Archive for August, 2010

Preseason, Baby.

One of the reasons I’m so excited so far in advance of the Sabres first game is that the preseason is genuinely one of my favorite parts of the year.  I absolutely adore wandering downtown to catch a practice or a scrimmage.

I love the odd quietness of the arena, and how you can hear the sound of the skates swirling on the ice, and Lindy barking orders.  The stillness (compared to game nights) makes me feel like I’ve entered some sort of bizarre hockey-themed library.  It seems appropriate to speak in hushed tones, unless someone says something funny, then it’s satisfying to hear a solid laugh echo across the arena. The sounds of a hockey practice are mesmerizing.  I love trying to decipher the complicated drills, but my favorite thing is when they skate around the rink in giant circles, like it’s 1981 and they’re at the roller rink.  Preseason practices are incredibly relaxing.

I love how the players seem to project an air of boyish excitement during preseason practices.  I might be making this one up because it’s what I want to see, but it makes sense that young men being paid millions to play a game would experience a small giddy rush each year when they return to work.  It’s fun to see them joking around on the ice, happy and hopeful about the season to come.  It makes them seem more like us.  The preseason is a fun time.  Hopes are high, and nothing bad has happened yet.

I love how it’s all free.  Lord knows I’m willing to dole out the bucks when it comes to the Sabres, but it’s an indulgence that often makes me feel a little guilty.  The “come one, come all” atmosphere of mid-September practices helps them to feel somehow more innocent, and therefore more special.  I like preseason hockey practices because I think they’re something my (cheeeeap) father would have brought us to when we were kids.  He was an expert at finding inexpensive ways to keep us active and interested.  It makes me happy to think that parents who might otherwise might not get to bring their kids to the arena have the opportunity to sit their family right up against the glass.  It’s refreshing, and it’s nice.

I love how I see a lot of friends at preseason practices.  Blogging about the Sabres has put me in contact with a lot of awesome people, and I love how when I wander into the arena on a random Thursday morning, I’m likely to see someone I know.  Hell, the first time I met Heather (Heather B!  One of my BFFs!) was at a preseason practice.  We spent the entire practice pretending to shout orders at  the players through imaginary megaphones.  Last year I went to a scrimmage with my friend Laura and we spent the whole time watching her then one-and-a-half-year-old son toddle charmingly up and down the rows of empty seats.   These are arena memories that I cherish, I think in part because they are so far removed from the mania of a regular season game.

Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that I love preseason hockey.  And you know what?  It starts in eighteen days.  Which is practically tomorrow.

Offseason Begone

If you count 2010, I now have FOUR hockey off-seasons under my belt (I know, I’m like, a wise old hockey sage).   In my experience, the offseason has a predictable rhythm, and there are certain things you can expect.  With the exception of the offseasons that happen to contain a Summer Olympics (oh, wonderful, wonderful Summer Olympics. I love you so..) this is how things go:

June: Depending on how your team fared in the playoffs, you’re still kind of buzzing from the events of the previous season.  If your team missed the playoffs altogether that year, you go through a period of genuine relief that hockey is over.  Mid-June can be a nice period of hockey reflection/HOORAY-IT’S-SUMMER!  At the end of June there’s the draft and the all the accompanying speculation about trades. (No one EVER trades ANYONE at draft time though.  We all know this in our hearts, but we pretend it’s not true because it’s fun to pretend that Darcy will figure out a way to trade Drew Stafford for Jerome Iginla.  Darcy never does.)

July: July, of course, is the opening of free agency.  Free agency is fun for a while.  Even the stodgy old Sabres usually sign someone in early July.  This year we got Jordan Leopold, which on a scale of 1-10 warrants about a 2.5 for “exciting developments”.   In early July you’re still in stuck in the past emotionally, and you’re still either brooding over, or celebrating, the season that just ended.  So, even though Jordan Leopold is to free agency signings as a $5 footlong is to fine cuisine, any new signing feels like someone opened a window in a stuffy attic.  Suddenly a fresh breeze wafts in, and you can detect the faint scent of “future” in the air.  It’s just a hint of the season to come, but it’s there.

August: Early and mid-August is the hockey equivalent of that movie where Tom Hanks is stuck on an island and his only companionship is a volleyball.  You’re so far away from hockey that you begin to forget what it’s like, and talking to a volleyball daylight until 9pm begins to feel perfectly normal.  You bask in the heat, you garden, you go on vacations.  You enjoy the summer.  But despite outward signs of happiness, there is a deep-seated restlessness.  You are missing something.  Sure, evenings spent on the patio drinking mojitos with your volleyball are nice, but your heart longs for more…. Hockey is like a beautiful memory, too painful to recall.  You’re stuck on a beautiful tropical island with absolutely no hockey anywhere.

September: At some point in late August/early September, you wake up to a cool crispness in the air.  This slight change in the weather will jog something deep down in your memory…hock…ey?  Hoc-key?  Hockey.  HOCKEY! HOCKEYHOCKEYHOCKEY!!  Suddenly, at lunch, you’ll look across the table and realize your companion is a volleyball, not a person.  But who cares?!  HOCKEY IS ALMOST BACK!


And this is where we are right now.  Summertime is a great volleyball, but the scent of hockey is in the air, and I, for one, am ready to get off this hockeyless island.  I declare August over.  TRAINING CAMP (the best time of the year!) starts in September!  It’s all downhill from here.

I thank you volleyball summer for your service.  You have been warm and wonderful.  But now, it’s time to look ahead, to hockey.


Small Request

I spent a lot of time trying to write a post today.  I tried a funny one, I tried a serious one, I even tried an angry one.  But all of those posts felt forced and unfocused.   After trying to blog for awhile I realized that, basically, I feel really off-kilter about the Sabres.  Uneasy.  I don’t have a clear sense of what actually happened with Kennedy, nor am I able to use solid, grown-up logic to explain the deep sense of disappointment I feel towards Sabres management.

All I know is that after Darcy’s press conference I felt really, genuinely icky about the Sabres.

Maybe this is just one of those times when the business of sports is difficult to swallow as a fan, or maybe something much more gross and/or pathetic is going on with the Sabres, but honestly, I’m not sure I care.  The bottom line is this: I love the Sabres, but I don’t want to be losing faith in them in August. If I’m going to lose faith, I want it to be during the season, in person, while I’m paying perfectly good money to sit in my seats at the arena.

So, please do me a favor, Darcy.  I’m begging you.  No more press conferences until October.  I’m TRYING to suspend my disbelief over here, and you’re making it really difficult.

Shaone Morrisonn?

Sure, he’s got the stink of Ovechkin  and Mike Green on him, but he’s also got a silent o!

Aond ao dog naomed Haozel!

Welcome to the Saobres, Shaone!


I was getting worried that I was losing interest in the Sabres, but I shouldn’t have worried at all.  It turns out that the offseason is just incredibly boring.  It takes SO little to keep me interested.  All the Sabres had to do was inexplicably wave a respected local boy and then sign a guy with a silent o, and I’m once again, totally intrigued.

Tim Kennedy got waived!….for no apparent reason.

Dear Darcy Regier,

Oh Darcy.  Darcy, Darcy, Darcy.

Look, I don’t know what the actual excuse is (maybe Golisano and Larry Quinn are Mean Girl-ing you into being a total bitch), but waiving Tim Kennedy for no apparent reason has got everyone in town scratching their heads.  Tomorrow is a VERY important day for you.   Most people seem to think that the Sabres are just being cheap (and boy would that be cheap) but I’m going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you’re just being totally weird.

I’m more or less okay with Tim Kennedy not being on the Sabres next year.  It’s not my favorite move ever, but whatevs.  TK is a scrappy third liner.  This isn’t Ryan Miller we’re talking about.  I know that.  But it makes me very very nervous if the $200,000 difference between what you were reportedly willing to pay Tim Kennedy ($800,000) and the $1 million he was eventually awarded through arbitration is the reason you decided to waive him.  (And just for the record, I’m not poo-pooing $200,000.  I could really use $200,000 actually, and if I had $200,000 I would NOT want to give it to Tim Kennedy.  But still, regardless of my personal relationship with the idea of “$200,000,” $200,000 is not very much money when it comes to professional sports [even dopey little sports like NHL hockey]).

What’s done is done.  Maybe there is a good reason for this, or maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bitchy bed this morning, but the one thing I know for SURE is that I’ll be listening to your explanation with extreme interest tomorrow.  To me, this doesn’t feel like a money situation, which means there is something else fairly dishy going on here, and you better BELIEVE I’m more than a little curious.

I hope you are prepared to offer a weird explanation that matches the weirdness-level of this weird decision.

Good luck tomorrow, weirdo.


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