Archive for September, 2010

Keep Your Eye On the Prize!

I suppose if I were a good fan and person I would more grateful for these preseason games.  Theoretically, some hockey (even if it’s preseason hockey) should be better than no hockey, right?  WRONG.  Well, okay….yes.  Preseason hockey is better than, say, the dark days of mid-August when there is no hockey ANYWHERE in sight, and you start to worry that you’re forgetting what hockey looks like, and when you go to the closet to run your hands lightly over all of the Sabres hoodies that you never wear (too hot) you panic because they don’t even smell like the arena anymore, and deep in your heart you’re terribly afraid that hockey is never coming back and you’ll have to adjust and relearn how to be happy.  Preseason hockey is better than that.

But being better than mid-August is like being better than a fridge full of Diet Pepsi (when all you want is a Diet Coke).  Not that hard.

You may recall that last year around this time I showed you this video of adorable children being tortured with marshmallows.

The children are given a marshmallow, and told that they can eat it right away, OR, if they can hold off on eating it for five minutes that they can have another one.   Then they’re left alone in a room with only the marshmallow and filmed for our amusement.

I’m not sure why, but this year I feel like I’m one of the kids in this video, and the preseason is the marshmallow.  I desperately want to eat the marshmallow, but I can’t do it because I want the regular season even more. (I guess for the purpose of this analogy [which really doesn't add up, but whatever] the regular season would be represented by, like, a thousand marshmallows.)

What I’m trying to say is, the preseason is delicious, and believe me, I want to eat it (wait…what?) but I’m going to keep my steely gaze on October 8th.

I want the good stuff.  And now I also want some marshmallows and a Diet Coke.

8 Things About Training Camp

I’ve had the great pleasure of going to three Sabres practices and two scrimmages this week.  When I first saw the training camp schedule it didn’t look like I would be able to attend many weekday practices, but things shook out well, and I just kept….finding myself in the arena.  Today we got out of work an hour earlier than expected, so I hightailed it down to the arena and watched an hour of practice.   I’ve been enjoying these practices so much that I’m going to be sad to see them go.

Here are a few observations from training camp:

1. Almost no one goes to the practices.  I find this shocking.  There could not have been more than 20 people there this morning.

2. Lindy is a HOOT.  You can hear everything he says on the ice, and he’s simultaneously cranky and hilarious.  Today he made the team that lost the shootout drill do twenty pushups on the ice with their gloves off.  Bare hands on the ice.  I thought that was funny and extra mean.  (Incidentally, the losing team included the Vanek/Roy/Stafford line.  Vanek did NOT take his gloves off, and after they did all of their pushups I really wished I had thought to count how many Roy-Z did.  They do pushups on an honor system, and what are the chances that Roy-Z did all twenty?  No chance, I say.)  I’ve been a vocal critic of Lindy in the past, and I’ll never EVER be on board with you people who think he should have a job for life just because he’s awesome, but I will say this: Lindy Ruff is the most compelling person on the ice in the practices.  That’s just a fact.

3. I know we all love to hate Roy-Z but he’s pretty good at hockey, so I think we should just all shut our traps.

4. That said, it irks me that Staffy is still playing with Roy-Z and Vanek.  This makes no sense. Lindy should be fired!  (Calm down.  I’m just kidding.)

5. It’s not that I actually forgot about Jason Pominville this summer, it’s just that I managed to go a good four months without thinking about him even once.  I can highly recommend pseudo-forgetting one of your favorite players for the summer, and then seeing him again at practice.  It’s fun.  There is a special doodle-shaped place in my heart for Jason Pominville.

6. I like watching practices so much that I wish there were no preseason games or scrimmages.  I just want to watch practices until I get to watch real hockey.

7. I have the Toni Lydman effect with Mark Mancari.  I’m not sure why, but my attention is just drawn to Mancari when he’s on the ice.  I’ve never quite understood why he’s been relegated to the Never-Will-Be-More-Than-An-AHLer bin, because I swear he’s always doing something fancy.  Unlike most of the guys (who stink at shootouts) Mancari scored on BOTH goalies during the shootout drill, and he didn’t have to do any bare-handed pushups.  Mark Mancari, I believe in you.

8. Today while the Sabres were playing a round of “tiny-sized hockey” (This where they put the nets across from each other going the short way on the rink.  I have no idea what this accomplishes or how this improves their regular hockey game), there was a brief period of time where there were two pucks in play at once.   Most of the players were playing with one puck, and Vanek had his own….which he was using to taunt Crunchy.  He came in really slow to Crunchy’s net, and then sort of faked a bunch of shooting motions, all while staying juuuust out of Crunchy’s poke check range.  You could see Miller all tense and ready to defend against Vanek who seemed very relaxed and mischievous.  At one point, Miller even made a sort of awkward little motion from his knees towards the puck, but Vanek calmly kept it out of his reach.  I don’t actually think Vanek ever shot the puck at him, he just threatened to shoot the puck.  This short episode managed to convey both a moment of playfulness between friends and also a certain aspect of brotherly taunting.  Vanek was teasing Miller.  It’s stuff like this that make practices so much fun to watch.   This might just be a first-week-of-school thing, but the players really do seem energetic and happy to be at practice.  Practices make them seem less like millionaires, and more like kids playing a game.   Practices make the players seem more likable, and that makes me more excited to cheer for them.

So soon!  Real hockey is so soon!

Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!

Hallelujah!

Before you begin reading this post, please press play on this video.

It is tradition for the audience to rise during the Hallelujah Chorus.

*please rise*

We, who are lucky enough to call ourselves Sabres fans are a fretful and cantankerous audience, but tonight, we join together in praise….and yes, worship.

Thank you, Almighty Hockey Gods.   Thank you for bestowing upon us, at this wonderful and holy time of year, a new hockey season.  We thank you for this bounty.  We pledge our love and our everlasting devotion to you, Almighty Hockey Gods.  We promise to be good Sabres fans.  We thank you for the new jerseys (except the stitching on the numbers on the new 3rds.  That’s just fugly.  No getting around it.)  We thank you for Ryan Miller.   We thank you for Jason Pominville and Steve Montador.  We thank you for Thomas Vanek and sweet, sweet baby Tyler Myers.  We thank you for Goose (HONK!).  We thank you for our bright and serviceable arena and its plentiful, nearby parking.  We thank you for Lindy Ruff and Jim Corsi (who we have recently realized is the most adorable man on earth).   We even thank you for Tim Connolly and Derek Roy- we like to complain about them, but deep in our hearts, we know that without them the Sabres would hardly ever score.  We thank you for open practices, and big beers, and for that time last season when the Sabres completely dominated the Red Wings while I was at the arena.

We thank you for hockey.

But tonight we have a special reason to give thanks.  Tonight, we give deep and solemn thanks for the miracle that is 81 Sabres games in high definition. We don’t know why it’s 81 and not 82 games in HD, and we don’t care.

Almighty Hockey Gods, there were times last season when we doubted you.  There were times last season when, while squinting at the blurry feed on our expensive HD televisions, we felt as if the Sabres had forsaken us.  How could they, to whom we have given so much, make us watch playoff games in low def? How could they treat us this way?  How?   Our hearts were filled with doubt and with deep bitterness.

But you have restored our faith.

You have given us the gift of HD.  We will never watch a playoff game in lowD again.  We are free.  We love the Sabres again, without reservation, for we know that our cheering, our devotion, and most of all, our whining on twitter, was heard.

Thank you, Almighty Hockey Gods!

Hallelujah!

5 Things

1. I picked a REALLY good time to randomly fixate on a particular tennis player.  No sooner had I locked eyes on Novak Djokovic than he started beating Roger Federer right and left at the U.S. Open.  (Okay, he didn’t quite beat Roger “right and left”.  He pretty much just, “did exactly what it takes to beat Roger Federer and not one bit more”.  But still.  Yay, Novak!)

The Finals were supposed to be yesterday (Sunday), which kind of bummed me out because I was scheduled to be at a picnic exactly when the match was set to begin, BUT, the Tennis Gods must love me, because the match was RAINED OUT.  I got home from my picnic just in time to see Novak brightly informing his interviewer that he was grateful for the extra day to recover from his Federer match before facing Nadal.  So, the match is rescheduled for today, which is awesome because I don’t have anything better to do today other than care passionately about athlete I didn’t care about at all two weeks ago.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want me between 4-7pm today, I’ll be watching tennis.

Here’s a video of Novak being mega cute with a pink umbrella.

2. Rookie camp started today at HSBC which I suppose is pretty exciting for the rookies, but honestly doesn’t do much for me even in spite of my extreme case of hockey withdrawal.  I’m happy the rookies are on the ice, and I look forward to loving/hating them if and when they become Sabres.

There was one bit of fun non-rookie news out of HSBC this morning though:

Exciting!  (Also, that’s good reporting, Mike Harrington!)

3. I haven’t watched Project Runway in a few seasons (Kenley really took a lot out of me and I needed a break), but I am LOVING it again.  I watched the most recent episode last night, and the editing that Gretchen has received (first she’s tolerable, then she’s a bitchy shrew, then she’s a MEGA BITCHY SHREW, then she’s repentant, and now she’s basically tolerable again) got me thinking.  Wouldn’t it be fun to edit a show like Project Runway?  I think it would be very interesting to pick out a storyline and then support it by editing the hours and hours of footage they film during the challenge.

I was recently poking around and reading the blogs on the Project Runway site, and in one of them, Laura Bennett let’s it slip that the runway and judging takes EIGHT HOURS to film. Obviously with all of that footage being edited down to ten minutes, the editing makes a HUGE difference in how we perceive the contestants.  I think I would like that job.  If editing Project Runway were my job I would make Mondo the star of the show and I’d play the “Psycho” music every time Ivy appeared on screen.

And just as an aside: in my opinion “throwing someone under the bus” means to blame them for something that is not actually their fault.  On Project Runway everyone who says anything bad about anyone else gets accused of “throwing him under the bus”.  It’s dumb.

4. The Bills are terrible at football.  We knew this already, but it was still gross to see.

I tweeted this last night, but in my opinion the biggest problem with football is that when the teams are bad football is the MOST BORING SPORT EVER.  That game yesterday was brutal. Just completely uninteresting in every way.   Hockey, on the other hand, is often more fun when you’re watching bad teams.  A few yeas ago I was quite taken with the Tampa Bay Lightning because their games felt so delightfully out of control.  They were undeniably bad, but their games were fun to watch because more often than not, they lost 6-5.  Bad football teams are no fun at ALL.

5. I don’t love Mad Men the way most people do.  I’ve seen all of seasons 1 and 2, and then I kind of lost interest during Season 3.  (I feel like I’m watching Season 4 because of twitter.)  Mad Men is beautifully executed, but to me it’s very depressing.  I always felt kind of sad and unsettled after watching Mad Men, so I quit.

What’s This Thing?

Tennis Expert

Every few years I get sucked into a tennis event, and this year I’ve become QUITE taken with the US Open.

One of the things I enjoy about tennis is that the players are so obviously bonkers. I mean this in a good way, as I’m actually quite fond of loons, especially loons who I get to watch on television in HD.  As far as I can tell, tennis is a sport comprised entirely of Ryan Millers, only THESE Ryan Millers aren’t even socialized.  These poor people don’t even have teammates to keep them grounded.

They’re totally on their own out there.

It’s fascinating, and alarming, and inspiring, and sometimes a little sad.  It’s first rate drama.

RIP, Toni Lydman

I still have one blog post that I need to write before I can fully embrace this upcoming season.

I need to formally say goodbye to Toni Lydman.

“Toni Lydman?” you say.

Yes.  Toni Lydman.

“Since when do you care all that much about Toni Lydman?”

Since always, really.

____

When I first started attending Sabres games I was such a new fan that I had some trouble following the action.  My enthusiasm for hockey far surpassed my experience actually watching hockey.  I was able to keep up with the basic game action (it’s not rocket science), but what I was trying to do was keep track of every little thing that every single Sabres did.  As a result, my earliest experiences with hockey were a jumble of confusion and minute details.  It wasn’t at all unusual for me to miss exciting plays because I was distracted by watching one of the Sabres wiping down his face mask on the bench.  My focus was all over the place.

In the middle of all of this was Toni Lydman.

(This is hard to describe, and I’d love to know if anyone else has ever had this kind of relationship to a player. )

For some reason, in the arena, Toni Lydman is like a beacon on the ice to me.  I’m not kidding.  In the middle of the chaos of an NHL game, Toni Lydman stands out as if he’s skating around under a spotlight. In the early days of my fandom it was like that scene in “West Side Story” when Tony and Maria first see each other at the dance and everything around them becomes blurry- except it wasn’t at all romantic, and as far as I’m aware, I do not hold the same magnetic attraction for Toni Lyman as he does for me. (Wouldn’t THAT be something?)  I’m not particularly infatuated with Toni Lydman or his playing.  He’s not someone I ever consciously tried to “see” out there.  Lord knows he’s not flashy, but something about Toni Lydman just attracts my attention.

In some ways, Toni Lydman became the player that I used to orient myself to the game.  He was like a hockey landmark.  “Okay, there’s Toni Lydman….so Tallinder must be up here on the right…”  I know.  It makes no sense.  But there you go.

My interest in Toni Lydman never became particularly sentimental, probably because he’s just not the type of player or personality you’re going to go all ga-ga over.  To go ga-ga over Toni Lydman would be to disregard whatever you like about him in the first place.  Toni Lydman is a player to be quietly appreciated, but never fussed over.

I’m going to miss Toni Lydman.  I’m going to miss thinking, “Hey, there’s Toni Lydman,” twenty times a game, I’m going to miss his (usually) reliable defense, and I’m going to miss his self-deprecating interviews.  I’m curious to see if some other Sabre takes up the “Hey look at me, Katebits!” mantle now that Toni Lydman is gone, but I kind of doubt it.  Toni Lydman might be a once-in-a-lifetime player.  It’s possible that you never get another Toni Lydman.

Good luck in Anaheim, Toni Tone Tony!  Thanks for being so rad.


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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In accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Law, The Willful Caboose uses logos and registered trademarks of the National Hockey League to convey my criticism and inform the public of the Sabres' suckitude/badassitude (whatever the case may be). Photos on The Willful Caboose are used without permission, but do not interfere with said owner's profit. If you own a specific image on this site and want it removed, please e-mail me (willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com) and I will be more than happy willing to oblige. (Special thanks to The Pensblog for their help with this disclaimer.)

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