearty “thanks” to Joshua for compiling this criminal record, because it might help him slide to the Sabres in the second round (or of course, they could trade up for him if they are that interested). Plausibly the most talented player in this draft – an absolute wizard with the puck – Ho-Sang is a player that could be the steal of the draft, and would make for some ridiculously entertaining articles from the local rag and for some really spicy hot sports takes on the local radio waves.

Again, we need goals – but we also need to find the edge of our seats again at the FNC. This guy could challenge for the headline marquee for both in Buffalo.

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Tonite is going to be a blast. A rebuild is a tough thing to endure, but this is one of the best parts. It’s time to start dreaming.

 

 

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10 Reasons To Be Thankful For The 2013-14 Sabres

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It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, so I thought today would be a good time to remind everyone that there’s still a chance.

Here’s the deal: if the Sabres go a herculean 32-16-9, they have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs. And oh hey – if they go 57-0-0. they even have a shot at the President’s Trophy. Dream big in that food coma, people.

These stats, of course, come from SportsClubStats.com – a site that we all used to enjoy hopping on in the days before the Sabres became possibly the worst team ever to lace up the skates that didn’t include a skating monkey.

Also, it’s nice to see our effort to get the most lottery balls possible visualized:

Screenshot 11 26 2013 8 42 16 AM 10 Reasons To Be Thankful For The 2013 14 Sabres

This site isn’t fun anymore.

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