Thursday, July 31, 2008

Learning to Love Us: The Craig Rivet Story

First of all, I must offer an apology for my false advertising. Responsible journalist that I am, I got my days mixed up and thought I was going to training camp today when I am actually going tomorrow. Rest assured, tomorrow night there will be a full recap of all the festivities (meaning the stuff I actually paid attention to - like the autographs and how good Poz and Trent look).

Instead of football, tonight my focus is once again on my beloved boys in Blue and Gold, specifically, the newest member of the team, Mr. Craig Rivet (I say "Mr." because, I'll be honest, I've watched some of his fights, and he scares me a little bit).

I'll admit, I was nervous with the lack of quotes from Mr. Rivet after he was traded here. Eternal pessimist that I am, I figured he was not extremely happy about his new circumstances.

My fears were only slightly eased with Bucky Gleason's latest column, featuring the first information from our newest mucker and grinder on his opinion of the trade. I'm torn between feeling inadequate because, once again, someone from a "big city" thinks that Buffalo is just one big zit on the face of New York and feeling happy that he is open and ready for that opinion to change.

To help with his Buffalo education, I present to Mr. Craig Rivet Katie's Reasons Why Buffalo Should Appeal to a Feisty Hockey Player/Doting Dad Like Himself:

1.) Cheap Houses. Mr. Rivet has already experienced that wonderful phenomenon called "If Buffalo was a girl, she'd be a really cheap date." He said he's looking for a 5,000 square-foot house for $2 million. Little did he know that he could get a house twice that size for half the price. If he wanted to spend a little more, he could probably buy the whole town of West Seneca.

2.) It's Good for the Kiddies. I think Mr. Rivet has three kids (if I'm wrong, I apologize), and I know that there is no better place for them to grow up than right here. We have great schools, but there are other reasons why so many players like raising their youngins here (Hank, Toni, Teppo, Spacho, Marty, Lindy...). People in Buffalo just seem nicer than people from other places; it's not hard to teach good manners when you're living in a place that's called "The City of Good Neighbors."

3.) Food, Food, Food. If the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then Buffalo will win his heart in no time. From wings at the Anchor Bar (or Duff's) to Mighty Taco to ice cream at Anderson's, there are never-ending culinary options, from the upscale (The Buffalo Chophouse) to the greasy-but-great (Louie's) to the hockey player staple (Chef's).

4.) The Boys Can Keep Him Young. Bucky wrote that Mr. Rivet is already excited about the young promise of our team. Little does he know just how great a place this will be to hone his leadership skills. He can make sure that Timmy doesn't hurt himself picking up girls at SoHo. He can finally teach Pie to tie his skates. He can make sure that Goose and Pommer don't stay up the whole night watching "buddy movies" and sharing deep secrets. Seriously, though, we have a fun and exciting team here who all really love this city, and I think he'll find that infectious.

5.) We're Pretty Much Canadians, Just Like Him. Buffalo is pretty much a Canadian town, which is exactly where Mr. Rivet grew up. We drink Labatt and Molson's. Our kids grow up playing hockey. There's snow for Christmas. Finally, there's Tim Horton's, and if that isn't a selling point, then I don't know what is.

6.) Buffalo and Mr. Rivet are Kindred Spirits. Hockey is our passion, and much of that passion is derived from everything Craig Rivet seems to be. We love players who work hard, own up to the media, stick up for each other, and lead in the community. This seems to be our newest player in every aspect. His game is about flying under the radar and working hard to be the best player he can be, which also happens to be how Buffalo gets by.

Mr. Rivet, if those reasons aren't good enough for you, just watch some videos of our Parties in the Plaza, and you'll see just how great a hockey town you are now a part of.

Tomorrow morning, I'll add to my "100 Things" list. I figured this was "list-y" enough for tonight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jumping on the Bandwagon

While I've been off celebrating my dad's birthday, I've apparently been zapped of all good blogging ideas. Therefore, I shall do what all good bloggers do, steal ideas from people way cooler and more creative than I am (giving credit where credit is due, of course).

Thanks to the fantastic ladies over at Sabretooth's House for alerting me to this swoon-inducing video of Paul Gaustad and Danny Paille playing street hockey with the kids from Camp Good Days. For the ladies reading: I am not responsible for the spontaneous fainting and heart palpitations caused by the viewing of this video.

I can't decide what I like best about this video: how adorably focused Danny gets when he's playing, how excited Goose is that he knows some of the kids by name after working with them for the last year, or how happy everyone involved seems. It's nice to see that Goose and Danny seem as genuinely excited to be playing as the kids do. This combines two of the things I love most about hockey - athletes who genuinely like to help kids and Paul Gaustad.

The next phase of today's post comes from two of my favorite bloggers - M.J. over at My Safety is Harvard and Heather B. at Top Shelf. Both of them have been writing a "100 Things" series of random facts about themselves. I think if two of my favorites are doing it and doing it so entertainingly, maybe I should give it a try. So, if you're desperate for more information about the crazy girl who writes this blog, read on:

My Own 100 Things - Part 1:
1.) I'm one of the few people I know that would choose to live in Buffalo when presented with any other option. Buffalo has been my home for my entire life, and I cannot imagine myself living any place else. When I graduate, I would love to do something to help bring young professionals to Western New York.

2.) I've gone to Catholic Schools my whole life, from elementary school to high school and now in college (Canisius College). However, I have never gone to an all-girls' school, and I never would have survived if I had.

3.) My mother is who I got my love of hockey from. She's been a Sabres fan since 1970, and even traveled to Montreal for a playoff game in high school. Her favorite Sabre of all time? Jim Schoenfeld.

4.) I'm at my happiest when I'm dancing. The list of styles I've dabbled in includes tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip hop, musical theater, pointe, and modern.

5.) I work at a library, stocking the shelves, and I think it's the greatest part-time job on Earth, even if I do get mocked for my "nerdy job."

6.) I'm going to be 20 in about two weeks, but I look about 16. People tell me I'll be thankful for that someday, but right now it's no fun.

7.) I have a sister five years younger than I am, but she is, without question, my best friend.

8.) I'm a classic over-achiever, which is reflected in my dual major (English and Communication Studies) and Honors Program work.

9.) If I could live in any store for the rest of my life it would be Borders.

10.) I've gone to Disney World about 15 times in my life. My favorite park is EPCOT, and my favorite ride is Test Track.

11.) I've only been on a plane once in my life (when I was 3 years old). I think I've seen more of the East Coast by car than anyone I know.

12.) I wanted to be movie critic for about 2 years, until I realized that I'm not critical enough. I still love movies and film history, though.

13.) Now, I want to be a sports journalist, which I'm perfecting by writing for the Canisius paper.

14.) I would try to make my way as a professional tap dancer if I thought I was good enough; Gene Kelly is my hero.

15.) Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it is still one of my favorite films.

16.) This summer alone, I've read seven books.

17.) If I could eat dinner with any three people, they would be Princess Diana, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Audrey Hepburn.

18.) My grandfather got a letter to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals as a shortstop. He chose the Army instead.

19.) I read for symbolism even when I'm reading for fun.

20.) I cried when Alias (that spy show with Jennifer Garner) ended.

21.) The best concert I ever went to was Justin Timberlake at HSBC in February 2007.

22.) Ever since I was 15, I can't wake up in the morning without reading the paper at breakfast (usually the sports section).

23.) If I could write papers for a living, I would.

24.) Where most girls spend all their money on shoes or purses, my weakness is good makeup; too much of my paycheck goes to Sephora.

25.) The proudest moment of my life was watching the girls I taught this year perform their ballet dance at our recital. One of the girls had Down Syndrome, and seeing her out there smiling was one of the highlights of my life.

Sorry if I bored anyone. Tomorrow watch for Katie Goes to Training Camp - A Photo Essay.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Football is Cool, Too

Hockey may be my true love, but football was my first love. I was born at the beginning of the "Glory Years" for the Bills to two season ticket holders, and I was watching games with my dad before I can really remember. I always say that I'm a Sabres fan by choice but a Bills fan by genetics.

I'm pretty excited for football season to start. I like going to training camp, which I'm doing sometime next week. I especially love watching all the players come in on the first day like college freshmen with their pillows and laundry baskets.

I have a lot of players that I really can't wait to see develop on this young Bills team - Donte Whitner, Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish, and, of course, Trent Edwards. My favorite current Buffalo Bill, however, is Paul Posluszny.

I pick favorite football players like I do hockey players. They have to have that blue-collar mentality and hard-working edge that suits Buffalo perfectly. They have to show a burning desire to get better every game and an intense hatred for losing. Most importantly, though, they have to be good people when it's all said and done.

I feel like "Poz" exemplifies all those things (not to mention the fact that he is incredibly handsome). Then, in today's Buffalo News, I came across this article that further proves why Poz should be every thinking-girl's favorite Bill:
"Posluszny owns a computer but he doesn’t have a laptop, so he doesn’t have
that for a diversion at camp, either. He’s resorting to old-fashioned media to
get away from football; he’s reading a book.
'I’m in the middle of a pretty good book right now, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel.’ It’s about why certain cultures, particularly the Europeans, developed the way they did,' he said.
The book, by Jared Diamond, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998. "

Poz carries his library in his laundry basket (Photo by James P. McCoy of TBN)

As an English major and part-time librarian, this made my day!

In Sabres news: beloved Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth has been hired as an assistant coach for the Atlanta Thrashers. He'll be missed, but he has to take pride in knowing that he was the one who really crafted the minds and skills of many of the most important players on our team, especially that 2004-2005 Rochester "core." He should also be happy in that he will now be coaching my favorite non-Sabre NHL-er Colby Armstrong.

Finally, a very happy belated birthday to baby-Sabre and everyone's favorite Facebook friend, Nate Gerbe!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

He Likes Us, He Really Likes Us

Because I love lists, I bring you five interesting things I learned at Ryan Miller's press conference yesterday (which can be found on

1. Ryan looked good. I don't mean that in a puck-bunny "ohmyGodRyanMillerissohawt" kind of way (no offense, Ryan, I can't get past the eyebrows). I mean, he looked the way I've always wanted to see him look - happy. Summer looks good on him; he looks rested and he may even have added some weight to that supermodel-skinny body he was dragging on the ice for the last few weeks of the season. He looked genuinely happy throughout the whole press conference, which I take to mean he is genuinely happy to be playing here for the next six years.

This adorable photo courtesy of the Derek Gee of The Buffalo News

2. I've found the greatest words in the English language, and they are as follows:

"I'd trade all the money in the world to bring a championship here, and to accomplish something with my group of friends, my teammates."

Hearing Ryan say this literally brought tears to my eyes (I know, I'm a crybaby). It just feels like we've waited for so long for someone to say that winning a championship for us is priceless. As Sabres fans, we've been burned by "fan favorites" who've left us in search of the big paycheck, a quick chance at success, or a bigger name team. For once, we have a star player who understands that the pride of being the first to bring us the win we've always dreamed of will be better than any amount of money.

3. There's a definite method to Darcy's madness. Darcy has always talked about the importance of keeping the "core" of our team together. I believe that, in order for that to have happened, we could never have kept Drury, Briere, and Campbell. Now, looking at it with all that was said yesterday, I'm not sure they were the best for the team in the long run, anyway. Ryan said over and over again that he loves the Sabres because he gets to go to work with his best friends. Those guys from the 2004-2005 Amerks are like family, and what they have is rare in pro sports. They've grown up together, and they've dreamed of winning the Cup together. I can only hope that they get to accomplish that all together because I feel like that would be such a unique and emotional moment for them and for all of us who got to watch them grow together. I think Darcy said it best:

"I do believe that when Ryan signs, Paul [Gaustad] signs and you’ve got [Thomas] Vanek and [Derek] Roy and others, that group is together...The dressing room is a big deal. It’s a big deal to walk into the room and say, ‘I like that guy, I like that guy, I like that guy.’ It’s a bigger deal to say you trust them and a bigger deal again to say you’ll go to work for them.”

4. I fully expect Jason Pominville to be signed before training camp. Now that Pommer is Darcy's number one priority, I can't imagine negotiations will take too long before one more piece of that brotherly "core" is locked up long-term. Jason seems very similar to both Ryan Miller and Paul Gaustad in his loyalty to the team that drafted him, the team he grew up on. He's part of that Rochester group that seems so inseparable, Goose's roommate for the last seven years. I can't wait for the next press conference, announcing that Jason is signed and has been named our fearless leader and Captain. What a difference a year makes, I've gone from fully expecting captains to leave to fully expecting this one to be signed long before he hits free agnecy.

5. Teppo's coming back! I know, I know, Darcy said nothing was final yet, but it's definitely moving that way. I couldn't be happier. I've been chirping about his importance to the team since July 1, and I stand behind everything I said. We need a calming force both on the ice and off of it for these young players still growing into new roles. He can teach our baby d-men so much, and he genuinely likes it in Buffalo. Wait, a veteran player liking it here? I though Bucky Gleason said we were a terrible organization to play for, and no one would ever come here by choice? Maybe not...

As a reward for getting through this novel of a post, I present to you a daily dose of cuteness, courtesy of Goose and Danny Paille at a street hockey game with kids from Camp Good Days:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Day Later, Still Happy

I don't know if I've ever confessed this before, but Ryan Miller makes me emotional.

I think he even stirs my heart more than Paul Gaustad.

Now before you go checking to make sure this is the right blog, let me be more specific. Goose is my favorite Sabre, bar none. Nothing makes me smile more than the mere mention of Paul Gaustad or his pretty face and hard-hitting play. However, he really only evokes one feeling in me - pure, unadulterated love.

Ryan Miller, on the other hand, has taken me on the complete roller coaster of hockey emotions. I get mad when he lets in a soft goal from the point. I get sad when I hear him talk about losing his cousin. I'm proud when I see all of the amazing charity work he does for kids in Buffalo. I'm amused when he gets snippy with the press.

However, if you ask anyone I know what emotion best describes how I feel about Ryan Miller, they will all say fierce protectiveness. I'm more protective about Ryan than I am about some members of my own family. When he got that shut-out against Atlanta after his cousin passed away, I'll admit that I cried. When other people (like my father) rush to criticize him, I rush to defend him - he's had a rough year personally, he's exhausted, our defense doesn't help. I always want to make sure he eats enough, too.

I have to fight the urge to send cookies to the arena for him.

As you can imagine, all the talk about Ryan not wanting to stay in Buffalo had me nervous. After all the emotion I had invested in him, it would have devastated me to hear that he didn't really love us back.

So, thank you, Ryan. Thanks for helping our fragile psyche one kind word and signed contract at a time. When you said you really love living here, it made me feel justified in believing in how genuine you are, and I know I'm not the only one.

As a Buffalo fan, all I ask is that my favorite athletes love my city with the same passion that I love watching them play. This offseason has made me proud to be a Sabres fan. First, Goose committed to us because we were the ones who gave him a chance. Then, Miller proved that he not only believes we can win it all but that we're a fanbase he'd love to win it all for.

Now that these two have validated me in my emotional attachment to them, I can only hope that Pommer follows suit. Ryan said that the signing of Goose was a big factor in his decision. It only makes sense that Jason would think the same about his roomie Goose and fellow Amerks-alum, Miller.

Only one more of the trio left...They're waiting for you to join the Sabre-snuggle, Pommer!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Day!

To all the whiners who said that Ryan Miller will walk out on the Sabres and run to Detroit after this season...

I wonder what it tastes like to eat your words.

5 more years of Miller!
Ryan's happy, little puppy Max is happy, I'm happy. It must have been a VERY good birthday for Millsey indeed!

Now I must run to dine at my grandmother's house. Ryan's the only Sabre she really knows, so she will be very happy to hear this news. I promise more on this awesome news tomorrow!

Too Many Games...Too Little Money

First and foremost...

This is Danny Paille's happy face. He's happy because we just signed him for another two years, and I'm happy, too! I felt like a proud mother hen watching him go above and beyond the call of duty so many times last year, and I can't wait to see what the next two years will bring with his work ethic and visible passion for the game.

I love Danny because he seems like such a regular guy; so much so that when my friend and I walked past him in the arena after an open skate, we just kept walking. We only stopped after it dawned on me that the really attractive guy in the dress coat looked familiar...kind of like Danny Paille.

If you're craving more Pie after this news, here's a WGR interview with him on Schopp and the Bulldog. I didn't appreciate how they almost seemed to be talking down to him. Now, we in the blogging community talk about Danny like he's a adorable kindergartner leaning to tie his skates, but I think we all know that he's about 10,000 times cooler than we are. However, listen to this interview if only to hear little Danny profess his love for his mentor - Guess who that is...

Danny says that he wants to be a leader just like Goose is, and he really likes playing on a line with him. Well who wouldn't?

In other Sabre-news, the NHL released its 2008-2009 schedule yesterday. Let's just say there are about 20 games I NEED to see, and with my budget, that list needs to get cut to about 4. All I know is that, on October 17, my favorite team in the West, the Canucks, are coming to HSBC. I think I may cry if I have to watch Roberto Luongo, Taylor Pyatt, and Big Bear only from my living room.

Stop by tomorrow as I actively try to figure out which games I simply have to see for my own personal sanity (Canucks, Pens) and which would just be icing on the cake of my season (Do I need to see the Ducks, no matter how much I like Ryan Getzlaf?).

Finally, a Happy Belated Birthday to everyone's favorite hippie goalie, Ryan Miller. For your birthday, Millsie, I virtually give you all the skinny jeans and Kashi granola you can handle. Oh yeah, and that massive contract extension that should have been done yesterday. And if you haven't learned from Soupy's mistakes, I wish you all the hangover remedies in the world.

Little Millsey's all grown up!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Swinging for the Fences

The title of this post covers a multitude of sports news from the past couple of days:
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be looking to hit a home run with all of the money they've thrown around this off season. Their latest move has been signing Vinny "I'm so beautiful it hurts" Lecavalier to an 11-year, $85 million contract. Now, I love Vinny as much as the next female hockey fan, but sometimes, swinging for the fences means you might strike out every once in a while. Let's think about this...11 years? Vinny may look baby-faced, but he's already 28. By the time his contract is up, he'll be 40 years old. Tampa's new owners are starting to look more and more ridiculous to me. If we head towards another lockout, we'll have contracts like this to thank.

Maybe I'm just jealous that this gorgeous piece of hockey player will never be a Sabre.
  • My sister's softball team had a pretty productive weekend in Rochester. They went 2-1 in their triple-header in 90-plus degree heat. Of course, the scorching heat was followed by torrential downpours during the elimination round on Sunday. We waited at the diamonds for 3 HOURS in the monsoon before they called the games. Let me tell you, there has never been a longer two hours of my life than the ride back to Buffalo in a car with a disappointed, wet, and tired teenage softball player.

  • Tonight, at 8 p.m. on ESPN is the 2008 MLB Home Run Derby. I don't consider myself a baseball fanatic, but I am a casual fan. I've taken a side in the great Yankees-Red Sox debate (I'm a sucker for pinstripes), and I really like the Cleveland Indians - mainly because I go to Bisons games, so I know who many of them are. As a casual fan, I always get excited for the Home Run Derby. I know it can get long and boring, but it just seems like a lot of fun. Plus, this year, some of my favorites are participating:
1. Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)

He's a rookie, he's adorable, and his name is so close to a Desperate Housewife that I smile every time I hear it.

2. Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers)

After battling drug addiction following being pegged as a future superstar, I can only imagine how rewarding this season and this recognition must be for him. I'm a sucker for a great human-interest story, and his comeback is one of the best.

3. Grady Sizemore (Cleveland Indians)

My favorite player in the Majors, Grady is a former Buffalo Bison doing us proud in the Big Leagues. Not only is he a good player, he is downright beautiful. I'll be rooting for him tonight, if only to see his face on my TV for a few more hours.

Finally, I got lots of requests for where I bought my "Buffalo Likes it Ruff" shirt. The answer is Bay 6 Buffalo Clothing in the Southgate Plaza in West Seneca. This store directory lists their phone number; I wish they had a website. They have lots of other cool Sabres, Bills, and Buffalo t-shirts there, too. If you're in the neighborhood, you should definitely check it out!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Shopping is Fun

I don't have much time to write today; we're headed to the Bisons game tonight, and I still have to pack for a weekend in Rochester starting tomorrow at 5:30 a.m.! My sister has a softball tournament, so for this weekend I'm taking on the role of supportive big sis while sitting in the 90 degree heat during a fastpitch triple-header. I have no idea how those girls don't pass out on the field.

I do have something special to share today. I think I may have found the best shirt ever:
Upon closer examination, it gets even better:

Yes, it really does say "Don't go after our 'f-ing' captain!"

I think Lindy very much approves of my fashion choice

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend! Hopefully when I get back on Sunday night, I'll be able to discuss the signing of Danny Paille and the new contracts for Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Our Song(s)

Another slow day in NHL-land. Well, except for the fact that Ray Emery has fled the continent to play in the oh-so-new and oh-so-Russian Continental Hockey League. Farewell, Ray; I'll miss chanting your name in playful mockery at every Ottawa game.


To combat this slow news day, I've decided to satisfy my inner music geek. S(h)ara over at Sabretooth's House had a great idea a few days ago to list all the songs that remind her (for better or worse) of our boys in Blue and Gold.

Today, I bring you my Sabres Playlist:

Move Along (The All-American Rejects)
This song will always remind me of the 2005-2006 Cup run. They used to play it on KISS 98.5 after every game when they did their "Sabres Report." Every time I hear this song, all I can think of is how perfect it was for that year, that team. They just kept going, even when it seemed impossible. I still get goosebumps when I hear this song because, for as great as 06-07 was, 05-06 was our year.

I'm Shipping Up to Boston (The Dropkick Murphys)
I heard this in my friend's car on the way to the Bisons game last week, and this is how the conversation went:
Me: Are we on the power play?
Best Friend: Katie, you really need a life.

City of Blinding Lights (U2)
Whenever I hear this song, I have to look around and make sure the Sabres aren't rushing onto the ice around me (which is odd because I usually hear it in my car).

Livin' on a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
Yes, they play this at EVERY sporting event, but this has a special Sabres memory for me. My two best friends and I went to the first Tampa Comeback game last February. When Vanek scored to tie the game with less than a minute left, they played this song. It seemed like everyone in the arena was singing along, and it reminds me that, even when we are at our most pessimistic, Sabres fans, at our core, are a group of believers.

Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
Was that a nice segue or what? I remember this song being on a lot during the Ottawa series of 2007. It was almost as if we were trying to will them to win.

I'm a Believer (Smashmouth)
The only Sabres playoff game I've ever gone to was Game 5 of the Sabres-Rangers 2007 series. Yes, that Game 5. It was probably one of the greatest moments of my life, and this song will always be associated with that game for me. When the Rangers iced the puck before that last faceoff in regulation, they played this song. I swear, it was like something out of a movie how perfect that moment was - first they play the song, then Drury scores, and we win in OT.

Better Days (The Goo Goo Dolls)
This song still makes me tear up whenever I hear it. That video was just so...quintessentially Buffalo. We work hard during the day, and we expect the same from our teams. All we ask is that they give us a chance to feel good about ourselves. For a moment, that 06-07 team did just that. They made us stop feeling bitter and start believing something good could happen here, even if it didn't end perfectly.

So that's my list. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Did We Witness History and other Philosophical Thoughts

I feel like there's not much to report today. No big deal for Ryan Miller yet, no signing of Danny Paille, and Teppo Numminen is still unsigned (are you listening, Darcy?).

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. I went to the driving range for the first time, and I discovered that there may be a sport that I'm not totally inept at after all. Also, I took my sister to the movies, and we saw Pixar's Wall-E. I'm not going to say run out and see it now, out and see it now. It was funny, intelligent, and beautiful.
He's almost cuter than Jason Pominville...haha

Now, onto the title of this post. In a time when we long for great rivalries in sports, so many of which seem concocted by the media, I feel like there is now a genuine combination of two men who have the potential to produce drama and athleticism of its finest every time they meet in competition. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are two athletes at the top of their games, and they proceeded to give fans of tennis and casual viewers alike a match for the ages - and then some.

I'm a pretty big tennis fan myself. It all started with a high school crush on Andy Roddick, but it developed into a huge appreciation for the power and grace of the game and those who play it. I've seen some pretty impressive matches in my short few years following the sport, but I feel as if the 2008 Wimbledon Men's Final on Sunday was something more than impressive.

It was historic.

It was two champions giving literally everything they had to defeat the other. It was a marathon of endurance, the longest Wimbledon final ever. It was the coronation of a new king of tennis, but it left the feeling that the former king will be back stronger than ever. It proved the strength and poise of Nadal, fighting to keep Federer from gaining momentum. On the other side, it also proved the resiliency and heart of Federer, who could have bowed out in the third set, but battled through tiebreak after tiebreak, to five sets, to show what a true champion he is.

My father told me that someday I'll be 50, sitting on the couch with my kids, and I'll tell them that I saw that match happen. "People will remember this for years," he said.

I know what I'll remember. I'll remember the appreciation for the game's history in little things like Federer's embroidered sweater. I'll remember the look on the faces of Nadal's family as the years of sacrifice paid off, and their son proved he could win on grass.
If I forget everything else, though, I'll remember the class shown by both the winner and the runner-up. Roger Federer was as graceful in defeat as he is exuberant in victory. Rafael Nadal was so humbled by the fact that he beat the man he considers the greatest ever that you couldn't help but feel proud of him. I'll remember that, in an age of egos, this event put on display two men who made me proud to say that I watch sports.

I'll remember last Sunday's match for a long time. Does anyone else agree?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Goodbyes and Hellos

My Fourth of July felt like that of a bipolar schizophrenic:

2:30 p.m.: What?! The Sabres traded Steve Bernier! For DRAFT PICKS?! This is the WORST TRADE EVER! Vancouver totally fleeced us on this one. Poor Big Bear; I'll miss you and your adorable accent so much. I strongly dislike you, Darcy.

6:00 p.m.: What?! The Sabres picked up Craig Rivet in a trade from the Sharks! For DRAFT PICKS?! This is the BEST TRADE EVER! So this is why we traded away Bernier. Oh well, we did what we had to do. Sorry, Big Bear, you were a little slow for our speed demon ways anyway. I knew I always liked you, Darcy.

Anyone else experience these glaring mood swings?

Today, I say goodbye to Steve Bernier. Big Bear, I felt like you could have become a favorite of mine with your hard-hitting ways and affinity for sticking up for little Derek - not to mention your cute broken English. I can only be happy that we traded you to my favorite team in the West, Vancouver. I hope they take good care of you up there.

Au revoir, Big Bear.

As much as I did like Steve Bernier, I am beyond excited to welcome our newest Sabre, Craig Rivet!

Rivet is exactly the kind of defenseman I was hoping for Darcy to bring in. I always say that if I remember a guy from the Western Conference who's not a superstar, he's either really good or really bad. I remember Craig Rivet - in a good way. He's dependable defensively and still manages to chip in offensively as well. Also, he's a righty - something our blueline is lacking.

What most impresses me from what I've seen and heard about Rivet are what he brings off of the scoresheet. He is a veteran leader, the likes of which we sorely need around here. Also, he's not afraid to play with his heart on his sleeve and stand up for any of his teammates (especially his goalie).

Plus, this boy can fight:

I know I've yet to see him play a game in Blue and Gold, but I think Craig Rivet will be a favorite at Muckers and Grinders. In that clip alone, he's everything I love in a hockey player - gritty, angry, and protective of his teammates.

This fight is pretty great as well - all Sabres fans should check it out.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Waiting Game

It's been over 48 hours since free agency began, and I feel like a five-year-old on a cross-country trip:

"Darcy, are we there yet?"

48 hours and no defenseman to speak of. 48 hours and only one signing (no offense, Patrick Lalime, I'm sure you're a very nice goalie). 48 hours and a market shrinking faster than we all would like.

Darcy, you know that signing Goose wouldn't hold me over forever, right?

According to the Buffalo News, Darcy did not even have serious talks with Brooks Orpik. I understand that he was probably asking for a lot of money at the start, but he ended up signing with Pittsburgh for only $3.75 million per season, a price I would like to think Darcy would have been willing to pay. However, there is a good chance that this was his "hometown discount" price for the Pens, so we'll never know just what his agent told Darcy he wanted that seemed so pricey.

Now, the Sabres are left with one of two choices:

Door Number One: The trade. Darcy seems most fond of this choice, and he has had much success choosing this door in the past (see Jochen Hect, Toni Lydman, and two guys named Briere and Drury). John Vogl brought up an interesting trade idea on Sabres Edge yesterday - Max for Jay McKee. I know Jay is injury prone and getting older, but everything we're missing he has - grit, defensive toughness, shot-blocking, leadership, veteran presence our boys know and respect. Sometimes I think Jay is the ex-Sabre we've missed most since he left considering what he brought to the table. However, he was one of my favorites, so I'm probably just biased.

Door Number Two: Free agency. Contrary to popular belief, there are some UFA defeseman left out there. One of them is Jason Smith, who WGR reports has had preliminary talks with the Sabres. Yes, he's slow, but he's a defeseman's defenseman who's not afraid to hit or get hit. One look at this picture should tell you that I fully support signing him, he's a mucker and grinder through and through:

Speaking of muckers and grinders, guess who was on the radio yesterday?

That's right - Paul Gaustad!

Goose joined Schopp and the Bulldog to talk about his new contract and his Eurotrip with Ryan Miller. It sounds like, much to our sadness they didn't meet up with Spacho; I guess Kotalik played tour guide instead (which is not nearly as funny). They also got to see matches at Wimbledon, which makes me very jealous (that tops my list for sporting events I would most like to attend).

Of course, Goose was humble as always, saying he told his agent that he was loyal to the Sabres because they gave him a shot in the NHL. That kind of loyalty is shrinking in pro sports, and it's nice to know that we have a guy like that on our team. He also said he's working out harder than ever after his sports hernia surgery, paying special attention to his core muscles. Now, if the mention of Paul Gaustad working on his abs doesn't make you sigh just a little bit, I don't know what will.
Wow, he's good looking.

Goose makes me happy, but so does the idea of a new defenseman. It's your move, Darcy, don't make me regret trusting you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy HONK!!

Thank you, Darcy Regier.

Last year at this time, I was a wreck. We had lost both Danny Briere and Chris Drury, and my vacation to Cooperstown was pretty much ruined.

This year, July 1 could not get much better from my perspective. I'm back from a nice, relaxing two days at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I get to come home to news like this.

Paul Gaustad. Four years. $9.2 million.

Four more years of Chris Neil poundings, aluminum can recycling, community helping, and, of course, rally helmets.
So thanks again, Darcy. Thanks for rewarding hard work and relentless dedication. Thanks for making it clear that what someone contributes off the ice is sometimes as important as what he contributes on it. Thanks for showing everyone that pure effort really does make a difference.

And thank you, Goose. Thanks for making it clear that you want to stay a part of this team, this community. Thanks for showing that you love us as much as we love you. Thanks for being so gosh-darn humble in an age of athletic prima donnas:

“I’m pretty speechless that I have a four-year deal in the National Hockey
League,” Gaustad said by phone from Oregon. “I’m extremely excited to have
the opportunity to be back in Buffalo. It’s just a great place to play. I
really do think we have a chance to win, and that’s a big factor for me.”

Sure, other things happened in free agency today. The Sabres got a new backup goalie, Patrick Lalime, from Chicago for $2 million over 2 years. I promise to properly welcome him tomorrow when I'm less Goose-focused.

The Blackhawks won the Soupy Sweepstakes, signing Brian Campbell to an 8-year deal worth $57.12 million. Have fun with the spin-o-ramas now, Chicago, they get old fast. Private to Soupy: if you do anything to corrupt my precious Pat Kane, I will hurt you.

I know we still need a defenseman, but right now I'm too happy to really think analytically about anything.

This is my happy HONKing dance.

Let's just hope this signing helps Goose's two BFFs in their Sabre-signing decisions:

Now, back to my happy HONKing dance...