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!