It feels like the All Star break with all the time between games. Five days off between games feels like an eternity in today’s NHL, but Sabres need the break. November saw the Sabres play 13 games in 25 days. You won’t hear the team complain about it, and rightfully so since most teams face similar stretches, but that’s a grind. I’m sure the players are sick of practice, and Lindy Ruff chuckled today when I asked if they have “embraced” the time to work on their game, but it certainly can’t hurt a team that has lost three close ones in the last week.
is heading towards a return this weekend from an upper body injury. I’m anxious to see if can jump back in and go to the net as he did to start the season. The interesting thing will be to see where Lindy Ruff puts him in the lineup.
The same can be said for Nathan Gerbe
. Where does Lindy put him? I love his effort and work ethic. He has a great shot. He was a goal scorer in the AHL and has had some great looks at the net recently. He’s been on the first power play unit, yet no goals on the season. It’s somewhat puzzling, but I have a feeling when he breaks through and gets his first, many more will follow.
At the risk of sounding shameless, the new book Sabres at Forty is a must for the diehard Sabres fan. The coffee table book is really well done. It has photos from some of the great moments in team history and moments candid in nature. Two of my favorite things from the book are a quote from longtime employee Christine Ivansitz (still working here today with a smile) on the office dress code in the original days, and a photo of the French Connection on a tarmac. The book also comes with a 40th anniversary DVD with commentary and interviews from key players in the team’s history. I’m sure some of you think management asked me to plug the book in my blog, but that’s not the case. I don’t even know what the price is, but am pretty sure it’s worth it.
Finally, I was saddened to hear that hockey writer Jim Kelley lost his battle with cancer. Many of you know that he was the Sabres beat writer and columnist for The Buffalo News for a good portion of his 32 years at the paper. I had the pleasure of working with him and against him during my days on radio with WBEN and WGR. I was just a 24-year-old kid when I first met him and co-hosted a show with him on occasion on WBEN. Admirably, he didn’t treat me like a kid. He treated me with respect, and that followed suit outside of the station. He would beat me to “hello” before a press conference, or stop a conversation with a writer from another team to give acknowledgement. It was classy. I recall the first time I traveled to cover the Sabres in the playoffs, the 1998 first round series in Montreal. Jim organized a dinner outing for the Buffalo media, and made sure I was a part of it (he probably even paid). He had story after story, and I felt like somebody being part of his circle that night. I also won’t forget that he was one of the first to reach out to me when I was going through some adversity. He offered words of encouragement and advice. I tried my best to reciprocate the few times I saw him at the rink to cover the Sabres during his battle with cancer, knowing that the prognosis wasn’t promising. It doesn’t seem fair that he was taken one month before his induction into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame on January 1st. I can’t say Jim Kelley and I were friends, but friendly acquaintance seems appropriate. I can say I’m a better person and hockey broadcaster for knowing him.