Archive for December, 2007

The One Where I Attend a Minnesota Wild Game, and Fall Deeper in Love With the Buffalo Sabres.

Sam and I gleefully headed out to the Wild game tonight. I have been looking forward to this game for weeks. Until tonight, I’d only attended games at HSBC arena, so I was very eager to get a glimpse of the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.

First of all, the arena is beautiful. Gorgeous. Wide concourses which are open to the arena, plenty of delicious food, lots of friendly staff, and chock full of charming details. The usher guarding our section, wouldn’t let people in during play. When he did let them in, he chastened them to get to their seats and sit down quickly. I seriously wanted to marry our usher. He is possibly the best usher in the NHL. Everything about the Xcel experience was ten times more glamorous and more produced than at HSBC. From the gate, to the intermissions, to the way the players were introduced, to the look and feel of the actual space, everything is just slicker.  I cannot rave enough about the arena.

Sam got us incredible seats at center ice in the Club Level. In the Xcel Center, the Club Level means the single row of seats circling the arena above what we call the 200 level in Buffalo. Not only did we have a great view, but we were sitting at a little bar. Because there was no one behind us, we could stand up as much as we wanted, and no one had to shimmy by us to get to their seats. I can highly recommend watching a game at the Club Level at Xcel Energy Center.

Sam is making his “this game is not going well” face. We don’t know that weirdo behind us.

The game was…..well, it was…..not good. The Detroit Red Wings are a very good hockey team, and the Minnesota Wild were just not up to the task tonight. I seem to have a real knack for attending frustrating, slow games in which the home team looks brutally ineffectual. But, as we said as we were leaving the arena “It’s still hockey.” Bad live hockey is still better than no live hockey at all. In fairness, there was exceptional hockey at our game, it just wasn’t being played by the Wild. Stupid Red Wings.

It would be unfair to judge the crowd based on tonight’s game. The Wings were in complete control from start to finish and one lone goal at the end to the second period was our only real moment of celebration. Minnesotans are true hockey fans, and this game, like all of the games that have occurred since the Wild came into existence in 2000, was sold out. In Buffalo, I’m used to a pretty rough and tumble atmosphere, in Minnesota, things are a lot more manicured, for better and for worse. We were also sitting in some pretty expensive seats, and I’m willing to bet that things were a lot feistier up in the rafters.

So, there I was, sitting in amazing seats, in a beautiful arena, with one of my best friends…..watching a pretty shitty hockey game. Due to the slow pace of the Wild game, my attention began to increasingly drift towards the out-of-town score board. It was quickly deduced that the Sabres and the Flyers were playing a pretty good hockey game. Sam is a Flyers fan, so we had a lot of fun announcing the score to each other as the score crept higher and higher. Things seemed to rest at 4-5 (Flyers) for a long time, and that is where it was when our game (the one we were attending in person), entered the second intermission.

Sam and I headed out to the concourse and watched the last three minutes of the Sabres/Flyers game on the television with hoards of Wild fans milling all around us. I jumped for joy, along with my fellow and distant Buffalonians, when Vanek tied the game with 7 seconds left in regulation. Sam, understandably was less enthused than me, so he returned to his seat to watch the start of the third period. I stayed. I stood alone, in an empty concourse and watched overtime and the shootout. To the amusement of the guy manning the beer kegs, I did a little happy dance for the Sabres when Crunchy won the game. I am so proud of the Sabres and these games that they played against the Flyers. Surrounded by live hockey, in my home town, at a beautiful arena, my heart filled with love for the scrappy Buffalo Sabres. I had so much fun standing in that concourse watching the Sabres win. So. Much. Fun. (Sorry, Sammy. I’m sorry that it had to be against your team. I’m also sorry that your team is the Flyers, but that’s a post for another day.)

Here, Sam models my incredibly righteous souvenir. You wish you had a foam Minnesota Wild souvenir bear claw hand. Just admit it. But don’t be jealous; I’ll let you borrow mine.

All in all, it was a SUPER fun night. I ate a burger made out of a buffalo, I saw an incredibly beautiful arena, I sat in amazing seats, I found out that in person the Minnesota home jerseys do not look like elf costumes, I saw the best team in hockey, I got a feel for what NHL hockey in Minnesota is like, I bought a foam bear claw, I hung out with my dear friend Sam, my seats were guarded by the best usher in hockey, I got a free promotional puck, and best of all, I saw the Sabres win.


I Heart Booing

I have written a little about this subject before, but it’s been spread out all over the internets in various comment threads and emails. You can consider this post, The Official TWC Proclamation on Booing.

I heart booing. Booing might be the single most interesting revelation I have had as a passionate sports fan these last few months. Everything in my background and in my personality suggests that I should believe that booing is “mean”. When I thought about this weekend I thought, “I hope we don’t boo Danny,” but once the game had started, and I heard the boos, it really didn’t bother me. I have been consistently amused by booing this season, and last night’s game against the Flyers was no exception.

In my opinion, booing is just not that big a deal. I harbor no ill will towards Briere. I don’t think we will ever really know how much he did or did not want to stay in Buffalo, because the Sabres organization never negotiated with him. I don’t blame him at all for signing his big contract. People like to argue that booing is about lack of “class” or “vindictiveness” or “anger”. Having recently been a part of two booing crowds at HSBC arena (one of which was booing the Sabres), I don’t sense genuine anger from booing. Booing is just one gesture on the spectrum of expression available to a spectator, and it’s not necessarily abusive.

Like it or not, booing also fosters a sense of camaraderie among the fans. Booing isn’t for the guys on the ice, it’s for the people in the stands. Last night, it was more important to the crowd to assert themselves as Sabres fans, than it was to be “classy”. I’m fine with that. It’s an awkward thing, watching a former Sabre on the ice. We loved Danny, and many still do, but last night the people in HSBC wanted it known that they love the Sabres more than any one player. I don’t think it was about anger towards Briere. I think it was about passion for the team. You can say what you want about the people of Buffalo, but our passion for sports is beyond dispute. Daniel Briere still inspires passion. I assume that someday he won’t be such an emotional figure for the people of Buffalo, and when that day comes, we’ll stop booing him, but for right now, it’s impossible to ignore him out there. If we can’t cheer for Danny, we have to boo. That’s just how it is. Until someone invents a noise that is easily identifiable as “I respect you, and I wish the Sabres had resigned you, but you’re a bit of a slag-faced whore for becoming a FLYER, thanks for all the memories, good luck in the future, I hope the Flyers never win again”, our hands are a little tied. Our feelings about Briere are pretty complex, and a crowd is a blunt instrument when it comes to expression. I would definitely argue that the passion of the fans contributed to the high level of passion on the ice last night. Like it or hate it, the booing made the fans an active participant in the game, and it made the game more exciting.

Listen, I actually respect Briere enough to trust that he isn’t going to cry himself to sleep over being booed. For goodness sakes, it’s a sound. It’s not like the crowd was tossing molotov cocktails onto the ice. He’s making a buttload of money, and he’s a professional. I wish him nothing but the best. BOOOOOOOOO!

Marian Gaborik, Ranger Killer

I’ve decided that while I’m in Minnesota, I’m going to fully commit to being Wild fan. Watching or listening to the Sabres games while I am here would require saying ridiculous things like, “I know I haven’t seen you since last Christmas, but tonight I’m going to sit in the office and listen to the game on my computer. Please leave me alone.” It’s just not feasible, nor is it good for Katebits-family relations. So, I will not be watching the Sabres games this weekend.

I did however, watch the Wild play the Rangers last night on television, and all I have to say about that is “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”. Marian Gaborik was hilariously unstoppable, and the Rangers were just so feeble. I think my favorite part of the game was in the last few minutes, when the Wild had a two man advantage, and the players were sending goofy, unrealistic passes over to Gaborik instead of taking shots themselves. Towards the end of the game, the whole enterprise had turned into a Gaborik-centric spectacle. Awesome.

The Sadly Hilarious Drift

My affinity for the helmet nuzzle is well documented. A hearty thank you to everyone who has sent me a great nuzzle image. I apologize for hoarding them all for myself and I promise that one of these days, I will organize the helmet nuzzle pictures into some sort of gallery. Keep ’em coming!

Recently, I have been drawn to another kind of photo. One team celebrates, while a lone member of the opposing team drifts by forlornly. Have you ever seen anything so pathetic as sad-sack, Tim Connolly here?

I can’t remember where I first saw this picture. If it was on your blog, I apologize. I am terrible about crediting photos.

I have two requests:

1. Help me name this genre of photo. My first instinct is to call it “The Sad Drift”, but that won’t work in every sitution. What if it’s the Sabres celebrating, while, say, Sean Avery drifts by sadly? Then the picture becomes a “Delightful Drift”.

2 . Send me these photos. This is a classic hockey image, but much like the helmet nuzzle, it’s hard to find when you are actively searching.

Good News

Today, as soon as I got off the plane in Minneapolis, I had a text message from Sam, telling me the Sabres had won while I was in transit. He knew I’d want to know. I think it’s awesome that over the span of just a few months I’ve gone from never watching hockey to having people text me the scores unprompted.


On The Road With TWC

I realized this morning, that lately, TWC has been a hockey blog about… blogging. *shudder* After I got done throwing up with disgust, I decided to recommit myself to my original mission- discussing the finer points of Sabres hockey:

Look! Goose is, like, super smart!

Less smart.

Truthfully, I’m feeling a little removed from the Sabres right now. Because of my work schedule, I wasn’t able to watch any of the games last week. I watched all the DVRed wins, but let’s face it, it’s hard to pay full attention to a game in which you already know the outcome. To make matters worse in this regard (better in other regards), tomorrow I’m traveling home for Christmas, where I will be totally separated from Center Ice and the Sabres for ten full days. I have no idea how this will effect my blogging, and I’m concerned that the Sabres themselves will forget about me when I’m gone. Don’t forget me, boys, okay?

The good news is that I’m going to a Wild/Wings game with Sammy McSammerson on the 22nd. Hooray! I promise to do my best to uphold the reputation of Sabres fans while at the game. :D

Open Letter to Ted Leonsis

Last night, I discovered that Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, and Chief Fancypants of AOL, linked to The Willful Caboose on his personal blog. After jumping up and down with glee for a few minutes, I composed this letter.

Dear Ted Leonsis,

Thanks for the link! I can’t believe I got a link from the owner of the Capitals! This is pretty cool. If I had known you were going to stop by, I would have tidied up a bit in here. (*hissing* Pommerdoodle, get off the couch *swat*) Sorry about the mess, and the riff-raff in the comment section, the emphasis on humor, and our complete and utter lack of credentials. To be frank, The Willful Caboose is a bit of a ramshackle organization, which is why I’m so surprised to see you here.

Can I get you anything? Water? A beer perhaps? I think I’ve got some juice in the fridge….

I guess you noticed all the hubbub with On Frozen Blog. It was all a little bizarre. Anyway, I’m sorry you had to see that, but I’m glad you enjoyed watching the whole big mess unfold. I still haven’t really heard from them. I know they’ve been pretty busy, what with their movie showing and making eggnog, so I guess we have to give them a little leeway this time. I really appreciate how you took the time to read my post and link to me, though! Seriously, it made my day. I honestly think that the interactive nature of blogging is its single greatest attribute. Linking to one another, commenting, responding to criticism with integrity, the sharing of ideas- this stuff is AWESOME. I totally love the internet.

As a thank you for your esteemed link, I would like to offer you this small token of my appreciation:

It’s not much, I know. I just wanted to make sure that since you have been so generous with the press passes, someone had offered you the chance to enjoy hockey from the stands- as a fan. There’s not a lot of prestige built into being a fan, but boy, it can really be a lot of fun. This pass entitles you to cheer, boo, holler, whoop, cry, swear (within reason…..look out for little kids, Ted), and best of all, get totally unreasonable about your team. It’s great!

One last thing: I thought you might be interested to know that I started a Caps blog! My first post is about how I LOVE Ovie, and why I still boo him every time he has the puck. I probably won’t update The Hapless Capless very often, because truthfully, I don’t really like the Caps that much. (Ted, the Capitals kind of suck at playing hockey. No offense.)



…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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I can be reached at: willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com

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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.)