“Are you ready for some hockey ?”
Many sports fans in WNY are marking the days off their calendar in anticipation for October 7th, when the rebuilt, refreshed, and Pegula-powered Buffalo Sabres take to the ice. As we’ve discussed before, Pegs did a whole lot for his team and its fans long before the most recent upgrades of the roster.
Oh yea, and he says things like this.
For Bills fans, lately, it has felt like the reason for existence of the Buffalo Bills has been to just keep them in town. It’s not like Ralph Wilson is suddenly going to change the way he does things – at 200 years of age, he’s pretty much set in his ways. Yea, he put a team in Buffalo (because his first choice, Miami, didn’t pan out). And yea, he’s kept the team here. But that’s about it for Bills fans. They’ve got a team – a middling team, a team that has gone from the glorious stat-sheet days of the Superbowl 90’s to the ever-lengthening joke-sheets of NFL analysts.
Bills fans, praise their thick Buffalo hides, will never give up on their team. Heck, this is Buffalo. This is what we do. Still, there has been a slight change in attitude that has been picking up around the football fan base as they’ve seen what some other rich guy with deep pockets can do for a small market sports franchise.
Pegula has set that standard pretty darn high, and the way the Bills are run, it simply can’t be ignored. We’re not elitists, but we have pride in this town. We want to win.
"...and remember, don't take any wooden nickels!"
We deserve to win.
Of course, this is pro-sports – deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. One thing that does have a lot to do with it is putting your self on notice for the team that you own. That is what Pegula did. We’re on a three year Cup mission right now, and it is on his name that the end result of that quest falls.
As the Sabres surge forward by Pegula’s lead, Wilson has also been inadvertently been put on notice. Again, he won’t shake things up at One Bills Drive. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll learn a thing or two from Pegula and turn Buffalo into a football destination again.
Right now, we’re in Hockey Heaven, and Football Hell.
*For a incredibly wild ride through the historical antics and let-downs of Ralph Wilson, check out the article “Ralph Wilson is an Odious Taint,” over at “Dear God Why Us Sports. It’s a fine, fine piece by “The Yachtsman.” You’ll either laugh until you burst, or get incredibly offended, or if you’re really lucky – both. (NSFW, kiddies.)
We really, really love our readers.
In appreciation of all of you, we’re launching our first-ever contest here at Buffalo Sabres Nation. Here’s the challenge (and painfully wordy legalities), sports fans:
- Send us a quick essay on “What Hockey Heaven Means to Me” (send through the “Contact Us” tab).
- Essays must be kept to a maximum of 150 words.
- Essays must be original work of the contestant, may not have been previously published, may not have won previous awards, must not infringe upon the copyrights, trademarks, rights of privacy, publicity or other intellectual property or other rights of any person and must not violate any law.
- There will be two winners!
- The winning essays will be chosen by our sponsor, Hockey Heaven.
- Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm, Friday, July 8th.
- Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any Entry for any reason, in its sole and absolute discretion.
- Odds of winning depend upon number of entries received.
- Winners will be determined after the Contest’s end date and will be notified by email.
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- Entry into this Contest constitutes your acceptance of these Official Rules.
Sorry if some of that was a little heavy, but we gotta’ keep our noses clean. Now, on to the prizes! These will include:
- A t-shirt from Hockey Heaven. (The winners will get to choose which tee they want.)
- Publication of your essay right here, on Buffalo Sabres Nation – just like a regular post.
This is going to be fun.
Are you a blogger, or an aspiring writer? Do you carry that die-hard passion for the Blue and Gold? Is it time to update your Sabres wardrobe with some sweet new merch? If so, this contest is perfect for you.
Again, thanks to all of our readers for your continued interest and support of Buffalo Sabres Nation. Now, we finally get the chance here to see what “Hockey Heaven” means to you. Let us know, folks.
We’re dying to find out.
(Quick disclosure: readers of my previous blog, “buffalo74,” will be already familiar with most of this content – but it bears repeating.)
Tim Connolly’s days as a Sabre are done.
It’s finally time to analyze the trade that first brought Tim to Buffalo – and you’ll be surprised who the “winner” of this old trade turned out to be.
In 1999, Mike Peca captained the Sabres all the way to Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals. Soon after, he would sit out the 2000-01 season in a contract dispute, and was finally traded to the New York Islanders for Connolly and Taylor Pyatt.
In 2000-01, Peca, indeed, was in a pickle. It was a jarring dispute. The whole situation filled fans with piss and vinegar. Ok, I'm done.
Connolly would score 94 goals and 226 assists (320 points) in 464 games with the Sabres. Injuries would define his career in Buffalo, as the only full season that he ever played with the team was his 1st.
As a bonus, Pyatt would spend 4 years in Buffalo, netting 38 goals and 42 assists (80 points) in 230 games. Pyatt currently plays for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Peca went on to score 49 goals and 93 assists (142 points) over 3 seasons on the Island before moving on to Toronto and Columbus. While his leadership was never in question, he also failed to ever break the double digit mark in goals after the NHL emerged from the lockout in 2005.
Perhaps the most important parallel between Connolly and Peca was their unrelenting injuries – neither player ever had a chance to truly impact their teams.
Talented? Yes. But this is the type of image Sabres fans will remember Connolly for.
Peca was able to be a part of the Cinderella run to the Cup Finals with the Oilers in ’06, but he only managed 6 goals and 5 assists, and his Oilers succumbed to the Hurricanes in 7 games.
Meanwhile, Connolly was an integral part of that same 2005-06 playoff run for the Sabres, netting 11 points in 8 games – including a goal with 11 seconds left in Game One of the 2nd Round against Ottawa (Drury netted the winner). Tim was then lost to injury.
Peca would never regain the form that saw him win the Selke trophy with Buffalo, as the NHL’s best defensive forward. He had a nice run in ’06, but as in ’99, it was all for naught.
Connolly emerged as a bull-force in the 2006 playoffs, before being crushed with injury. His woeful injury record would draw a monumental amount of derision from Sabres fans, who never gave up in their strident quest to run him out of town on his crutches.
Darcy Regier was in position after the ’99 Finals to make another solid run at the Stanley Cup, but the loss of Peca to the contract dispute was devastating, as the team floundered and barely made the playoffs the next season. Most condemning of the dispute and the subsequent trade was the effect it had on all-time franchise netminder Dominik Hasek, who was then convinced that the Sabres would never do what it took to put a team on the ice built to win. Hasek demanded a trade, and got his wish. Regier has carried the stigma as a stubborn sprend-thrift all the way to today, where he has finally had a chance to show what he can do with the largesse of Terry Pegula’s unlimited spending money.
Mike Milbury brought Peca to the Island to infuse the team with grit and leadership – and was rewarded with a playoff berth in the three years Peca was with the team – and three straight 4-1 first round exits. Peca would net only one goal and one assist in those three playoff years. Mike Milbury has gone on into the broadcasting field, after a series of questionable management decisions.
If anything, this drawn-out drama brought nothing but suffering for the players, management, and teams involved.
So now, as the trade and the subsequent elongated “Peca Era” comes to a close in Buffalo, who exactly was the winner of this mess of a trade?
The “Pecadebacle” might have driven Hasek out of town as a maddened, frustrated maniac, but he would go on to win the Stanley Cup with Detroit – in fashion:
During his first season with Detroit, Hasek posted a career high 41 wins with just 15 losses, helping the Wings earn the President’s Trophy with the league’s best record. During the conference finals against Colorado, he became the first goalie to be awarded an assist on an overtime game-winning goal in the post-season. Hasek also set a record for most shutouts in a post-season with six, broken the year after by Martin Brodeur with seven. His name was finally emblazoned on the Stanley Cup.
"Mike, Tim, Darcy - I couldn't have hoisted it without ya'!"
There’s always next year.
First things first:
I am ri-donk-ulously happy that Jagr is back in the NHL. We need as many able-bodied NHL94 vets to stay in this game as long as possible. And by “we,” I mean “I,” because these guys that were in that version of the popular EA Sports hockey rendition were my guys – when I was a youngin’.
Jagr's mullet. Circa 1994.
Not that I’m old. But for each retirement, each transfer across the pond, I feel one step closer to leaving my old, happy,
drunken sober, naive college days behind. One step closer to looking up to, or really, down to, the new generations of NHlers.
As you read this, you will be treated to a glorious barrage of tweet-captures that I took as I played a game of the ol’94 tonite. Such as:
Tip-o-the-sunglasses to those sunglasses!
Crosby? Ovechkin? Is that all you got, New NHL?
Actually, every sip of Yueng brings me back to 2005-07. BW3's. Jacksonville. Fun times, and two very loud sad trombones.
Try Federov. Coffey. Bure (Pavel). Selanne (he grew up so fast).
Roenik. Gilmour. Fleury. Robitaille.
Follow Frankie. Any friend of NHL94 is a friend of mine.
Modano and that punk Hull.
Double-whammy! Yet Jagr survived.
Lemieux. Oates. LaFontaine. Mogilny.
That would be "Barrasso," for those of you that continue to live outside of 140 characters.
Messier. Gartner. Sakic.
Wood always had that "draggin' my knuckles" style of skating, but it was dang effective.
Recchi (one more year)!
I will never tee off at Transit, or strike me dead.
Turgeon. Jagr. Yes, Jagr.
Bettman will pay for this.
In your face, Gary!
No idea how Jagr survived this, but props to Sutty for unleashing the Kev-racken.
Oh yea, and Wayne freakin’ GRETZKY. “The Magnifique.”
Always nice to see Randy Wood leading the evolutionary charge.
Nice victory, for sure. Some real high-lights in there (much of which were horrifically missed checks on #68 by my agein’ fingers). Maybe I’ll have another try, but until then:
And deal with him with "extreme prejudice."
Time to turn in, and dream of better days. And better All-Stars.
*Oh, and thank you, Mr. Lidstrom, for signing on for one more year. I say we make it one more.
You heard it here first (unless you follow me on Twitter, then you heard it there first).
That could be the most excellent name for a line including the Sabres newest Finns, Ville Leino and Joel Armia. Of course, the Sabres need to complete a transfer and a contract to get Armia across the pond, but he’ll be here sooner rather than later.
Is it October 7th yet?
As we mused earlier, an addition of fellow Finn Teppo Numminen to the coaching staff could complete the trifecta, and give Lenio and Armia perhaps their best chance to succeed in Buffalo.
Get that "Armia's Army" banner ready for the 300 level.
As Regier has stated, we’re likely done in the UFA market, so we can all settle in and get ready for next season. Oh, and as for next season, I think Leino said it best as to what we are in for:
“To be honest with you I think they (Sabres) deserved to win (the playoff series). It will be a good fit for me. I think it’s going to be a good team in the future, a lot of young guys. They made some good adds, good defensemen lately. It’s a great hockey town, and I think we have a good chance to win next year. I’m really excited.”
Meanwhile, the Sabres’ additions of Regehr, Ehrhoff, Leino, and their re-sigining of Cody McCormick, puts their salary cap number at $66 million, above this year’s set limit of $64.3 million. They can remain over the cap by 10 percent% until the season opener. So maybe, we’re in for some more summer surprises through the trade market.
Darcy – well done, sir!