Sometimes life is weird, you know?
Man. I don’t even know where to begin this story.
No wait, yes I do: From the very bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank Sabres.com for inviting me to join Christian Ehrhoff and Thomas Vanek as they delivered tickets to season ticket holders today. I feel so fortunate to have been plucked from the thousands and thousands of wonderful, loyal, enthusiastic, and deserving Sabres fans to have this experience. The Sabres have recently been making some truly awesome moves to include non-traditional media in their events, and they seriously knocked this one out of the park. Thank you, Sabres!
On Friday last week the Sabres emailed me to ask if I wanted to “tag along” when the Sabres delivered tickets to a few lucky season ticket holders. The email conversation pretty much went like this:
Sabres: Do you want to tag along when we do this thing?
Katebits: I want to do that more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life.
In the initial email we really didn’t get a lot of information about the event, so I spent the entire weekend speculating with Heather (who was also invited) about what exactly we’d be doing. Heather’s favorite scenario was that Lindy would drive us around in a gigantic van full of Sabres all day. My favorite scenario was that somehow I’d end up in a car with Goose, Pominville, and Miller, and at some point we’d turn up the radio and have a loud singalong, preferably to the song “Rolling In the Deep.”
Yesterday, things came into a little bit more focus when I was told I’d be riding in a limo with Tyler Myers and Ville Leino. I know. A limo! With Tyler Myers and Ville Leino!
“I bet those guys know ‘Rolling in the Deep’ too,” I thought. “THIS IS GOING TO BE THE MOST FUN EVER!”
I’m not going to lie, I was quite nervous about almost everything as I headed down to the arena. A variety of panicky thoughts raced through my head: What if I embarrass myself? What if the Sabres hate me? What if Tyler Myers wants to open the sunroof of the limo so he can stick his head out like a giraffe, and this makes me laugh so hard that I have a coughing fit? What if Ted Black turns out to be only 99% awesome instead of 100% awesome? What if Ville Leino arches his eyebrow at me and I temporarily lose the power of speech? What if I somehow offend everyone and ensure that no bloggers are ever taken seriously by the Sabres ever ever ever ever ever ever again? OMFG, WHAT IF I LOOK STUPID IN THIS OUTFIT?!
Well, it turns out that driving around Buffalo in a limousine with Sabres is much like everything else in life. You almost never worry about the right things.
After hooking up with our fabulous and helpful Sabres liaison (and being told that Myers would not be available and that he had been replaced by Gerbe), Heather and I were ushered outside where there were lots of cameras and limos. I’d relaxed a little bit by this point, mostly because there are only so many times you can fret about your outfit before it gets boring. And besides, things were getting pretty interesting.
That’s when the players came out. Now, not to sound like a total goober here, but seeing a big crowd of Sabres in street clothes is really something. Honestly, my first instinct was just to stare at them. I don’t mean this in some sort of creeper way, I just mean… the Sabres are interesting in real life. I wanted to memorize what they were all wearing, and who was taller/shorter/skinnier or goofier in person than expected. But I didn’t have long to stare at them because almost immediately they popped into limos and everything got kind of confusing and suddenly I was all, “Hey, which limo do I go in?! I thought you said I was riding with Gerbe and Leino… I’m riding with Vanek and Ehrhoff? Whaaaaat?”
So, after I spent a day meticulously plotting to charm Myers and Leino into telling me all their funniest secrets, suddenly, I was going to be riding with Vanek and Ehrhoff.
For reasons that were explained to me but that I didn’t try hard enough to understand, Vanek and Ehrhoff met us in a parking lot out near Transit Road instead of driving out there in the limo. This was fine by me because it gave me a chance to bond with Carl (the limo driver [Hi, Carl!]) and also to ask John Sinclair (VP of Tickets & Services) some of my burning questions about the event.
SPOILER ALERT: My “burning questions” about the event were mostly related to my concerns that one of the people’s houses would be messy when Terry Pegula suddenly popped by.
Here’s a picture I took from the limo before Vanek and Ehrhoff got in. Vanek is being interviewed by Lorey Schultz from channel 4. Lorey and her camera guy followed our car to every stop, and Lorey was super duper nice.
Here’s the thing about meeting Sabres in up close, personal situations. There was one part of my brain that was all, “OMG, this is the weirdest thing that has EVER happened, EVER. Thomas Vanek is sitting RIGHT THERE, two feet away from me. Seriously, this is CAH-RAAAAZY.” And then there was another part of me that was just like, “Oh, hi Thomas Vanek!” Although I’d obviously never met him before, Thomas Vanek felt like a basically familiar person. That was very interesting to me. Christian Ehrhoff was an actual stranger (in that I haven’t been watching him play hockey for many years), so meeting him was really just like meeting anyone. Well, not quite like meeting anyone. It was like meeting someone that you know you’re going to start a ten year hockey relationship with next week.
I introduced myself to them as “your blogger for the afternoon,” which didn’t seem to faze either of them in the slightest, and we were off!
From the very beginning I was impressed with Thomas Vanek’s relaxed and open demeanor. My mental image of him is so tortured, but seriously, he was downright breezy in the limo. We chatted about Minnesota (I’m from Minneapolis), and the differences between Buffalo winter and Minnesota winter (When I confessed I’ve always wondered if those sun lamps work, because I hate the constant gray of Buffalo winters, he suggested that we put a huge bubble over Buffalo with a giant sun lamp inside), and how it’s hard to feed twins (he actually held up his arms and pretended to shovel food into two babies mouths simultaneously).
Christian Ehrhoff was a little more reserved, but then again, I didn’t “know” him ahead of time, so maybe I just didn’t ask the magical questions that could’ve prompted him to mime feeding his babies. Perhaps in three years on Ticket Delivery Day I’ll know juuuuust enough about him to carry my end of a totally breezy conversation with Christian Ehrhoff. (I did find out that he played the piano for a handful of years as a kid and that he’s got a piano in his house now. That was intriguing.) I can report that Ehrhoff seems super sweet, and a little shy, and he’s cute as a bug’s ear. Really. I wanted to pinch his dimpled cheeks.
The thing I determined right away in the limo was that I had NO desire to try to pepper these guys with a lot of questions for the blog. I write like a fan, and I wanted to experience the day like a fan. Plus, it was quickly apparent that while they would of course dutifully answer any questions I had, they probably weren’t super eager to give me lots of hilarious footage of themselves being goofy and effing around. These guys were mega, MEGA good-natured, kind, and agreeable, but, they were also at work. This realization was sort of awesome, because I relieved myself of my “media” duties, and I decided to just go with the flow. I took one posed pictured of them in the limo, and then I put away the phone.
I can highly recommend driving around in a car with Sabres. All sorts of hilarious and interesting things happen:
- At one point I asked the guys if they’d ever played together before, and John Sinclair immediately said, “The better question is have they ever played against each other?” This led to them reminiscing about a game they’d played versus each other in the AHL where the Amerks definitively beat Ehrhoff’s team. (I want to say they mentioned it was in Cleveland. Does that make sense with Ehrhoff’s history?) It was really interesting to me how they both seemed to remember the game very specifically, right away. Ehrhoff laughed and said, “I think I was a minus 5 that game.” Heh.
- They were both kind of grumpy about having to wear their jerseys, which makes sense when you think about it, but surprised me to realize. When I commented on this, Vanek said, “Yeah, but I’m REALLY glad to be back to this,” and then he grabbed the circle emblem on his jersey with both hands and lifted it up off his chest. “I did not like the slug.” Then he said something about how he always really liked the original Sabres logo as a kid. This, of course, warmed the cockles of my heart. Then Ehrhoff said, “The third jerseys are nice too.” Vanek seemed to agree that those jerseys were sharp, but he didn’t have a strong opinion about the quilting on the numbers, which I confessed I don’t like. Hearing players discuss jerseys the same way fans do was a hoot.
- All three of our stops were corporate sponsors instead of individual houses. It was SUPER fun to see people react (some of the receptionists’ confusion was kind of priceless, actually), but it didn’t quite pack the emotional wallop that I imagine you’d get out of delivering tickets to a longtime season ticket holder’s house. When I commented on this to the guys in the limo I said, “I think we should find some little kids for you guys to interact with!” And Vanek joked, “Why? Is this not blog worthy?” I thought it was super funny that he had “blog worthy” on the tip of his tongue. I assured him that, “Oh no. Don’t you worry. This is definitely blog worthy.”
- The deliveries ranged from “totally great” to “A FREAKING HOOT”. We stopped at three offices. Ingram Micro, Great Batch, and LoVullo. All three stops were very fun, and it really was interesting to watch people light up when they saw the Sabres. On a personal note, it was also funny to realize that I probably looked like I was a part of their normal entourage. I found myself in various office lobbies wanting to yell, “I don’t belong in the limo with these guys! I’m not one of them! This is a TOTALLY weird day for me! I’m just like you people! CAN YOU BELIEVE I’M DRIVING AROUND WITH SABRES ALL DAY?!” But I didn’t.
- One of the highlights of the day from the “HAHAHAHAHAHA! Category” was Vanek bitching about a $1500 phone bill he got after a Canadian roadtrip even though he TRIED to get the Canadian data plan. I’m not sure why it amused me so much to hear a highly paid athlete grumbling about a bill (and it’s not like $1500 is small potatoes, even when you’re rich), but it did. When he was telling the story of the fiasco, he turned to me and said, “I bought a Canadian data plan ahead of time that included [some number of data bytes which I don't remember because both the number and the unit of measurement are meaningless to me], but I don’t even know what that number means… do you know what that means?” I was all, “Hell if I know what that means, Thomas Vanek.” So he continued, “And so, when I went in to complain about the bill, the guy in the store told me that my data plan was big enough to cover me visiting, like, five websites. I’d only bought enough for ten minutes on the internet.” And this is when I started to inwardly laugh and laugh and laugh. It tickles me to no end that this bothers him enough to tell this story months later. Also, for the record, Thomas Vanek does not take kindly to airline baggage fees.
- I found it very difficult to address them by their first names, but calling them by their last names seemed weird too. I eventually coaxed a few “Thomas”es and “Christian”s out of myself, but it was hard. I have no idea why calling someone by their first name would feel so awkward, but it did.
- At the last stop, LoVullo, the bosses there had clearly given the employees the green light to come on down and pose for pictures. The Sabres were extremely good-natured about this, so much so that LoVullo is where I fell in love with them just a tiny bit. They probably took pictures with at least a hundred people, posing in groups of 5 or 6. The reason it was so charming is that they shook hands and introduced themselves to every single person. This is the one part of the day that I REALLY wish I’d thought to record on video, because for about fifteen minutes you just heard, “Hi, I’m Christian” “Hi, I’m Thomas.” “Hi, I’m Christian.” “Hi, I’m Thomas.” “Hi, I’m Christian.” “Hi, I’m Thomas.” “Hi, I’m Christian.” Over and over and over again. It was incredibly endearing. There’s just something very sweet and unassuming about introducing yourself to people who are lining up to get your picture. This was truly the highlight of the day for me.
-After the last stop, they both IMMEDIATELY removed their jerseys, and then they BOTH folded them up into tidy rectangles. I’m not sure what was going on with that (maybe some sort of tidiness-peer-pressure?), but it was cute.
I’m sure I’ll keep remembering little things from the day, and when I do, I’ll post about them here. Maybe we should just consider this, “Sabres Ticket Delivery Day: Part One.”
For now, I’ll just end this post by saying, again, thanks SO MUCH to Sabres.com for having me today. This was really, truly a wonderful experience. Another thanks to Carl the limo driver for his masterful limo-driving-skillz, and John Sinclair, who was a super fun guide for the afternoon. And of course, a million thanks to Thomas Vanek and Christian Ehrhoff who were both incredibly generous, kind, and engaging with me today. We are lucky to have them both in Buffalo.