Friday, October 11, 2013

Columbus Blue Jackets 4 at Buffalo Sabres 1 - October 10, 2013

With no Thursday NFL game to see, I decided to join my friends Andrew and Peter from the Ultimate Sports Road Trip at the Sabres game. I met these two back in 2001 when I was on my MLB Road Trip, and we attended an exhibition game here with Columbus Blue Jackets in town. History repeated itself as Columbus was again the visitor, although this was an early season encounter that would count in the standings.

I came here back in March after the NHL lockout ended (and with it, my pointless personal boycott) and briefly reviewed the First Niagara Center then. There have been a couple of additions that I wanted to point out. On the east side of the stadium there is Alumni Plaza with a statue of the French Connection line. Check it out, all those who have played for the Sabres are listed on the brick posts behind the statue, decade by decade. Very nice touch.

Before the game, Andrew took me on a walking tour of the area around the rink. Buffalo is finally joining the wave of revitalizing their downtown core around sports venues. Much of the area is still under construction, but there is stuff to see down at the Commercial Slip (below), which is where the Erie Canal ended when it was first opened back in 1825. The Canal was instrumental in making New York the primary port on the Atlantic seaboard and Buffalo was a thriving port for over a century, but the downtown area, like many cities in the Midwest, fell into disrepair. After a lot of political wrangling and NIMBYism, the area around First Niagara Center and Coca-Cola Field (home of the AAA Buffalo Bisons) is being rebuilt, with hotels, bars, office space and residential units all under construction. The project is still a couple of years from completion, but it will turn downtown Buffalo into a destination in itself and make attending games there a much more enjoyable experience.

Thanks to Andrew and Peter's generosity, I had a ticket 9 rows from the ice in one of the corners. It is a good seat to watch the game as the action in one end is right in front of you, but the stanchions between the panes of glass make good pictures difficult.

The best you can do is a cropped zoom shot of the goalie. That's Ryan Miller below.

The Sabres are perhaps the worst team in the league over the first week, and they showed no jump and no leadership as they were beaten 4-1 by a much better Columbus club.

Respect for the Game

Rather than talk about the game, I want to rant about a couple of things that are really starting to annoy me. First, check out Buffalo's only goal, scored by Thomas Vanek, which earned the top play on SportsCenter. Thankfully it was scored in the end in which I was sitting, so I had a great look and it was a beautiful goal. See how he scored through his legs there. Wonderful skill, and it had the Sabres' fans on their feet. It is what they pay for.

Vanek's marker was reminiscent of Tomas Hertl's now-famous goal scored two nights before. (Can I use reminiscent for something that happened so recently?) Anyway, Hertl's move, on which he potted his 4th goal of the game, apparently embarrassed the poor New York Rangers and goalie Martin Biron, and caused a flurry of criticism from all corners of the league. Adam Oates called it "disrepectful" and a "rookie mistake", while CBC analyst Glenn Healy said it "discredits the game". Huh? That play was all over the American sports channels and put hockey into the conversation in the middle of the NFL and college football seasons. It was a credit to the game and showed just why hockey is the sport that requires the greatest skill.

Frankly, the Rangers should have been embarrassed losing 9-2. That's it. Giving up a highlight goal as part of the rout should not factor into their emotions and to be fair, I haven't heard much from them (they lost 6-0 to Anaheim last night, so they have more pressing problems). Instead, it is others who weren't even at that game who have weighed in. Look, the NHL needs plays like this! Start marketing yourself with goals like that. These plays put fans in seats and make salaries go up. Hockey is the most exciting sport and it needs more young kids with skill to make it compete with football, basketball, and baseball. Less fighting and more breathtaking goals will grow the league.

BTW, San Jose visits the Rangers on Sunday, March 16th in an afternoon affair. Looking forward to the Rangers trying to get some revenge over 5 months after the fact, although if they keep playing the way they are, most of the team will be traded by then.

Atlanta Cowards

Hockey isn't the only sport where players and coaches have turned into whiny brats. Certain baseball teams have become insufferable with their enforcement of the "unwritten rules". Of course, I refer to the Atlanta Braves, a team that uses the wildly offensive Tomahawk Chop as its rallying cry. When Carlos Gomez hit a home run in a late-season game, he showboated and yelled at the Braves while rounding the bases. Not professional, but the Braves reacted like a bunch of children. Braves' catcher Brian McCann took it upon himself to block the plate and started a "brawl" in which the players all gathered around and jawed at each other. Easy to challenge a guy to a fight when you are wearing all the equipment. Pathetic. Amazingly, Gomez was ejected but McCann stayed in the game. This was the second time McCann had acted as the fun police, earlier yelling at Marlins' pitcher Jose Fernandez who had admired his home run a bit too long. Seriously? He's a freaking pitcher, it is likely the only homer he will hit in his career. Let him watch it for a couple of seconds.

Now come reports that the Braves boycotted the ceremonial first pitch thrown by Chipper Jones, only one of the greatest players in team history and far, far better than any of the dicks they have on their team today. But Jones had the audacity to pick the Dodgers in the division series, so the sensitive Braves players decided that their feelings were hurt so much that none of them could possibly catch the first pitch. Instead, the Braves' mascot was called upon to perform the duty, an embarrassment when shown on national TV. Truly shameful. Jones has a job to do now and it involves being honest and giving his opinion, not kissing the asses of his former teammates. Of course, Jones was right and the Braves were quickly dismissed in 4 games.

Talk about hypocrisy. The Braves decide that the game has to be respected, but when Chipper Jones respects the game by making an honest prediction, well, that is just wrong. Despicable behaviour by a team of malcontents.

Atlanta spent the season beating up on a weak NL East and focusing more on the behaviour of other players rather than preparing for a postseason in which they were obviously overmatched. McCann went 0/13 with six strikeouts in the series, a complete washout. Haven't heard from him since then, guess he is at home now yelling at his TV.

At my age, I really don't hate in sports any more, but I will make an exception for this team. They are simply the worst group of professional athletes out there today. All talk and no action when it really mattered.

Sports should be fun for everyone: the fans, the players, the broadcasters, even the poor coaches. Unilaterally deciding that you are going to determine what can and cannot be done is something that should be left to the sporting gods, and when you enter their realm, you will be punished. See you next year Atlanta, and hope you have grown up by then.



No comments:

Post a Comment