(Shootout host Kevin Sylvester left the snow and cold of Buffalo and headed to the west coast as the Sabres play a three-game road trip against the Pacific Division. He's reporting back on all the comings and goings of his travels.)
Friday, December 7th at 2:18 p.m.
I was wondering what to write about for my second blog on this trip. It would have been easier had we’d won against the Ducks or Kings. Winning makes everything easier. Losing is agony.
I use the word agony because that’s the look I’ve seen on the players faces the past two nights as they boarded the team bus. It’s actually something I wish every Sabres and hockey fan could see. These guys genuinely appear torn apart by a loss, knowing they let each other down.
There are no exceptions to this; even those that didn’t play feel it.
The other part of the bus is the overall travel. Granted, this trip is extreme coming all the way across the country, but it’s a challenge.
After the game in Anaheim, we took an hour or so bus ride to downtown LA for a different hotel. Check-in was at midnight and we were back up the next morning for a skate at 11 a.m.
After the Kings game, there is a security check at the Staples Center (they go through every bag just like the airport), a half an hour ride to the plane, a one-hour flight to Oakland, then a one-hour bus ride to San Jose.
Check-in time at the hotel is at 2 a.m. and practice Friday is at 11 a.m. Then you have to try to catch up on rest before Saturday’s game against the Sharks.
For those of you that travel, you know I haven’t mentioned the downtime that can seem to take forever as it’s not all sightseeing. This schedule also reinforces my belief, which is shared by many, that NHL players are the best-conditioned and toughest professional athletes.
And to think, Sunday morning we’ll leave first thing in the morning, arrive home in the evening- lose three hours in the process- and then watch the team host the Bruins on Monday night.
Wednesday, December 5th at 1:47 p.m.
Leaving Buffalo for California for one week is as exciting as it sounds, particularly when it’s 20 degrees while boarding the plane and you have the knowledge that it’ll be 78 when you land. The tough part was knowing you’d be on a plane for five hours or more. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a hard flight. The team charter has plenty of room, food, and DVD’s to pass around. If I gave any more details than that, I would probably have to bus back to Buffalo after the San Jose game.
Upon arriving in L.A., the immediate cool thing was seeing the LAX (airport) sign and private terminal used as a location for the Kanye West episode of Entourage.
It was a short trip to the hotel in Manhattan Beach (it’s not actually on the beach just a few miles from it) and then the realization that you gained three hours during the flight hits you.
It was just 4 pm. That’s the reason for coming out two days before the first game; to let your body get used to the time change. Believe me it matters. Particularly sleeping. I’ve awoken the last two days ready to roll at my normal time, only to realize it’s 4 am.! However it was cool to actually watch the Columbus/Dallas game at 4:30pm on Monday and see the entire MNF football game (Pats escape again!).
“Beverly Hills…that’s where I want to be….”
Of course that’s from Weezer’s hit song.
I, along with producer Joe Pinter and director Eric Grossman, went to Beverly Hills to meet Buffalo native and huge Sabres fan Nick Bakay. Nick is a writer and actor who is in the middle of a tremendous career in Hollywood. The list of his work is too long to list here so look it up on IMDB. I will mention that he has returned to Buffalo each of the last two years for the Corporate Challenge and Aces and Blades, both benefiting the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.
We should be having him on one of the intermission segments during Thursday's Kings game.
So, we had a 7 pm reservation with Nick at the Palm Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills. We took at cab at 6:30. The time is of importance here for one reason.
I came to the realization that we don't have traffic in Buffalo. Period. I thought the traffic was bad when I lived in Charlotte, NC, but even that fails to match Los Angeles. It took an hour to get there.
There were no accidents, just traffic. Amazing. It did only take 20 minutes back to the hotel later in the night, which felt normal.
Dinner was great for three reason: awesome company; awesome food; and it wasn’t a tourist joint. It was a local place. Meaning celebrities.
Of course, we were dining with one, but having gotten to know Nick, it’s like eating with someone you’ve known for 20 years. Our table was in a great location; everyone was in our line of sight. It was Monday, so a light night, but three sightings were made. Maria Shriver and her shopping bags. Governor Arnold was not with her, which was disappointing. Kelly Osborne made here way past with a few friends, and then the actor who plays Saheed on the show LOST. I don’t know his name, just know it was him. We just saw these folks for brief moments, but you could tell they were relaxed walking in the place, even though all the “regulars” were looking to see who was there.
After we brought Nick up to speed on all things Buffalo (he did know a lot considering all the time he’s had off with the writers strike), we piled into into his coupe and headed to the Sunset Marquis for drinks. It’s a Beverly Hills hotel with a lounge frequented by the musicians. Apparently it’s a big hang out for Aerosmith. They weren’t there that night, but it was cool all the same. I found that it’s always better going to local restaurants and hang outs when out of town - so you get the real feel of the place - than some fabricated image a city wants to portray. I get the sense, there’s a town of fabrication in this town. It’s Hollywood after all!
Tuesday was a day for practice and relaxation in the great weather. A high of 83 degrees. I admit it felt great being outside. Not much more than that to report. Game day today and I’m looking forward to see if this team can make it three wins in a row on the road and beat the defending Stanley Cup Champs. It’s a game we all would have loved to see last year.
The Miller’s facing one another is also a great story line. Should be fun.