Rallying Cry

Rallying Cry

On NHL Deadline Day, a local blogger threw spaghetti at a wall and in the words of Rick Jeanneret, "OHHH BROTHER," did it fail to stick. It bounced off the wall so hard that it inspired trampolines to be better at their jobs. The attempted report stated that Robin Lehner was unhappy and wanted to be traded out of Buffalo. Not too long after, some of Buffalo’s most ridiculous, petty, and insecure sports writers quickly climbed up their crumbling pedestals (luckily it’s not a large pedestal, as the media elevator may have broken) to publicly shame said blogger.

Clearly the report was wrong, as Lehner directly refuted the report the following day, but the disgusting victory lap that ensued by the Buffalo sports MSM after was fucking infuriating to watch. And – hey, maybe this “untrained blogger” did hear something? Maybe Lehner is unhappy and was trying to save face so he isn’t labeled a locker room problem in a contract year? Probably not - but - WE’LL NEVER KNOW!!

The guy who writes about baseball for the Buffalo News in Buffalo’s fledgling baseball metropolis, called out this premature report and yelled into the abyss that is Sabres Twitter. His whiny war cry was heard by an Associated Press writer – who was angry that he had to suck the Cheeto stains off his fingers to respond – got involved as well. We get it; this report was wrong by all indications. It was a black eye that may have been well earned. Poke your fun. Knock a guy down. But don’t piss on him and an entire community of excellent bloggers as well while you hobble around, hoisting up the moth infested dish towel that you call a flag.

Admit it. Your profession is dissolving in front of your face. The internet is your best friend, as well as your worst enemy. The very untrained bloggers that write ‘from their mom’s basements’ are slowly chipping away at a dying medium. Nobody wants to pay to read your repeated drivel when I can read seven better articles for free, and come away with well thought out and intelligent sports takes.

This has been made an unnecessary war. It’s time for the basement warriors (as I write this from the house I own) to dust off our mom’s keyboards and come together as one. Let us enjoy our writing and leave us the fuck be.

Yes. We're not "there" to break news. We are however great at reacting to news. We've (personally) tried to get credentials for things, and have been denied, despite being credentialed in other sports/leagues. We're being kept at arms-length, and we're just doing the best we can with what we've got. So for those with access to look down on us is some elitist bullshit. 

We untrained bloggers need to not be so worried about growing our brands, but come together and help us all grow as a blogging community. It’s a time of change. Let's be the agents of said change. Don’t avoid clicking a 2inthebox.com article because you don’t want to validate his page and give him a click. Why? Because it’s probably a fucking great article that some of your friends would enjoy if you mustered the strength to share a blog page other than yours. There are many of us and very few of them! We need to support each other and fight this shitty label pinned on us.

There are so many GREAT Buffalo sports blogs that are better than the paid invalids that turn us against each other. Read a Better Live Than Dead article. Then SHARE it. Then go read a BuffaloWins article and then SHARE that! Click on a Rockpile Report podcast and make sure your friends hear it. You know what, they’ll probably love the Numb Bills Fan podcast, too!

This isn't a cry to get these people fired. This a rallying cry to come together as a community of excellent, pushed-to-the-side writers with hopes and dreams. Stop trying to compete with each other and support one another. Lets beat this stigma we don't deserve. 

It’s okay to listen to, appreciate and support another blog/podcast if you have one of your own, because we’re all in this together now. We do this is a hobby. We don’t do it for money. This is a hobby that we fucking love to do. We leave our full-time jobs, go home, make dinner, pop on a Sabres game, and we pour our thoughts and feelings on to an unfortunate and unsuspecting Google Doc such as this one. Why? Because we love it. Not because we think our takes matter, but we want to share our takes as hot or cold as they may be. Let’s all be friends and break this parent-mooching, basement dwelling blogger label we’ve been given. If we all come together against the Buffalo sports MSM, our dreams can come true and maybe you’ll find yourself in a press box seat where anti-tank cries used to shower down on us.


Three narratives you won't hear at the gold medal game

Three narratives you won't hear at the gold medal game

The women’s Olympic hockey tournament has seemed like a marathon at times, but it has been a sprint for the teams involved. The 11-day celebration culminates tonight with a matchup between the sports two super-powers as the United States and Canada clash for the gold medal for the sixth time in Olympic history.

Going into the tournament, there was little question this would be the case. These two teams are the perennial contenders, whether a it’s World Championship is on the line, or the coveted 4Nations Cup, US vs Canada is as sure as death and taxes.

That’s not the whole story, though, and it seems like the crews covering the games are having a tough time providing a narrative that doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of these world-class athletes. To bring some amazing stories to the light, here are three things new fans should keep in mind as the gold medal game takes place tonight:

The battle doesn’t stop on the ice

We’re less than one year removed from a tense struggle for equality by the US women’s national team. After decades of mistreatment by USA Hockey, the women of the national team took a stand, and threatened to boycott the IIHF World Championships if their demands for better pay and living conditions weren’t met.

The fight went beyond the 40 or so women that comprised the national team at the time, though. USA Hockey, desperate to field a team, reached out to pros who hadn’t made the cut, NCAA athletes, and even players on the U18 squad. Each stood firmly with the national team. No one would cross the line. The message was clear. American women stood united in the face of an exploitive organization.

USA Hockey was forced to negotiate with the women’s team, and though there is still a substantial gap between the accommodations offered to the men, these incredible women demonstrated the power of unity, demanded progress, and won.

 

If you build it

History was made at this women’s tournament, time and time again. One reason that this tournament held a handful of surprises was the ability for many of the women to play professional hockey through the year.

Japan won its first AND second games ever, behind stellar performances from Nana Fujimoto, a former New York (now Metropolitan) Riveter of the NWHL. Leagues in North America and Europe, as well as teams in Asia are giving women the opportunity to not only play more hockey, but train at world-class facilities and learn from some of the best the world has to offer, such as the dozens of US and Canadian women who play in their respective leagues.

In addition, pro teams in China are cultivating a program to prepare the women for their turn at hosting the Olympics. North American stars like Kelli Stack, Emily Janiga, and Rachel Llanes (who will suit up for China in international play) are acting as hockey ambassadors, teaching the women the game at the highest level.

We are experiencing evolution

Slow down. Take it all in. Russia came within one goal of the bronze medal for the first time in tournament history, losing to Finland, who failed at bronze in 2014. Japan won two games. Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling is the winningest goaltender in women’s Olympic history. Switzerland placed fifth in the tournament, barely edging a surging Japanese team.

All of these narratives deserve deep dives from the coverage teams of these games. These are the types of stories that deserve to be told. There are a lot of people telling them, too; be sure to check out The Ice Garden and Pension Plan Puppets for fantastic coverage of everything women’s hockey.

The last gold medal game between the US and Canada had the highest ratings of an Olympic matchup ever. This iteration is set to be more intense, more impassioned, and more exuberant/heartbreaking. The US women have won every tournament since the 2014 loss in Sochi. Here’s to keeping streaks alive.

 

Respect: An Editorial

Respect: An Editorial

Are people ‘put on blast’ anymore? Is that still a thing? Asking for a friend…

If it is (sadly) no longer a thing, then I am here to bring the coarse and kosher salt. Throw all of the shade. Eat all of the Tide ™ Pods. Other things I’m too old to understand.

This editorial could easily be one sentence: “SHOW SOME F#*@%ING RESPECT.”

But what fun would a one-sentence editorial be?

When Ron Duguay, former NHL journeyman, goes on MSG – one of the country’s biggest sports networks – and calls women’s hockey soft, something needs to be said.

As stated in my day-old twitter rant, it’s an old, weak take we’re sick of hearing.

“But he didn’t call them soft, he said wahwahwahwah wah wah wah wah.” Don’t come at me with another weak take to back up an already very weak take. Own it. Swim in the cesspool of utter incorrect ignorance. Really soak it in.

What he said was, “"I think these guys would have been better off doing women's hockey, the way they did the officiating – because they were kind of soft."

So, technically, he didn’t say the women were soft. He said the officials called a soft game, or the type of game you’d see women play.

He followed it up with, “I love women's hockey – I don't want the women angry with what I said.”

That last part seals it, for sure. He doesn’t want ‘The Women’ angry with what he’s said, but who does, really? Don’t we all want a pass to just say stupid things without repercussion, even if it is bigoted and untrue?

saunders.jpg

Clearly, Ron is concerned about ‘The Women.’ He was kind enough to block Toronto Furies defender Michelle Saunders for merely suggesting on twitter that gender not come into play when discussing the Rangers or the officiating. Soft game indeed, eh, Ron?

I’ve also seen uninformed, “He meant because there’s no checking wahwahwahwah wah wah wah wah…”

Stop. Stop reading this, stop talking, just stop. Go watch a women’s hockey contest, then come back here to be educated. It’s true, ‘Body Checking’ is a penalty. But here is the actual rule:

Rule 604: Body Checking: … Body Contact hockey does not mean “no contact.” There will be legal body contact (see Glossary) within the rules in Body Contact categories. Legal body contact shall not be penalized under this rule. However, deliberate physical contact with an opponent, with no effort to legally play the puck, shall be penalized.”

Stop again. Go back and read the rule again. Essentially, a player must make every effort to play the puck before delivering a solid trainwreck of a hit. Which happens dozens of times in any given game because ALL hockey is a physically crushing contact sport.

And who are all of these people who are so opposed to playing the puck? Isn’t that the point of hockey?

I get it. Things are changing. The world is changing. ‘The Women’ are playing games formerly reserved for ‘The Men’ and that’s scary. Change is scary.

Here’s the deal. I’m not going to try to convince you that women’s hockey is great, for two reasons: I hate wasting my time on ignorance and, frankly, women’s hockey doesn’t need me to defend it. It’s got leagues full of incredibly talented women that shine greatness on the world game in and game out.

I am here to demand respect for these athletes, especially from a fellow broadcast analyst, and especially from a former athlete. You, Ron, know exactly what it takes to play hockey at the highest level in the world. It would benefit you, these women, and the sport you claim to love, to show these world-class athletes the respect they deserve.


Listen in below as we sound off on this fool on the @716SportPodcast. You won't be dissapointed.

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@RonDuguay10 Is A Pompous Fool

@RonDuguay10 Is A Pompous Fool

@RonDuguay10 said some dumb and unnecessary things about women's hockey on a Rangers post game show. Erik, Nick, and I confronted him on Twitter and he blocked all of us! We gave Erik a buzz and he and Bill sounded off in a very 716 Sports Podcast way and gave him the ol' how do you do! Grow a pair Ronny. See what the guys had to say. Be prepared to laugh! I promise. You'll laugh. 

Title Photo courtesy of Sports Hernia Blog!

Dhane Smith Calls the 716 Sports Podcast After A 5 Goal Weekend

Dhane Smith Calls the 716 Sports Podcast After A 5 Goal Weekend

The Bandits had an incredible victory this weekend against an incredible team in Saskatoon. Dhane Smith had a 5 goal performance and he called the show this week. Steve and Jeff chatted him up! Check out the interview!

**Title photo courtesy of InsideLacrosse.com

How TPegs Stole the Playoffs

How TPegs Stole the Playoffs

Every fan of sports likes winning…a lot

But the teams that played in Buffalo…did not.

The Bills hated winning! Hated coaches and QB’s

And the Sabres? They hated scoring and D!

Now, please don’t ask why – no one quite knows the reason

The teams would suffer through every season.

Why were they so bad at hockey and football?

Some say the market was two sizes too small.

Some say it’s the owner, some say it’s Russ Brandon

Some say there were too many nostalgic hands in.

Nevertheless, they were always mediocre or worse

And no one – I said NO ONE! could break the damned curse.

The fans – the Buffalo girls and the boys

Would scream and they’d yell all the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

They’d crash through the tables – what a curious thing.

When they got together they would SING! Yes, they’d SING!

The fans wanted more; playoffs they demanded.

No matter how often they were reprimanded.

“I must build a winner, but how?” wondered TPeg.

“Can someone please help me?” the owner would beg.

He sat on his boat and he devised a plan

That would be the envy of most every man.

“I’ve got it!” he yelled, and reached for his phone.

He chartered a flight – he was heading home!

He arrived in fair Buffalo with only one purpose

He knew just the thing to break these damned curses.

He fired poor Murray and Doug Whaley, too.

He cut central scouting and before they all knew

The assistants and coaches and all of the dregs

Were out on the street thanks to TPegs.

“I’ll change the culture! I’ll bring in a winner!”

From Nashville and Pittsburgh – a pair of beginners!

And from Carolina, a coach and GM

To the championship all of these men had been.

He sat back in his chair and he grinned ear to ear.

He kicked up his feet and cracked open a beer.

He waited and waited for the fans to all praise

The work he had done in those springtime days.

Their mouths would hang open for a moment or two

But then they’d all loudly cry out “WOOOHOOOO!”

He did hear a sound, but it wasn’t a cheer.

The fans murmured softly, “What is happening here?”

Things didn’t get better as the Sabres began

To habitually cycle through every D-man.

But the Bills – something different for the fans and the press.

As he begged every person to Trust the Process!

And quarterback changes and badly schemed games

Blockers who struggled with opening lanes.

But the team kept on winning despite all the weakness

And coach Sean McDermott with all of his sleekness

He smiled and scoffed at the press’s fun questions

He handily ignored all of the outside suggestions.

“Trust the process!” he said on the podium beaming

With his bald head all shiny and gleaming.

And the fans followed suit, in the process they’d trust.

We are winning! It’s now playoffs or bust!

With the team on his back, McDermott pressed on.

On the legs of swift Tyrod and LeSean.

And the defense would bend but rarely would break.

The offense would try to make few mistakes.

Did they score lots of points? Oh, heavens no.

But they scored just enough on the run and the throw.

The process was working, for what it was worth.

The team on the cusp of a rare playoff berth.

With a win in Miami and loss a for the Ravens,

The Chargers, the Titans, and Chiefs must all cave in

For the process to have an approv-ed  result.

To keep the Queen City from a violent revolt.

Pegula looked down from his house upon high.

He smiled at the people and let out a sigh.

He had ushered a winner of some kind of sort

A team in the playoffs of their given sport.

And if they would make it, the nation would say

The fanbase had grown three sizes that day.

The press and the critics and the fans one and all

Would have to say he’d done a good job after all.

On a wildcard bid, they would certainly feast.

After 17 years of crushing defeats.

Gone in a Flash

Gone in a Flash

Yes, I’ve said most of this before. I don’t think I am one to waste words. I am writing on this topic again, because it bears repeating.

Sometime today, it is expected to be announced that a local professional sports team – the 2016 NWSL champions – will be sold and relocated to North Carolina. The Western New York Flash, whose headquarters and practice facilities are located at Sahlen’s Sports Park in Elma, and who play their games in Rochester, will hold a press conference to announce the move.

It may not be troubling that a sports team is being sold – it happens all of the time, right? Of course it does. Sports, as we are constantly reminded, are a business. Buy low. Sell high. Who wouldn’t want to bid on a national champion?

What is troubling, though, is that the number of professional women’s teams in the area is once again diminished. Aside from their Cinderella run through the NWSL, the Flash were home to several US national team members – the most elite players in one of the most dominant countries in their sport. Once again, a women’s team got little attention from local press, and so we wave good-bye as they, like thousands of Buffalonians have done, head to the warmer climates of North Carolina. Queue “Wagon Wheel.”

 Jaelene Hinkle is one of five USWNT players on the WNY Flash. -photo cred to WNYflash.com

Jaelene Hinkle is one of five USWNT players on the WNY Flash. -photo cred to WNYflash.com

On Saturday, January 14, the Buffalo Beauts will face the New York Riveters at HarborCenter. The team has been markedly better than they were in their inaugural season, already surpassing their win total for last year’s entirety. As a reward, the women have seen smaller crowds and have had their salaries slashed in order to keep the league afloat.

We run around the country calling ourselves Hockey Heaven, flaunting it on every social media platform there is, but still, we cannot manage to fill the small arena to watch another group of national team players compete with some of the best hockey players in the world. Again, no coverage from local media. This morning, a few of the Beauts jumped onto 106.5 to talk about the upcoming game. Country radio. Not sports radio. Country. Kudos to WYRK for giving these athletes some time and exposure.

 The fast paced Beauts play wide open, gritty hockey and have a total of 6 Olympians (current and former) on their squad.

The fast paced Beauts play wide open, gritty hockey and have a total of 6 Olympians (current and former) on their squad.

Because this is redundant, I will keep it short. It is time for ‘Hockey Heaven’ to literally put its money where its mouth is. EVERY DOLLAR after 500 tickets sold GOES DIRECTLY TO THESE PLAYERS, who are now working for less than 50 PERCENT of the salary they were promised. This team, and this league NEED your support. The importance of teams like the Flash and the Beauts CANNOT be overstated. The value of allowing our daughters to see the opportunities available to them cannot be overstated, nor can the impact of watching another women’s professional team disappear. There is no time but the present. Presently, YOU have the power to ensure these women have a future. You have the power to encourage this league and leagues like it in other sports, and to help them to continue to exist when your daughters finish college.

Puck drop on Saturday is 7:30pm. I will see you there.


 

The 716 Sports Podcast would like to congratulate the WNY Flash on their accomplishments. It is nothing short of tragic to see this team leave the area. The players have been incredible ambassadors of the world’s sport and WNY is losing more than a team today. Good luck to the players and coaches in the future. 

Editorial: So long, 2016, and thanks for all the spite

Editorial: So long, 2016, and thanks for all the spite

Friends, the new year is upon is. Now is the time that we reflect on our last trip around the sun, and look forward to what the next journey brings. We resolve to better ourselves, to better our community, and better our world.

If you just heard a record scratch, you’re not alone. Let it serve as a warning of the hijinx that lie ahead.

2016 is coming to an end, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Buffalo fans. The deaths of Gods,  Kings, Princes, and Princesses are widely known and deeply felt, but perhaps none so much as the death of hope for yet another season of Buffalo sports.

Gone are the halcyon days of the Sabres’ rebuild, or the goodwill of a seventeenth consecutive, “THIS IS OUR YEAR!” for Bills fans. In their stead, we’ve got emergency callups from Juniors and another coach that couldn’t last the length of his contract.

Given enough Canadian beer and populist bourbon, one might be able to convince themselves that the Bills have accomplished something that bordered on impossible. It was reported that the chance of the team missing the playoffs for 17 consecutive seasons were 1:6,000,000. WE DID IT! Tip your collective crown, citizens of the Queen City. You’ve accomplished something that may just unseat snow and four straight Super Bowl losses as our hometown storyline.

Rex is gone. Roman is gone. Most of the coaching staff will be gone. Surely they’ll fire the one person who orchestrated the whole debacle, right?!

Nope. This is Buffalo, and we see futility straight through to the bitter end. Botched draft picks, poor staff decisions, and no track record of success? Sounds like the perfect candidate to lead our ninth coaching hunt in 17 seasons.

Apparently, the Buffalo Bills have resolved to maintain the sub-mediocre status quo that fans have grown to loathe with every oz of corn liquor surging through their veins. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It isn’t all bad, though. Tyrod proved he can sling the ball around on the vaunted Miami Dolphins defense, so we’ve got our number one for the next regime to build around…right?

Oh…sooooooooo…about that…the Bills are benching their best QB so he doesn’t get hurt, because if he gets hurt, we have to pay him, and we don’t intend to pay him. Next year. His contract. We’re letting him go, and we’ll be relying on EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones next year. Or a version of Tony Romo that comes free with a neck brace and a few rolls of duct tape, just in case something falls off midgame.

But, Sammy’s back! (Knock on wood.)

And the Sabres. Of all of the teams in all of the leagues in all of the world, we had to fall in love with this one. The American Red Cross has set up a triage tent outside of Key Bank Center. The Pegulas are flying to DC to lobby FOR Obamacare. Team doctors have started off-ice training programs of hours-long games of Operation, just to prepare for the next awful thing to occur.

The flashes of brilliance that occasionally take place on the ice are tragically dimmed by the constant bright beacons of emergency vehicles coming to claim the next injured Sabre from their agony.

To say the team has suffered is barely a euphemism; the Buffalo Sabres injury list reads like a warzone report. And the fans suffer along with them; with expectations high in the second season of their rebuild, they’ve watched star after star fall to the ice clutching this part or that. With each mangame lost, hope dies a little more…and a little more…and a little…

Welp. I guess there’s none left. 2016 has taken its last victim – the hope of longtime Buffalo sports fans. It’s just…gone. There’s no talk of a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s barely any recognition of a tunnel at all. It’s just dank and dark and ultimately hopeless.

Perhaps it’s for the better. Expectations lead to disappointment, disappointment leads to escapism, escapism leads to Deadspin headlines. Perhaps a comfortably numb fandom is what Buffalo needs right now. Sit out a few plays. Get our minds right. Come back in 2018 bigger and better than ever.

Probably not, though, right? Like I said, we take futility all the way to the bitter, violent end. That may as well stretch to the utter futility that is the everyday life of a fan of Buffalo sports.

 


On behalf of the 716 Sports Podcast crew, I’d like to wish you and your family a Happy New Year. Few things give us as much joy as sharing our frustrations with the world’s best fans in the City of Good Neighbors. All bitter sarcasm aside, here’s to a joyous 2017. May your glass always be full. May you always have what you need, and often what you want. 

Jake Simmons makes history

Jake Simmons makes history

In August, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute announced the hiring of the school’s first African-American head coach. Professional basketball player and Buffalo 716er, Jake Simmons, was brought on board to coach the Marauder’s freshman basketball team.

A Rochester native, Simmons has stayed in the community most of his life. He attended Buffalo State, where he broke a 42-year old record, scoring 2,079 points in his four year career.

It’s been an interesting journey for the young man, who also works with youth in Western New York communities. Simmons feels that it’s the next step in his evolution though. “My journey to coaching was something that grew over time – the transition from being a player to a coach isn't a easy one,” Simmons admitted. “A lot of reality has to settle in your brain.”

“Its true that what they say, [it’s] the next best way to stay around the game…through coaching. Once I accepted my reality as a player and you can’t play forever, coaching just fit with my life and I actually enjoy it,” Simmons continued.

 

His first game as head coach was played on December 1. “I was a little nervous at first, because I didn't know how my guys were going to play,” he said. “I expected some mistakes and turnovers but I didn't expect them to play as well as they played. They looked really good.”

Simmons and his St. Joe’s freshmen defeated Lockport by 20 points. He said the feeling was unimaginable. As a native of the Western New York area, he is proud of his community and recognizes the importance of the position he’s stepped into. “I never thought I would be at the forefront of something of this magnitude. I always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and I think there is no better feeling than to be the first at anything.”

His winning attitude permeates everything he touches. “To me it just means I have higher success to fail ratio,” he said. “I like situations like this because it gives me no other option but to keep being successful.”

Simmons says he was surprised that St. Joe’s reached out to him. “Joes approached me. My friend Mike Whopper asked me if I wanted to coach during one summer league game and he is the JV coach for Joes.”

“Throughout the summer, we had a minor conversation about it.” After this conversation, Simmons understood how serious the thought had become. “That's when I began to let reality sink in and I thought about the possibilities and opportunities. I figured if I made the most of this one then they [the possibilities] can be endless. So I truly thank St. Joe’s.”

Simmons is nothing short of a pioneer. His role as St. Joe’s head coach is certainly historic, but he is also a longstanding member of Buffalo’s first professional basketball team since the Buffalo Braves. “716ers is an organization that deserves a lot of respect and support. That organization loves the city of Buffalo and understands the importance of basketball.”

“Being a part of the 716ers is forever for me,” Simmons stated. “My relationship with the owner Tawan Slaughter is one that makes everything possible because it is more than basketball and her and I have similar backgrounds. She is like family to me.”

Behind the gravitas, Simmons remains humble. He’s quick to mention those who came before him. “With all due respect to the late great Randy Smith, I am happy to be walking in his shadow because he was such an amazing man. I want to bring that feeling back to Buffalo and the impact that he had on the city.”

When Simmon’s isn’t teaching, playing, or coaching, he’s encouraging others to pursue their dreams. His #NowMe program is motivating young Western New Yorkers.

 

Simmons gets excited when he talks about #NowMe’s impact. “#NowMe simply means to make the most of every opportunity! When you receive the chance to prove yourself, show the world why you are great! From one opportunity its up to you to create more.”

He advises young men and women to change their perspective. “Instead of saying ‘Why me?’ and blaming others for failures or mishaps in your life, accept the things you cannot change because complaining doesn't help. The things you can change? You change them so that they benefit you as a human being and leader for your community and even go as far as to spark change in the world.”

Truly, a better person could not have been chosen to lead the Marauder’s freshmen onto the floor. His path hasn’t been the smoothest, but he has always maintained a positive outlook and has persevered through any challenge he’s faced. He is now a pioneering professional basketball player, a coach making history, a motivational leader, and an inspiration to everyone in his community.

SOS: An open letter to Pegula Sports and Entertainment

Ms. Pegula,

As a you are champion of the city of Buffalo, I would imagine that you are well versed on the plight of one of the Queen City’s professional sports teams. Nearly one week ago, the women’s hockey world awoke to the devastating news that the players of the National Women’s Hockey League – whose average salaries are already less than most part-time workers – would see an intense decrease in their income. The original report of 50 percent seems to be erroneous; recent statements from players have the decrease between 60 and 65 percent. The Buffalo Beauts are founding members of this fledgling league.

I am certain that being the majority owner of an NFL team keeps you very busy, so this news may have gone unnoticed. For this reason, I am compelled to bring it to your attention.

I don’t think I have to explain the importance of a league like the NWHL. While I can’t speak for New York, Boston, or North Branford (which hosts the Connecticut team,) the existence of the Beauts has recharged local interest in girls’ hockey. After Buffalo’s first game in October 2015, a local hockey rink indicated their numbers for girls’ tryouts tripled.

The league has made a few mistakes in their brief existence, but they have never faltered in their commitment to the community; the players, the NWHL itself, and their corporate sponsor Dunkin Donuts have all been very visible at camps, clinics, and in general community outreach. Players visit local hospitals. The league held their first tournament for girls ages 10-14 on opening weekend.

If the league’s financial issues were to be its doom, women’s sports as a whole would suffer a crushing blow. At a time when efforts are being made on a national level to end the marginalization of women in our National Team programs, it could not be more imperative to advocate for their success. Across America, the battle for equality rages, perhaps stronger than ever. The measured success of the National Women’s Soccer League is an indication that there is a national interest in women’s sports. Attendance records were set more than once this season.

The NWSL team that trains in Buffalo’s suburbs won the championship, by the way. While our two major teams struggle through mediocrity, our city has a rich history of success in sports with smaller markets.

The NWHL would benefit from several things that yourself and Pegula Sports and Entertainment have to offer. Aside from the financial support that the league needs so badly, Pegula SE is a national brand with cutting edge marketing, public relations, and social media – all of which could immediately improve the league and its appeal. It is a company that has created dozens of jobs in our regional market, and given the citizens of Western New York the ability to work with the teams they love in a hands-on environment.

Most importantly, though, Pegula SE is THE high watermark for the support of women in sports. Your family has been among the leaders in this sort of advocacy, and it is well known that members of your family are themselves proud athletes. We are proud, too, that Buffalo is represented by people who understand the importance of equality in this regard.

With all of this in mind, I submit that it may be in the interest of PSE to take a close look at the NWHL. I cannot imagine a limit to their success, if only given the tools the league needs to succeed. Your expertise, understanding of the market, and access to the necessary tools are exactly what the league needs to take the next step forward.

Often, a player will share a photo of themselves with a young girl staring up at them in amazement. Those young girls are your daughter. They’re my daughters. They’re the next generation of athletes poised on the precipice of seeing their greatest dreams realized. You have the power to make these dreams come true. I implore you to take action in that regard.

On behalf of 716 Sports Podcast, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.

A call to action: Support Buffalo hockey

A call to action: Support Buffalo hockey

In a report from Toronto, The Fourth Period editor-in-chief David Pagnotta states that the NWHL’s financial state has forced them to take drastic action. On November 28, the league notified its players that each will have to take a 50% pay cut in order for the league to remain solvent.

With no statement from the league, it is difficult to address exactly what led to this decision, but several news items over the last year allow one to safely assume the league is struggling to find sponsors and investors. Former investing partners have threatened lawsuits, and the league is awaiting adjudication on some of these pending issues. There was also a series of leaked e-mails between the NWHL and Bauer Hockey regarding missed payments on equipment. Bauer has recently filed for bankruptcy.

The report comes at an odd time. Days after announcing a broadcasting deal with Cheddar (a business news network on Sling TV,) the players are dealt this heavy blow. With most living already on a part-time salary, certainly this additional financial hardship will have an effect on the players off the ice.

At this time, only one corporate sponsor is on board with the league. Dunkin Donuts has increased their presence at games in the NWHL’s second season, and appear to be committed to the league and the growth of the sport.

There has very clearly been a focus on game presentation at the HarborCenter this year, with a distinct effort to make each game an event. Regardless of the hard work of the staff, and the world-class product on the ice, attendance has visibly been down, though numbers have not been released by the league.

The Buffalo Beauts, and the league itself, appear to have garnered a very loyal fanbase, however, the commitment has not come from enough people to grow the league at the rate that is required. There seems a tenuous relationship with local mainstream media, which is to say that there is almost no coverage of the league or its games by regional television or radio news, and very little by the local newspaper.

Buffalo is a tough market to break into, though; most Beauts games occur on Sunday afternoons that are mainly earmarked for slumping on one’s couch and watching another disappointing Bills loss. The city calls itself Hockey Heaven, but the moniker rings hollow following this news.

This is, if nothing else, a call to action. I defy every set of eyes that passes over this to join the Buffalo Beauts at HarborCenter this Sunday, November 20, for their last home game of 2016. Bring the kids. Nearly a dozen local mascots will be there, and they’ll be doling out hugs, high fives, and free cupcakes. It’s time we got off our high hockey horse and started actually supporting the local hockey teams, instead of wasting all of our time telling the world we support the local hockey teams. Actions, my friends speak louder than words. Puck drop is 3:30. Join us.


ISO: Class 5 healer

ISO: Class 5 healer

2016 is without a doubt the year of heartbreaking losses. Prince. Lemmy. Leonard Cohen. Janet Reno. CSI: Cyber.

This autumn has been no less awful, particularly for Buffalo sports fans. After a seemingly endless string of key injuries for the Bills, the Sabres have made a strong bid to win the battle of attrition (if winning means the team with the highest attrition.)

This weekend, 43.39% of the Buffalo Bills original 53-manroster is named on the injured, PUP, or injured reserve list. Nearly half of the players to don a Bills uniform this season have pulled quads, shredded tendons, or seen their leg fold completely over itself in a place without a joint. Damn, did that look painful.

 

Few can forget that fateful moment with eight minutes left in practice before the start of the regular season which saw sophomore superstar Jack Eichel’s ankle give way under the immense pressure placed on his young shoulders.

Each team is floating a few games under .500 – an astounding feat to some, considering the insurmountable mountain of injuries that continues to pile up for both teams. While it is as true as any other sports cliché that all teams deal with injuries, it also seems to be true that something in the Lake Erie waters seems to be sucking the living essence out of our athletes. Time after time, we watch them fall to the ground, muscles atrophied. Bones brittle. Breath short and with a slight hitch.

These setbacks could not have come at a worse time for Buffalo sports fans. It was Tyrod’s second season as a starter, and expectations were deservedly high. Even the national media was giving Buffalo some propers, predicting playoffs for the first time since Slick Willy and his Sexy Saxamophone blared the Benny Hill theme on the White House lawn.

It’s even worse for the Sabres, who took a giant leap forward last season. They were all but guaranteed to deeply entrenched in a battle for the eighth spot in the East. Their growing list of injuries is a veritable roster of ‘who’s gonna save us.’ Every single player brought in over the last two seasons to help this team is missing time, or has missed time.

Except Sam Reinhart. Buffalo owes him a beer, for sure.

This season, for both teams, was supposed to be a measuring stick. It was supposed to show us what we’ve invested in, financially and emotionally, over the last…well…lifetime, I guess, if we’re really keeping score. It was the payoff for all of the pain and suffering of the tank. The rebate on the Saint Doug era. The redemption that every citizen of the Queen City craves so damned much.

In a somewhat comical fashion, all if it is melting away slowly, like the plot to a bad movie, where the hero suffers Jobian tragedies over and over, and picks themselves up time and time again, until that one time our protagonist can’t. Flat on the canvas, arena swimming, referee counting to 10, the darkeness overtakes everything. When we fade back in, our hero has lost it all. Desolate on a ratty chair in an empty apartment, one last glass is filled with cheap bourbon before the camera fades once again. End credits. “Punch Drunk, A Buffalo Story.”

All of this tragically Buffalo luck might lead one to ask, “What witchery has befallen us? Is it possible that Bill Belichick is a warlock, and his coven of Brady and the Koch brothers chant incantations long into the night, poising the precious tides of the world’s largest fresh –water source? DAMN YOU BELICHICK’S COVEN!

“Is it Canada? It’s Canada isn’t it? They hate us because we have Tim Hortons and no GST. DAMN YOU CANADA!

“I bet it was Deadspin. When our teams are bad, we do stupid things. When we do stupid things, Deadspin gets content. When they get content, it goes viral. When it goes viral, they get paid. DAMN YOU DEADSPIN!”

Perhaps it’s the balance in the universe. All of our condemning: Boston, Miami, most of Canada, the Jets, Philly, Crosby – we hate a lot. I mean A LOT. Is the universe offering us the opportunity to resolve our hate in some unwritten ransom note?

 

Whatever payback it is, I speak on behalf of all Buffalo fans when I say, “We’re sorry. We didn’t mean anyone any harm. Whatever it was we’ve done to become the object of your spite, we’re sorry.”

Before signing off, please join me. “Hockey Gods, hear our prayer. Please, for the love of…you…protect Samson and keep him safe from harm. In the name of the Gretzky and the Howe and the Flying Orr. Amen.”

Editorial: Kessel vs Canada

Editorial: Kessel vs Canada

At the outset, I want to say that I have nothing but the utmost respect for our friends to the north. Life in a border city is amazing, and there are so many things I get to enjoy from Canada that most people don’t – Tim Horton’s, of course, a great rivalry with Toronto, and perhaps best of all, The Tragically Hip on regular radio rotation.

With that being said, I am compelled to beg Canada to stop. Please, for the love of everything that his holy, stop giving Don Cherry a forum for his rarely rational or relevant ranting.

Canada’s most famous blowhard is at it again, blowing hard. His NHL playing career is nearly as short as mine, so how he ever came to be considered an expert and a national treasure, I’ll never understand. But, here we are, and here he is…again.

In case you have been living under a rock, Team USA has been embarrassed in every pool play matchup in this year’s World Cup of Hockey. In their most recent gaffe the team lost 4-1 against Canada, who appear to be poised to go undefeated in the tournament and FINALLY take an NHL championship trophy back to the motherland.

The American team was damned from the start. Despite a few talented skaters peppering the roster, there were also too many plodding bodies – the type that take up space and try to hit big (missing more often than not) like Dustin Byfuglien did three times against Canada. There was also the curious addition of Erik Johnson, who was the least qualified of the seventeen players named Johnson in the NHL.

It was said that the team was put together like this in order to shut down Canada’s high-flying offense. In essence, they were to muck up the play, hope for a mistake and take home a 1-0 victory in front of 20,000 sleeping fans at the ACC.

Clearly, they failed in their mission. Passing over talent and skill for size and ‘grit’ (thanks, TJ Oshie) was a recipe for the disaster that the US team has turned out to be.

Enter Phil Kessel, who watched the steady dismantling of his countrymen from the comfort of his plush leather couch, probably. With his faithful canine companion by his side, Kessel munched Cheetos out of the Stanley Cup and laughed while Goliath played cat and mouse with David in one of the most tragic hockey games I’ve seen in a long time. And I watched most of The Tank. So...yeah. It was bad.

As the game came to an end, Kessel took to everyone’s favorite social media platform to take a dig at Dean Lombardi and John Tortorella, who had engineered this Frankenstein monster of a team.

“Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it.” Insert the maniacal laughter of millions of disappointed Americans, who realize what could have been but never will be.

Kessel’s tweet was important, for many reasons. First of all, he wasn’t saying anything the fans weren’t thinking. Secondly, things like this don’t happen enough. No one on the roster was willing to step to Tortorella during the tournament, when he ranted about politics. No one in hockey looked at Lombardi and said, “You’re kidding, right? This is your team? Dude…you’re going to get CRUSHED.” I could go on and on, but the point is made.

And then there’s Don Cherry. Canada’s most famous export is Cherry’s weekly rants from yesteryear, reminding us how it was in the good old days, when only white guys played hockey and everyone smoked on the bench. No helmets, just mustaches and blood and broken bones. Everyone respected everyone and they showed it by routinely hitting them in the spine and kidneys with compressed wooden sticks. If you had extra respect, you just punched them in the face.

After Kessel’s tweet, Cherry popped back from high above the action in Toronto. ““AH YA KNOW KESSEL WAS PLAYIN’ IT PERFECT AND THEN HE HAD TO GO AFTER THEY LOST AND SAY THOSE THINGS. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. AND NOW YOU KNOW WHY NOBODY WANTED HIM IN BOSTON. WHY HE DIDN’T MAKE THE THE ALL-STAR TEAM. AND WHY THEY GOT RID OF HIM IN TORONTO. YOU JUST DON’T DO THOSE THINGS WHEN GUYS ARE DOWN. I DON’T KNOW WHY KESSEL DID THAT. HE WAS PLAYING IT PERFECT.” Caps lock because that’s how Cherry speaks.

 Who really got rid of who in Toronto, Don? That’s the best question, I think. Kessel was sick of the criticism and sick of the pressure on what was one of the worst teams in hockey, and do you know what happened when he left? THEY BECAME THE ACTUAL WORST TEAM IN HOCKEY. Laughable in their arrogance, Toronto will say that they were lucky to be rid of that Stanley Cup winning, playoff MVP contending slob. I bet as they sat around the locker room, high fiving while jerseys are tossed on the ice by fans, they were saying, “Hey, isn’t it great that Phil’s not here?”

 Maybe. Maybe not. But I bet Kessel thinks he got the better end of that deal. And I do, too. Since I’ve only played one less NHL game than Don Cherry, I guess I’m an expert. Where’s my syndicated hockey segment?

Buffalo 716ers Looking to Bring First Professional Basketball Championship Title Back Home

Buffalo 716ers Looking to Bring First Professional Basketball Championship Title Back Home

Spring has sprung, hockey playoffs are on, and there's a Buffalo team competing for a championship! Sorry, Sabres fans, but those last two statements are unrelated. It's the PBL's Buffalo 716ers generating a buzz this week as they prepare to travel to Rochester to face off with the Rochester Razorsharks in the PBL's Northeast Division championship game this upcoming Sunday.

This is Buffalo's first taste of playoff basketball since 1976, before the Braves took their talents to Coronado Beach, and there's definitely reasons to get excited about this team. As anyone who came out to watch the 716ers play this season at ECC's Burt Flickinger Athletic Center can tell you, this is a team that plays with a high level of energy at both ends of the floor, which is aided by the tremendous depth that the team has shown, going with a ten man rotation in a number of their previous games this season. The team averages over 100 points per game during their regular season run, fueled by stellar backcourt play from guards Devon Dawson, Jonny Marsh, and Lester Jones, amongst a slew of others who need just that little bit of separation to make a defender hang his head heading back upcourt.

While this is the 716ers first playoff appearance since only recently joining the PBL, their opponents are no stranger to this kind of spotlight. The Rochester Razorsharks have been a member of the league since it's inception for the 2007-2008 season, and are five time league champions, hoisting the trophy the last two seasons. Their depth, both inside and outside, has proven to be a matchup problem for opponents all season, as they come into this Sunday's contest with in 18-2 record, and a 33 game home winning streak. This will be the third matchup between the two teams, with Rochester winning by 13 at home, and beating the 716ers by 8 in Buffalo, the 716ers only home loss of the season.

In true Buffalo sports spirit, though, you won't see this team backing down from a challenge. Having been a part of broadcasting the second meeting between these two teams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFIe2MCrG8Y), I can definitely say these are two evenly matched teams when both of them are on their game. This is one of those matchups that could easily come down to one key defensive stop or momentum shifting three pointer. If the 716ers can show more of the heart and tenacity they showed throughout this season, this Sunday could be another stepping stone in a climb to bringing a basketball championship to Buffalo for the first time in history.


If you're interested in attending the game this Sunday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester at 2pm, the team is chartering a bus that costs you $25 for a seat and includes a ticket to the game.  Ride with the team and have an opportunity to witness Buffalo sports history!  We'll be there!  Will you?