rob ray:

5 Big Reasons You should Tune in to Every #Sabres Game this Season

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Well, I’m back.

Blogging about… the NHL. I feel so dirty. Whatever. It’s time to put the lockout behind us and talk puck. Here’s a good starting point: 5 big reasons why you should tune in to every Sabres game this season.

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

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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.

funny pictures one cat gets punched 1 300x225 There Will Be Blood: Why Fighting In The NHL Will Never Be Banned

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.

rob ray angry 300x208 There Will Be Blood: Why Fighting In The NHL Will Never Be Banned

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.

lucic gaustad 590x384 300x195 There Will Be Blood: Why Fighting In The NHL Will Never Be Banned

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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Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators Game Notes

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This wasn’t a complete game by either team, but for stretches it was one of the most entertaining of the year for the Sabres. Derek Roy’s shootout goal gave the Sabres the 3-2 victory.

Now just some quick hits of thoughts about the game.

gerbe 300x169 Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators Game Notes

Gerbe doing his honey badger thing and creating the play that led to a goal. TENACIOUS G!

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I’d heard earlier in the day that Miller was getting the start, then about 15 minutes before game time Enroth got the nod.  Not sure if this was planned or Ruff was just going with the hot hand here.

A group of about 15 or 20 Sabres fans in Buffalo hats with horns were at the game. Think they just showed up randomly like that?  Also, how cool would it be if we had thousands of fans at FN Center with those things? You can get your own here.

Eric Karlsson has a gorgeous mullet that Patrick Kane should be jealous of. Not sure which is better, his mullet or the Zubaz that Gerbe and McCormick were sporting during their trip to the hospital that showed during intermission.

Speaking of sweet hair, Sens’ coach Paul MacLean has a monster walrus ‘stache. And does remind one of Zoidberg.   As @brianbund’s wife pointed out, Lindy Ruff’s mustache is nowhere near as noticable.  Two different men with two very different staches. I want to see an NHL coach mustache competition.

I am much more leery about breakaway / 1 on 1 situations with Enroth than with Miller. With Miller in net I have no worries for that, but more worry lately on the easy goals. Enroth stops the easy ones but isn’t as skilled with 1 on 1’s.

Maybe it was just me, but it didn’t seem like there was a lot of Sens apparel in the arena. As  @ScottyMCSS said, there was a guy in the front row wearing a Billabong shirt. Are you a fan of either team? If so, why not show it? If you like another team that’s not playing, wear stuff from that team. Show your loyalty, dammit!

Early on, we still looked horrible at giving away shorthanded chances. Meh.

Rick Jeanneret is an amazing personality with a unique voice and we love him – but I really had no problem with Kevin Sylvester as play-by-play guy and Danny Gare as color.

I did sort of miss Rob Ray’s interjections. Sometimes he’s thought of as a goonish athlete and RJ has even ripped on him, but he often provides nuggets that make you think. He’s not polished at communications, but that endears him to me. Kind of like a puppy behind the glass. He’s really cute and makes you smile sometimes.

Gragnani may not be nearly as NHL-ready as we’d thought after last year’s playoffs. A good reminder to really think about the sample size we had to go on.

Gerbe is so awesome that I think he’s got the most hockey talent per cubic inch. That goal he created was all about his tenacity. I saw @JoeBuffaloWins call him Taz and I loved it. Add that to the growing nickname list for Gerbs.

Man, Regehr can HIT. Nice to see him smash a couple of guys with perfect timing. How come he didn’t get the Carubba Collision? I thought his were more devastating, but the one they chose had two guys performing a double smack and looked better on the surface. #RegehrSmash

Derek Roy is looking great and perhaps close to back to 100%. He stole the puck away several times and controlled it for quite a while with some slick moves.

The Leino/Roy/Stafford line is looking good, with Leino creating some nice chances.

Win or lose, the shootout is THE most exciting part of a hockey game. However it still seems a little unfair to me that it can decide who gets a point. It takes away the team aspect. If we win, I’m ok with it but if we lose, I’m bitching. I’m guess I’m ok with it so long as it never makes it into playoff hockey.

This game is going to do very little to douse the flames of the Miller versus Enroth controversy by some of the Sabres faithful. Me, I think Enroth is fine … for a BACKUP. He’s still nowhere close to Millsie. That much was evident on breakaways and during the shootout, although Enroth *did* get better as the shootout went on.

That’s it and that’s all. (The whistles go whoo-whoo.) Any thoughts as to this format? Something we should continue? Did it make you chuckle, chortle or interested at all? Please comment below and let us know whether it should be continued.

 

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June 22nd, 1999: After “No Goal,” a Rally, not a Riot

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“We were cheated, not defeated!

Catchy.

“Thou shalt not steal!”

Those were a couple of the signs held aloft by Sabres fans on June 22nd, 1999 – 12 years ago today. Two days previous, the Dallas Stars had finished off the Sabres in the Stanley Cup Final in the third overtime of Game Six.

Brett Hull, from Lehtinen and Modano.

We all know the story, but if you’d like a refresher, click here.

NOOOOOOOOOO1 300x264 June 22nd, 1999: After No Goal, a Rally, not a Riot

“Bullhockey!”

Fans were crushed, but it didn’t stop 20,000 of them from attending a rally to support their team that just lost a professional sports championship in one of the most frustrating and controversial ways of all time.

Fast forward to 2011: a few days ago, fans in Vancouver rioted – again – after losing out in the Stanley Cup Final. (They had also taken to the streets in a stupor of violence in 1994, when their team was defeated in the Final.)

Not to take anything away from the city of Vancouver – it’s boasts a wonderful, year-round embracing climate, plenty of great stuff on the waterfront, and the people are as friendly as they come. Still, after that same friendly population there suffers a gutting defeat, there is a scary pattern of violence.

In Buffalo, that pattern could not be any different.

BillsRally 300x195 June 22nd, 1999: After No Goal, a Rally, not a Riot

“We love you Scotty!”

Back on January 29, 1991, Barbara O’brien of the Buffalo News wrote a sentimental piece about how 30,000 Bills fans gathered downtown for a rally in support of the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills had just lost Superbowl XXV in a horrific way, as Scott Norwood failed to convert a 47-yard field goal at the end of the game. Fans in Buffalo would take to the streets, but not to riot. Instead, they came out to hold their heads high.

From the O’Brien article:

Dwight Bonk of the Town of Tonawanda and Matt Goulet of Buffalo said they wouldn’t want to be any place but Niagara Square on Monday afternoon.

“I thought the Bills had a great season. They definitely deserve an ovation like this, and I know they’ll be back next year,” Bonk said.

“The Bills are where it’s at. They’re the team of the future. They’re the team of today, they deserve the respect of every fan who’s here,” Goulet added.

“They’re still No. 1. I don’t care what anybody says,” said Yvonne Scott of Cheektowaga.

The players felt the same sentiment of hope.

“We don’t have the most talented players,” wide receiver James Lofton said. “Every player on our team is not All-Pro, but what they are is what Mark Kelso said — they’re family. We bond together. We’re Buffalo’s team. We’re going to be No. 1 when we get back next year.”

Eight years later, the quotes from fans at the ’99 rally were virtually interchangeable. Again, fans held their heads high – and the media covering the Dallas Stars even took notice. From an article posted by the Amarillo Globe-News:

“Even though they were defeated, we still have to show them support,” said Jennifer Feher of Kenmore. “They represented Buffalo throughout the world.”

While she remained disappointed over how the series ended, she said the fans would eventually put it behind them.

“In Buffalo, we’re tough people. We’ll come back next year,” she said.

This time, Rob Ray took over where James Lofton left off, to say what the players believed.

“This team is going to be unbelievable in years to come. You can almost guarantee there are going to be many more days like this in the future. The bright young stars that we have are not to be denied.”

Lofton, Ray, and those fans were right. The Bills would go on to the Superbowl for the next three seasons – an incredible feat for the ages, even bearing the fact they lost all of them. The Sabres’ young talent took a little more time. When they did emerge in the 2005-2007 seasons, they were better than Ray could have imagined – and likely would have won a cup in 2006 if not for a defensive squad entirely decimated by injury in the Conference Final.

At the end of every season, we’re lucky to have each other, in this “City of Good Neighbors.” Hope and hard-nosed determination really can’t help fans get to a championship, but in the times in-between deep playoff runs, it sure beats the heck out of smashing each other’s windows and looting what is left of our city and our pride.

Sure, there are plenty of rust-belted folks out there that would understandably quip that “Fans would try to riot, but as soon as they hit Main Street, they’d remember there isn’t anything left there to steal.” Funny, yes, but wholly untrue: you can’t steal hope, and you can’t loot pride.

We have those two things really figured out here in Buffalo. The folks in Vancouver might have a lot of “stuff” that we wish we had on our waterfront, but they sure don’t have what we have in our chests – (which is why it feels so great when we thump those chests, even in losing seasons).

12 years to the day since that rally in ’99, and we’re still ready and waiting to claim that Big Game. Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, all of that stubborn Western New York grit will be rewarded, and we will have a rally of champions.

Go Sabres, go Bills, and, “Let’s go Buff-a-lo!”

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BSN Summer Awards: The Rayzor

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Yeah, yeah, we could’ve gone with Adam Mair for this trophy’s name.

Mair, if you recall anything if at all about him, was fined $2500 bucks for a 2008 tirade in Buffalo, when he tried to pummel Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators with f-bombs.  In a hallway between locker rooms.  That was pretty awesome, Mairsy – a tirade fit for the ages.  However, in the spirit of nobody caring about Mair anymore, this award will be named after the legendary pugilist of the Blue and Gold and Bloody Red, Rob Ray.

rob ray angry 300x208 BSN Summer Awards: The Rayzor

"No one makes Rayzor bleed his own blood!"

So, sports fans, if you haven’t figured it out for yourselves yet, this contentious award goes to the Sabres member/player who unleashed the most endearing tirade/emotional meltdown during the 2010-11 season.

The winner receives my very own slightly scratched up copy of “The Razor’s Edge.”  Vote responsibly!

TheRazorsEdgeYo1 213x300 BSN Summer Awards: The Rayzor

"The story of an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life." What, not what you expected?

Before we get to the nominees, let us pause to consider a little bit of the legacy behind this award.  Over the years dressed in a Sabres uniform, Rob Ray became highly regarded for his huge humanitarian efforts with WNY charities powerful influence on the Sabres bench ability to sit on the bench undaunted until the crowd got bored and started chanting “WE WANT RAY”

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