Remember how I told you that Mother Nature is a hockey fan? For the entire 18 hours I was in Buffalo, the temperature was in the mid-30s, and it was raining like a banshee! They must have received at least a couple of inches, and as one inch of rain equals one foot of snow, I was just a few degrees away from being stuck in two feet of snow. She IS looking out for me! It was just beginning to freeze as my plane left early this morning, and the rain was predicted to turn to sleet, then snow and continue throughout the day.
I arrived at the HSBC Arena two hours before game time and hoped to find a parking garage, so I wouldn’t drown as I walked to the arena. No such luck, but there was a lot directly in front of the building, and parked and I sprinted the 40 yards to the arena entrance like a rookie at the NFL combine, and made in about six seconds flat (wind-aided).
Sabres fans don’t like the Ottawa Senators, especially after their recent playoff battles, and as soon as Michael Ryan stuffed a goal past Ray Emery just ninety seconds into the game, the mocking chant of “Eeemmmmmerrrrryyyyy “ rang down from the rafters, and when the period was done, the Sabres had a 3-0 lead. Buffalo never looked like they were in trouble and coasted to an easy 4-2 victory.
Buffalo has long been thought of as “a shot and a beer” town, and I knew the crowd would be passionate, as I’d been having a really hard time getting hold of a ticket, but didn’t have lofty expectations for the building itself. So I was quite surprised that the HSBC Arena had the biggest entrance foyer I’d seen to date. Visually, it was akin to an airport terminal with glass and steel towering all around, but the green floor looked like a blackboard filled with “X”s, “O”s and arrows like a coach drawing up plays. Quite an innovative look.
As I was stuffing down a foot-long chili cheese dog, next to a father and his daughter, we started chatting about my trip and he told me he was a lieutenant with the Buffalo Police. He asked me if I was going out after the game, as the night before Thanksgiving is supposed to be a huge party night in Buffalo. I said I was, and he handed me his card, telling me that if I got in any trouble tonight, this would get me out of it! I need a friend like him back home in Orlando!
I could even afford a shot and a beer, as the concession prices seemed the lowest of any arena. The large beer that was $13 a hundred miles away in Toronto was only $6 in Buffalo. I passed on the shot, as I was to be a guest on the MSG broadcast between periods with Kevin Sylvester and Mike Robitaille.
I made up for it after the game, when I went to the famous Anchor Bar with Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell, the local guys who have been to all 121 major pro sports venues over the past few years. I got back to the hotel at 12.30 am, and when I awoke at 5.05 am, Andrew had already updated his blog with a blow-by-blow account of our night out, saving me from having to write about it here! Lots of people ask me what’s next after I finish my trip…..how about 121 Games in 121 Nights….Hmmmmm? Never say never!
Since I began this trip, I’ve developed a fondness for goalies who wear number 30, like Martin Brodeur, Pittsburgh’s Dany Sabourin, and a couple of others. Add Buffalo’s Ryan Miller to that list. As I was milling about by the bar on the club level, an attractive dark-haired woman stopped me and introduced herself as Ryan Miller’s mother, so we chatted for a while. During the intermission, I hear the unmistakable staccato intro to “The Chicken Dance”, and the camera keeps cutting to this lady standing up, flapping her arms and leading the crowd throughout the song. Yep, you guessed right, Ryan Miller’s Mom was doing the chicken dance! Pretty funny, as I’m sure most of the crowd had no idea who she was!
Relax Ottawa fans, Chris Neil seemed to be on good behavior last night, so I couldn’t find anything bad to say about him. Although I do find the caption to this picture quite fitting!
It’s Thanksgiving Day and I’m in Nashville now listening to Arlo Guthrie sing Alice’s Restaurant, as I do every year at this time. It’s the ultimate Thanksgiving song, “you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant, excepting Alice....”
The Predators take on Detroit tonight in Game 28 and I’ll look for a turkey leg at the concessions stand!