Over the past several nights, I’ve been going back in time in my mind. It was the fall of 1994 and the winter of 1995. I was barely out of college, didn’t really know what I was doing as a journalist and I was living in an upstairs apartment in an old house in Buffalo, New York.
Blame it on hockey.
Since the NHL playoffs began, I have found myself interested in this series between the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers. I’ve caught some of it on the NHL Network (because Versus and NBC seem to have far more interest in other series) and thought kind of longingly of my six months or so in Buffalo.
I was working a temporary gig for the Associated Press. I helped cover the Bills at times, on several occasions I drove down to Olean to cover St. Bonaventure basketball (including once when the opponent was a John Calipari-led UMass team) and I covered a bunch of Sabres games.
While I have a very soft spot in my heart for some of the other places I’ve lived including Phoenix, Cincinnati and Raleigh, I rarely even think about my time in Buffalo. That’s kind of too bad. It was a good experience. Because of a NHL labor issue, I covered some interesting things. I once waited outside of the NHL offices in Toronto with a bunch of media from Canada. I covered a 4-on-4 hockey thing with NHL stars in Hamilton. I went to a OHL game in Niagara Falls to write a story about the younger brother of Eric Lindros.
The AP offices were located in the Buffalo News, so I got to know a number of people on their staff. I became friends with Jerry Sullivan and Mike Harrington. I learned a bunch about hockey from Jim Kelley and it was a sad day this winter when he died because he couldn’t have been nicer. I remember seeing Christian Laettner’s father, who worked at the News, I think in the press room or something.
But after seeing playoff hockey back in Buffalo, I think about the Aud. It was such a wonderful old building for hockey. It was loud, the fans cared, it was pretty cool. I remember how there was no elevator from the press box to the arena floor. I remember how tiny the locker rooms. I remember the first time I covered a postgame in which the coach (in this case Marc Crawford of the then-Quebec Nordiques) answered questions in French and then talked to the rest of us in English afterwards. I think it is cool that because of Buffalo’s proximity to the border — and that a good chunk of its fan base is on the other side of the border — that they play both the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada before every game, regardless of opponent.
I actually covered the groundbreaking of the building the Sabres currently play in, the HSBC Arena. It was initially called Marine Midland Arena. It is just down the street from the Aud and basically across the street from the News.
There are other memories as well. There was the convenience store down the street where I would buy papers. There was the Elmwood Taco and Sub that seemed like the greatest place for late night food ever. There was the time the Vikings were in town and we went for dinner and a certain columnist told the waitress at the infamous Anchor Bar to bring us “a hundred wings.” I remember day trips to Toronto if for no other reason than because I could.
I’ve only been back to Buffalo once since I left in March 1995. When I covered North Carolina, the Tar Heels played at game at the U at Buffalo because Ed Cota had ties to the Bulls staff. It was a quick in-and-out trip, but the day of the game, I went up to Niagara Falls and crossed the border with my guy from the Durham paper in part because he had never been to Canada.
I would love to go back to visit. It would probably be preferable if it happened in the summer since I’ve pretty much only been there when there has been snow on the ground. Because of that, I’ve been following this Sabres-Flyers series pretty closely. The past two games, I’ve listened to a little of it on the XM feed of WGR in Buffalo. I’ve gone to the Buffalo News site and read stories. And I find myself pulling for the team from the Western New York city that has had more downs than ups in recent years.
On the topic of Buffalo, here is a cool video that the Hockey Night in Canada crew did on the Aud a few years ago before it was torn down.
Other items on my mind:
Is April the best sports month? I know people love March, but I’m now of the belief that April is better. In most years, you get the NCAA basketball title game, you get the Masters, you get baseball’s opening day and you get the beginning of the NBA and NHL playoffs. And how good have the playoffs been? There have been great games in both sports on nearly a nightly basis. And I don’t even want to hear people say how the NCAA tournament is better than the NBA playoffs.
How about those Twins? I have been accused of being negative and being a cynic, but I didn’t think they’d be this bad. I had more concerns about the bullpen than most (which has shown to be at least somewhat of a legit concern). I told people that Pavano needed to again be good and eat innings for this team to be good (he has been average). But I didn’t think the bats would be this cold. While the season is long, the Twins are 10 percent into the season. At some point in the next few weeks things will go from this being a slow start to being a legit concern.
If you miss my golf posts: I’ve been trying to spare you from my golf-obsessed ramblings. Want them? Click over to onlygolfmatters.com and read away.
That’s all I’ve got for now.