Archive for June, 2008




Four more years!
Four more years!
Four more years!

*confetti tossing*

Back to Biznatch

1. I can’t buh-LIEVE that tomorrow is free agency. Last year at this time we were in full blown hysteria. Like, SUPER cranky, swirly-eyed, rocking back and forth while muttering incoherently, H-Y-S-T-E-R-I-A. Ah, the good old days.

2. Crunchy’s BFF, John Michael Liles re-signed in Colorado. Bummer. I wanted him for the Sabres.

3. Tampa Bay is gobbling up the negotiating rights to everyone and their mother. WWGRD? Sign in Tampa.

4. Max is still a Sabre. What the hell? Don’t we have, like, forty-five million forwards? My only consolation is that ever since my friend Nathan planted the seed of a new superstition, I’ve become convinced that it’s bad luck not to have a Russian on an NHL team. With Gentle Kalinin on his merry droopy way, Max is the only Russian we’ve got left.

5. I’m not sure where this information originated, but I keep reading online that Goose and Crunchy are vacationing together in Europe. I hope they are backpacking and keeping detailed journals full of poetry and love letters to the college girls they met on the train. It’s life experiences like this that turn boys into men. I hope they both “find themselves” in Europe, and after they do, I hope they come back to Buffalo and sign new contracts with the Sabres. I bet if Drury and Briere had gone backpacking through Europe together last June, they would’ve come home with matching “5 for 25” tattoos and they’d still be Sabres now.

6. Brian Campbell is still Brian Campbell. I’m so glad we traded him so we don’t have to care about his current emotional drama regarding his upcoming free agency. I’m actually a fairly sensitive gal myself. I’m willing to bet I would get all tied-up in emotional knots about free agency too if I were in Soupy’s place, but duuuude, I really really really do NOT think I would have the cojones to whine about my “predicament” in public. I can’t wait to see where he ends up tomorrow, though. After all of this build-up about money and wanting to be close to his family, I’ll be pretty disappointed if the contract is at all reasonable. I kind of secretly want Soupy to sign a 3-year $83 million dollar contract in the Russian Super Duper League, or something. Then, I want to giggle when he cries in public about how hard it was for him to make the decision to move to Minsk.

7. Last year, on July 1st, I sat on the couch literally all day listening to WGR and hitting refresh over and over on my computer while hanging out at IPB. I had one of those evenings where I suddenly realized I was sitting in a pitch dark room because the sun had set on the day without me noticing. I do not anticipate that level of participation in free agency ’08.

Home Again

I’m home from band camp.

While I was away in the wilderness whining about the overabundance of nature (but secretly having a grand old time), my computer died. It died to the point that a certified Apple dealership declared the motherboard (whatever that is) dead and gone. It was a sad, sad time.

So today, after a day spent listened to a looooong concert and then driving the six hours home, I just rolled back into town. (I’m tired and covered in bug bites, if you must know.) For some reason, despite all logic and reason, I decide that I should just check to make sure my computer didn’t magically come back to life during the trip home.

Guess what? It did! My computer came back to life! Upon arrival in Buffalo, my previously unresponsive computer was all, “Oh. Hello there, Kate.” I guess it was just mostly dead.

Coming back to Buffalo after a trip away feels like coming home. That may seem obvious to a lot of you, but frankly, it took me a long time to feel this way about Buffalo. Over the last year and a half I’ve enjoyed reveling in that happy feeling of “Yay! I’m hoooooome” after being away.

I guess my computer feels the same way. Me and my retarded computer….we’re Buffalonians. Out in the wild we get testy.


(Hey, doesn’t NHL free agency start, like, thirty seconds from now? What’s going on with that, anyway? Is Marion Hossa a Sabre yet? Heh. I’ll try to write about hockey again soon. Sorry about all this band camp and computer talk.)


Periodically, as a new sports fan, little bits of the hockey lexicon sound funny to my ear, and I’ve recently taken a shine to the phrase, “The draft pick that later became ‘player x'”.  I read this recently in reference to the trade that indirectly brought Ryan Miller to the Sabres.  “We traded x for y and the draft pick that later became Ryan Miller”.  I like how it implies that the draft pick is a more tangible concept than the pre-drafted player; as if Crunchy sprouted out of a seed that Darcy planted when he chose him at the draft.

When I think about it this way, the draftees take on a “Jack and the Beanstalk” quality.  Darcy is Jack, and the draft picks are potentially magical beans.


What in the HELL is going on in here?! Sam is talking about hockey free agency? In snarky tones? For real?

That does it. I’m taking back the reins.

We’ve got two big problems as I see them, and neither one has to do with a lack of “Bruno”.

1. Goose has still not signed his 15 year contract.
2. I’m stuck in the woods and my computer is dead.

Goose HONK


The Free Agent You Don’t Know You Need

posted by CrotchetyOriginalSam, for reasons which are unlikely to be rehashed anytime soon…

Let’s just get one thing straight, people. There will be no honking as long as I’m running this little show. None. Paul Gaustad may be your little designated pet project around here, and for all I know, he may well spend his off days wearing black and white feather boas and waddling around the house pooping out perfectly cylindrical turds, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to help in saddling a guy with an undeserved reputation for verbalizing in nonsense syllables like a hoarse Gilbert Gottfried.

On to business, and before we even get to anything about Buffalo, you should know that your temporary scribe is in a generally hideous mood today. This is partly because it’s raining in New Hampshire for the ninth day out of the last ten, partly because that little baldheaded twerp Pierre McGuire seems to think that Mats Sundin might end up playing for the Rangers (and, y’know, Pierre’s never wrong about these things, except, like, always), but mostly because the best hockey writer south of the 49th parallel says that Brian Rolston is gearing up to walk away from Minnesota on July 1, after the Wild appeared to throw everything they had into resigning him.

Now, I realize that none of you give a damn about whether the Wild manage to hang onto their most consistent and consistently entertaining scorer, and I further realize that the majority of you are realistic enough to know that, if Minnesota doesn’t have the cash to resign Rolston, there’s no way that the Sabres can possibly cough up enough to satisfy him. But here’s why I bring it up: in the course of ruminating on what Wild GM Doug Risebrough will do to fill out his roster once he’s officially lost Rolston, Pavol Demitra, Aaron Voros, Todd Fedoruk, Petteri Nummelin, and probably a few other ungrateful wretches I’m forgetting about, Russo mentions that Andrew Brunette is a free agent, likely to leave Colorado, and a guy Minnesota would be capable of making a serious run at without the need to drastically overpay in a weak free agent market.

All of which begs the question: why haven’t we been hearing more about Bruno in all the rumor-mongering columns the hockey media’s been generating lately? Am I reading the wrong sites? Is the East Coast sports bias so all-encompassing that the Toronto/New York axis has simply ceased to acknowledge the existence of players in US Mountain Time? Did Andrew Brunette once sleep with Ron McLean’s teenage daughter on a road trip, thus earning him a lifetime ban from all serious speculation on the Canadian nets? (This last one is unlikely, I admit, since a) I have no idea whether Ron has a daughter, and b) I’m pretty sure I saw Bruno on After Hours with Scott and Kelly last year.)

The likely explanation is that Bruno isn’t really considered a marquee player, even in a relatively quiet year for free agency, so he’s falling through the cracks. But seriously: why wouldn’t you want this guy on your team, exactly? He eats minutes for breakfast, he hasn’t missed a single regular season game since 2001 (and I’m pretty sure the one he missed that year was when Jacques Lemaire benched him for no good reason,) he lives to go to the net, he’s a crisp passer, he’s got boatloads of playoff experience, and unless something’s changed drastically since he left Minny, he’s a helluva guy to have around the locker room.

What I’m saying here, Buffalo, is that there’s absolutely no reason that y’all shouldn’t be cramming Darcy’s inbox with passionate missives begging – nay, demanding – that he get off his overly cautious butt come July 1 and tender Mr. Brunette a (reasonably) fat contract offer. After all, your boys lack direction, right? Leadership’s been a bit hard to come by this year? The team could use a steady veteran or two to right the ship and chip in 20-25 goals while he’s at it?

Tell me this isn’t your guy.

Hijacking The Caboose

Okay, people, here’s how it’s gonna be. I know you’re used to a certain level of gentle coddling and digressive fooferal around here, but things have changed, and quite frankly, CrotchetyOriginalSam doesn’t much truck with those concepts.

We do truck in full and complete explanations of current events, however, so one supposes that you’re all owed a summation of the happenings that led to this hostile takeover of TWC. Here’s what happened: a couple of nights ago, HRM Katebits retired to her regally appointed BatShack here in the rain-soaked hills of southern New Hampshire, there to view a few late-night episodes of Monk and generally decompress from another busy day spent considering the needs of her loyal Caboosian subjects. By all accounts, the decompression went well, and at a reasonable time of her choosing, HRM shut down her MacBook, tucked the various bats and centipedes that share her abode into their little miniature beds made of matchbooks and tissue paper, and lapsed into the fitful dozing that passes for sleep when your bed is a piece of plastic-covered foam slapped on top of a sheet of plywood.

Tuesday morning dawned foggy and grim, an ominous sign of the horrifying events to come. Katebits arose at her customary hour of noon(ish), and blearily made her way up the Path Of Mysterious Burrowing Creatures That Sam Will Not Investigate to the Apple Hill farmhouse, hauling her now energy-depleted MacBook with her. She plugged it into the one working electrical socket within a five-mile radius, and hit the power button, ready to spend a leisurely afternoon composing yet another brilliant missive for all you little Buffaslug fans and hangers-on.

Strangely, the MacBook failed to respond. Katebits hit the button again, and tried the enter key and a few random function buttons as well, for good measure. But the computer remained as unresponsive as RJ Umberger after a friendly blue-line encounter with Brian Campbell. HRM does not suffer insolence patiently, and she stabbed furiously at the power button, wailing and crying furiously into the New England fog as the damnable machine silently mocked her devotion to her TWC subjects.

Anyway, long story longer, the power problem proved to be quite dire, such that even a daylong trip by wagon train to the next queendom over (which, unlike the BatQueendom, has its own Mac store) yielded no solution. As a result, the offending MacBook has been imprisoned in HRM’s private dungeon somewhere on Pitcher Mountain, there to think long and hard about what it has done, and Katebits finds herself effectively cut off from you, her adoring throng.

Which is where I come in. My HP Pavilion’s working just fine, and while I may not possess a great deal of knowledge of (or interest in) the city of Buffalo and its environs, I do know hockey, I appreciate a good beef on weck, and I have been known to consume large quantities of chicken wings and cheap beer on occasion, which I have been told is more or less your town’s official pasttime. So we’re stuck with each other for the rest of the week, it seems. Those of you who know me from the comments know where I’m coming from, I think, and while I can’t promise that I won’t display a certain amount of Western Conference/Minnesota bias in the entries to come, I’ll make an effort to tamp down (slightly) my usual contempt for Devils fans, the Dallas Stars as a concept, and the defensively inept style of speed skating and puck flipping that you East Coast types call “hockey.” In exchange, I do not care to hear any derogatory comments about Jacques Lemaire, Steve Downey, or any Western teams that you may perceive as slow and/or boring for the duration of my stay. I think we understand each other?

I’ll have more actual hockey-related content for you over the next few days. For now, however, TWC wishes to officially welcome Barry Melrose back to the National Hockey League, and to ask whatever took him so damn long to jump back behind a bench. In tribute to the old greaser, please spend a few hours today rating some mullets, thinking fondly all the while of the joy you used to take while watching Barry’s coif bob and weave across your screen on NHL 2Night

TWC Interviews Mike Schopp, Part 2

Welcome to part 2, of the Mike Schopp interview! You can read part 1, here.

Katebits: How much responsibility do you feel for setting the tone of the sports dialog in Buffalo? Take the Sabres free agency fiasco from last summer for example. Obviously, there was a lot of anger and frustration in the community. How much obligation do you feel to allow that frustration to be voiced? How much responsibility do you feel for helping to facilitate a levelheaded conversation?

Mike Schopp: I suppose I have this responsibility to some extent, but I don’t think about it in that context. Rather, I take pride in helping to set the tone. I think the tone of the calls should match that of the fans in general. But when considering that only a certain small percentage of fans ever feel so strongly about an issue to call in, it can be difficult to accomplish that.

Last summer’s Sabres news is a great example of how this can be challenging. Anytime a rich owner and seemingly distant executives let good, popular players leave, thousands of fans come out of the woodwork to call these men cheap, incompetent, arrogant, etc. But many, many other fans, while not necessarily approving of the moves or the methods behind them, understand the process and accept that these moves were not made in an attempt to sabotage the organization. These people won’t call in to make that point often as they lack the impetus of outrage to do so.

I think that the serious effort we make to represent this more level-headed fan is a huge factor in our success. Our show does not sound like idiotic runaway madness like many, if not most, sports-radio shows do.

Katebits: Do you listen to This American Life? Howard Stern?

Mike Schopp: No, and not anymore. Was a big Stern fan about 10-12 years ago. Learned a lot from that show. My favorite radio show ever to listen to was The Phil Hendrie Show. He’d dream up ridiculous scenarios and proceed to conduct an interview with himself — Hendrie, the host, and some imaginary expert that he would play. Then he would take calls from irate listeners. I’m not sure this makes sense, let me give you an example:

He made up some story about a priest who claimed that God told him to spend church collection money on a hot tub. So he “interviewed” the priest, who was really just him in a different voice. And people would call in just furious that anyone would do that. Genius, and executed beautifully.

Katebits: I seem to recall you metioning having a journalism degree in the discussion after Tim Russert’s death. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that. When you started out as a fresh faced 18-year-old what did you envision doing with your degree? Was sports talk radio always the plan?

Mike Schopp: I graduated from St. John Fisher College in 1993 with a Communications/Journalism degree. Had this job that I have now been prevalent in 1993, I think I would have wanted it exactly. But it wasn’t; there were sports radio shows but not more than one or two stations in the country. And the shows were usually very dry and informational. Back then I wanted to do play-by-play. But this is better for me. Talk offers much more variety and intimacy. I think it’s more challenging than PBP. Announcers put touches on the artwork that is the game they’re calling, while talk-show hosts get blank canvases to work with. Don’t tell anyone, but I think play-by-play is easy.

Katebits: Hold on. Did you just call Rick Jeanneret “easy”? YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, PEOPLE!

Katebits: Are you superstitious? The Sabres are, like, 1-883 with me in the building. This makes me feel sad. Do you think I’m bad luck?

Mike Schopp: 884 games and no overtime losses? Come on, Kate. I bet your record is more like 1-572-235-176-2-40-1. It’s the NHL, after all.

When I was a kid I used to think that if I concentrated really hard on the TV or radio announcer calling a goal for the other team that it wouldn’t happen. Inevitably, I would lose focus and that’s when the Sabres would allow goals. The worst example of this was, with the score tied 5-5 late in the decisive Game 5 of the Sabres’ first-round series with Quebec in 1985, I looked away from the TV and Brent Ashton scored to break the tie and win the series for Quebec. I still blame myself for that one.

No, I’m not superstitious.

Katebits: For me personally, I have a limit to how much sports angst I can deal with before I lose interest. At a certain point I just think, “Eh, I guess Marshawn Lynch is just a big dumb jerk. Whatevs.” I’m curious if this happens to you, and how you deal with your job when it does.

Mike Schopp: My first producer in Buffalo, Steve Cichon, once told me after three hours spent wallowing in Doug Flutie-vs.-Rob Johnson blabbering, that just because I’m sick of talking about the subject doesn’t mean some guy just leaving work is. Steve was right. It’s important to remind yourself that most people don’t listen for the whole four hours a day.

We like variety on our show, but we have to be mindful of the fact that if people tune in for a short while when there’s a big sports story and don’t hear it discussed, they might become annoyed.

But, do I ever hit the wall with topics? All the time.

Katebits: Do you read sports blogs? Which ones? Do you read BfloBlog?

Mike Schopp: Yours is the first one I’ve visited more than twice. I’m sure I’m missing a lot out there, I’m just a creature of habit. I couldn’t even name another blog. Seriously.

Katebits: Well, I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty pleased that TWC is your introduction to the world of hockey blogs. That is…..hilarious. But, Mike, you really HAVE to read BfloBlog. I’m going to hold my breath in protest until you do. I could DIE, Schopp. I could die.

Katebits: This might sound weird, but bear with me for a second. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing a character on The Willful Caboose. “Katebits” is a much more outspoken, obnoxious, and outrageous version of me. Do you ever feel like that on the radio? Do you ever ramp up the drama for the sake of entertainment, or is it the opposite, where the goal is to be as genuine as possible?

Mike Schopp: I feel the same way you do. I wouldn’t say I “ramp up the drama” though. Basically, some of the sports topics we discuss mean a lot to me, and some mean less. I don’t much care for or about the Buffalo Bills. I used to, but their management style and the attitude of players and staff have over the last few years annoyed or offended me in just about every way. So pretty much anytime you hear me talking about the Bills I’m having a conversation that I wouldn’t be having with friends.

Katebits: What’s up with the Panther? Just so you know, I LOVE the Panther. I’m not complaining about him at all, I just want to know where he came from. I also want to commend you for being so consistently polite to the Panther. “Thank you, Panther” is pretty much always funny to me.

Mike Schopp: I was watching some game — Florida Panthers, Carolina Panthers, I don’t know — and I thought, we should do what they do and just drop in a panther noise every once in a while. Quality entertainment.

Katebits: Agreed. The Panther is quality. Perhaps I should start lobbying for some random panthery growls during BPO concerts.


Well, dear readers, thanks for tuning in to the Mike Schopp interview. This is pretty far outside the normal TWC fare, so let me know if you think it worked.

I owe a special thanks, of course, to Mike Schopp for playing along. Thanks, Schopp!

TWC Interviews Mike Schopp

You guys are not going to believe this, but a few days ago Mike Schopp of WGR fame agreed to be interviewed for The Willful Caboose. I know. He must have taken a recent blow to the head or something. He’s definitely not thinking clearly. I suppose he figures he really has nothing to lose by tangling with the like of me, but you’d be surprised. My ridiculousness has a way of tainting everything it touches.

I’ll start out by telling you that Mike Schopp is an Official Friend of The Willful Caboose. A few weeks ago he was making a really interesting point on his show and it inspired me to write him an email. He and I have developed an email friendship, and although I probably wouldn’t recognize him on the street, I now consider him a BFF. (I tried to give him half a BFF locket, but Schopp claimed loyalty to Bulldog and declined. Harsh.) I’d also like to thank him for dealing so respectfully with me, a lowly blogger. (He even mentioned TWC on the air once. We’re famous, guys!) Considering his lack of experience reading blogs, he’s been very open-minded about the whole thing.

Just a word of warning: I’m, um, not a journalist….to say the least. I’ve never interviewed anyone before, and once you read this you’ll surely agree that Schopp was very generous to put up with my shenanigans. This interview was conducted over email, so please forgive the lack of conversational flow.

Without further ado, I present Part One of the Mike Schopp Interview:

Katebits: First of all, and most importantly, who is your favorite Sabre? And none of this “I don’t have a favorite”, bullhonky. Who is your man crush? If it makes it any easier, I’ll tell you that my girl crushes are on Kate from Lost, and on all the cylons from Battlestar Galactica. If you have to resort to Sabres from the past, I suppose I’ll allow it, but only because you have to deal with the Sabres in person from time to time. At this point, after all I’ve written on TWC, I think I’d rather die than have to deal with the real life Paul Gaustad, so I can respect it if you’re too bashful to admit he’s your man crush. Just blink twice if it’s Goose. I won’t tell.

Mike Schopp: One of the first things I learned from Mike Robitaille when beginning to work in Buffalo radio was, “You’ll never need a hockey player for a friend.” While I have known a few players through the years, I generally like to keep a safe distance from them. I do consider Martin Biron, Jay McKee and Rick Martin friends, and I feel safer communicating with them now that they no longer play for the team.

I admire certain traits about a few players. I admire Ryan Miller’s analytical mind, and I like when he challenges inquisitors in the locker room like he does shooters on the ice. Brian Campbell and Adam Mair have a great way with people. Gaustad is just a super guy, and I admire how well-rounded his interests in life are. And to finally get to the essence of your original question (I think), on last year’s team there is no question in my mind that Nolan Pratt was the cutest.

Katebits: Oooooh. Good call. Nolan Pratt is extremely adorable. You get a gold star for not only having exemplary tastes, but for being such a good sport about this question.

Please forgive me if this question is insulting. I really, really do not intend for it to be. Do you consider yourself to be a journalist? Radio seems like a no-man’s land between print journalism and a couple of fans shooting the breeze over some beers in a bar. Do you consider radio closer in nature to newspapers, or to fandom?

Mike Schopp: I think of radio not as a “no-man’s land” but as more of a convenience store. We’ll give you the news, we’ll offer personal opinion, we’ll make you laugh and scream. We generally won’t offer the depth of reporting on particular subjects that the newspaper does. (Theoretically, anyway. The Buffalo News’ sports media analysis, for example, is consistently as shallow as a kiddie pool.) But we offer way more volume. As evidenced by sports radio’s massive popularity here and all over the country, this works for people.

Talk-show hosts simply cannot be journalists. The job requires, at least if done well, too much personality. For people to tune in to our show regularly, they have to want to know how Bulldog and I feel about certain stories. I learned this several years ago from Bob Koshinski, a former boss. I asked him his interest in a certain other local radio personality. His response was, “I don’t think people really need to know what he thinks.” People come to your blog to find out what you, Kate, are thinking. It’s personal. This is the key to your success on the blog, and mine on the air.

Katebits: If you had to choose for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Mountains or beaches? Cats or dogs? Television or Internet? Would you choose to have the super power of invisibility, or flight? Please answer carefully. There ARE wrong answers here.

Mike Schopp: Beaches, no doubt. MUST be near water. I’ll never live far from water. I like cats, so cats. Internet will make television obsolete in four years, so Internet. Being invisible would be too cool. And there’s no simulation for it. I can fly- in planes. I don’t even love it.

Katebits: I’m sorry, but “beaches” and “invisibility” are incorrect. Good call with the cats and the internet, though.

Katebits: What’s the best thing about working in radio? What’s the worst?

Mike Schopp: I’ll take the second part first. The worst part — all tied for first place — the thrill of broadcasting on big news days; the access to Sabres management and players; the occasional compliment from a loyal listener who appreciates the show’s variety and sense of humor; the guys I work with, particularly Bulldog and Greg Bauch; the satisfaction of finishing first in the ratings; and being able to do this instead of really working. The best part, obviously, is all the attention I get from women.

Katebits: It’s true. Women love sports talk radio hosts. I can relate because as a viola player, I am highly coveted myself. It’s a perk of the viola biz, for sure.

Speaking of quality dudes, I think everyone should start calling Ryan Miller, “Crunchy”, and Jason Pominville, “Pommerdoodle”. When can I expect you and Bulldog to adopt these nicknames on your radio show?

Mike Schopp: Not before the year 3 million. To say that I’m not a nickname guy is to say that Nathan Paetsch is not a goal-scoring machine. WGR callers used to use nicknames all the time; on our show it never happens. I even bristle when I hear a baseball announcer say “A-Rod”. I think this makes me a little crusty.

There are many reasons for this, but basically it’s a matter of, do I know this person well enough to call them by a nickname? If I don’t, I won’t. And with callers, to me a nickname is a warning sign that the caller is either going to attempt to be extreme, in an effort to distance his real self from the opinion he’s about to offer, or funny, which he hardly ever will turn out to be. Either result can knock the show off the tracks.

Of course, my partner is nicknamed “Bulldog”. We both wish I could call him Chris, and off the air I always do.

Katebits: First of all, henceforth I shall call you “Crusty Sir Names-A-Lot”. Second of all, this is an interesting answer. For the purposes of my blog, I like nicknames for the very reason you dislike them. Calling Ryan Miller “Ryan” seems uncomfortably familiar, and using his actual name seems like a violation of the natural boundary between fan and athlete. “Ryan Miller” is an actual human being, “Crunchy” is some imaginary version of Ryan Miller that I write about online. I never ever deal with Ryan Miller in real life, though. Using a nickname in person is a whole different ball of wax and I can certainly understand your vantage point, even if it is a little crusty.


….to be continued! Tune in tomorrow when I threaten to kill myself if Mike doesn’t start reading BfloBlog, and Mike explains why it’s his fault the Sabres didn’t win the Cup in 1985.

Hey, We Drafted a Giant!

Well, hot damn! About the only thing that could have sparked any genuine interest in the draft from me was if the Sabres drafted someone either freakishly tall or freakishly good at the viola. Guess what? We drafted a giant! Hooray!

My Giant

I’m going to teach him to play the viola.

…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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