Three days from now, Rick Jeanneret will be in Toronto to receive the Foster Hewitt Award for excellence in broadcasting, an honor that is recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame. But if his 92-year-old mother, Kay, had her way, she’d get the party started today.
“She’s pumped,” Jeanneret said today while meeting with the media at First Niagara Center, in the hallway outside the dressing room that honors the team’s history. “I just talked to her a little while ago, and she’s ready to roll. She’d go to Toronto now if they wanted to leave.”
Kay will be part of the family entourage that will bus to Toronto on Monday morning to celebrate her son’s latest honor. In the last few months, Rick Jeanneret has been inducted into both the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame, to go along with his induction into the Sabres Hall of Fame last November. He also received an honorary doctorate from Canisius College in May.
It’s quite a turn of events for the legendary Sabres play-by-play voice, who used to deny all requests for any kind of career achievement awards, saying her preferred to wait until he was retired from the broadcast booth before being feted with such honors. But as time went on, being able to celebrate these events with his mother became the driving force for the NHL’s longest-tenured broadcaster.
“To be honest, when this all started -- and it started with the Sabres Hall of Fame -- it was (Sabres VP of Public Relations) Mike Gilbert who talked me into it,” explains Jeanneret. “I was going to wait until my career was over before I allowed my name to be nominated for any of the Halls. But once I sat down and talked to Mike, and we talked about my mother, we thought that maybe we should do this now while she’s still around and can still appreciate it. Even though I knew that once I accepted one there’d be others. But I’m running out of them now.”
Sabres.com will have full coverage of Jeanneret’s big day on Monday, including video of his acceptance speech. Also follow us on Twitter @BuffaloSabres for live updates throughout the day from Toronto.
Sabres employees were part of a group of more than 150 volunteers who gathered today on the arena floor at First Niagara Center to package 40,000 meals for hungry kids and families in the WNY area, as well as some of the hardest-hit areas of New York City and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
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Working in partnership with the Lutheran Charities of Western New York, the meals were packaged in just over two hours, before being loaded on trucks and sent out for delivery immediately. Locally, 35,000 of the meals will be delivered to food pantries and homes across WNY, while 5,000 meals will be driven to the New York City/New Jersey area to help stock food pantries and mobile soup kitchens assisting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The third annual USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the National Hockey League and hosted by the Buffalo Sabres, got underway this morning at the Northtown Center at Amherst in Williamsville, N.Y. The action runs through Sunday when the semifinal and championship games will take place.
Pool A: Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Colorado, New York Rangers
Pool B: Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay
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Buffalo, Buffalo (Vets), Carolina, Washington
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Each of the 14 competing teams are affiliated with NHL clubs – Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
Below are the basic parameters of the weekend:
*Sled hockey teams participating in the tournament must have an official affiliation with a NHL member club, and will represent NHL club by wearing official NHL licensed jersey with local Club marks and logos.
*Roster limit for each team is eighteen (18) players. Three (3) able-bodied players will be allowed per team.
*No able-bodied player will be allowed to fill the Goalkeeper position.
*Games will begin Friday morning (Nov. 9) and conclude on Sunday afternoon (Nov. 11).
*A round robin format will be played Fri. and Sat.; the semi-finals and championship games to be played on Sun.
*All USA Hockey National Championship rules apply.
The event is part of November's Come Play Hockey Month, a joint effort of USA Hockey and the NHL.
NOTES: The Colorado Avalanche hosted the inaugural USA Hockey Sled Classic in 2010. The Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey Team won the four-team tournament … In 2011, the Philadelphia Flyers held the event in Vorhees, N.J., where the Buffalo Sabres Sled Hockey Team took first place among nine teams … Participating teams in the tournament must have an official affiliation with an NHL member club … November is the second annual Come Play Hockey Month.
Haven’t had a chance to keep up with the Rochester Americans so far this season? Don’t fret. Here’s a quick primer to get you in the know for Tuesday’s “home” game against the Hamilton Bulldogs at First Niagara Center. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
- The Amerks are 3-2-0 through their first five games, and are currently on a two-game winning streak. Their six points place them third in AHL’s North Division, and fifth overall in the Western Conference.
- Rochester is nine-for-29 on the power play, good for fourth overall in the AHL at 31.0%. Their nine power play markers are also the most in the league. They are 4/19 at home, and 5/10 on the road – including converting on four of six opportunities in an 8-7 win at Hershey on Saturday.
- The eight goals scored against Hershey are the most in one game by any AHL team so far in the 2012-13 season. The 15 combined goals are also a single-game high. Rochester averages four goals for/game, while allowing an average of 4.20.
- While the power play has sizzled, Rochester’s penalty killing has fizzled. They’ve allowed a league-high nine power play goals, and rank 27th in the AHL on the PK at 70.0% (21/30).
- Despite their 3-2-0 record, the Amerks have been outshot in all five games and have allowed a league-high 178 shots on goal.
- Marcus Foligno leads the team in scoring, and is second in the AHL with eight points in five games. His five goals are tied for the league lead with Syracuse’s Tyler Johnson. Foligno posted a career-high four points (2+2) in Saturday’s win over Hershey.
- Cody Hodgson has yet to score a goal, but his seven assists are tops in the AHL. The 22-year-old center is tied for second in team scoring with T.J. Brennan, and has picked up at least one point in four of Rochester’s five games.
- T.J. Brennan leads all AHL defensemen in scoring with seven points (3+4) in five games, with five of his seven points coming on the power play. He’s also tied with Mark Mancari for the team lead in shots on goal with 15.
- David Leggio has played every minute of the season in net for the Amerks, and leads all AHL goaltenders in minutes played (302:01) and saves (157). In five games he has a 3.97 GAA and .897 save%.
- The Amerks were 3-5-1-1 in 10 games against Hamilton last season: 2-2-0-1 at home; 1-3-1-0 on the road. In 152 games all-time vs. Hamilton, the Amerks have a record of 75-67-10.
- Hamilton – Montreal’s AHL affiliate – has played a league-low three games this season, compiling a record of 2-1-0. After opening the season with wins over Grand Rapids and Toronto, the Bulldogs were blanked 5-0 by the Marlies on Saturday.
- Aaron Palushaj leads the Bulldogs in scoring with three points (2+1) in three games, while top Montreal prospect Louis Leblanc is tied with Palushaj for the team lead in goals with two.
Whether you’re in Buffalo, or just a short drive away on either end of the I-90, there are several quality options available this weekend if you want to watch some live hockey.FRIDAY
OHL: Brampton @ Erie, 7 p.m. (Erie Insurance Arena)
It’s the home opener for the Otters, after starting the season with five straight road games. Erie is led by 15-year-old sensation Connor McDavid who leads all OHL rookies with six (1+5) points. Buffalo-native Dylan Blujus, a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in June, plays for Brampton.
NCAA: Bowling Green @ Niagara, 4 p.m. (Dwyer Arena)
The Purple Eagles open up their 2012-13 schedule against the Falcons in their only Saturday afternoon home game of the year. Niagara was 17-11-9 last season, and was picked to finish second in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) preseason poll.
OHL: London @ Erie, 7 p.m. (Erie Insurance Arena)
Erie closes out a set of back-to-back home games against the London Knights, who feature a familiar name in high-scoring forward Max Domi. After scoring 16 goals in their first two games, London has only scored twice in their last two games.
University of Ottawa @ RIT, 7 p.m. (Ritter Arena)
The Tigers get their first game action of the year with an exhibition tilt versus the visiting University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. RIT returns 16 players from last season’s squad, including 2012 leading scorer and All-AHA second team selection Mike Colavecchia.
Wilfrid Laurier University @ Mercyhurst, 7 p.m. (Mercyhurst Ice Center)
With 23 returning players, the Lakers look to improve on the 2011-12 season that saw them post a 201-6-4 record and advance all the way to the AHA semifinals. Tonight’s game is an exhibition contest against the Wilfred Laurier (University) Golden Hawks from Waterloo, Ont.
University of Ottawa @ Canisius, 2 p.m. (Buffalo State Ice Arena)
Head coach Dave Smith’s Griffs hit the ice for the first time this season against the barnstorming Gee-Gees in an exhibition affair. Canisius doesn’t play a regular season home game until they host Air Force on October 25, following two-game trips to Alaska (Kendall Hockey Classic tournament) and Western Michigan.
Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert were back at First Niagara Center today, as the Sabres unveiled the first plaques that will be placed on the bricks in Alumni Plaza. Every player in Sabres history will be immortalized with plaque depicting the date of their first game with the team. The brick project is just another historical element in Alumni Plaza, which will also include a seven-foot high French Connection statue that will be revealed to the public on Friday, October 12.
According to Perreault, the statue will be just “another cherry” on the top of his Hall of Fame career with the Sabres.
“It’s not something that I ever expected at the start of my career, and it’s going to be a great honor to see that,” Perreault said today. “A lot of tourists will come to Buffalo (to see it). I know that people from Quebec will come take a picture in front of the statue. I also know that people from my hometown are going to come down here for sure. It’s going to be a great souvenir for them.”
Robert echoed Perreault’s sentiments, saying that just playing in the NHL was good enough for him.
“It never crossed my mind one bit; believe me when I say that. I just wanted to play in the NHL, which I lived. I lived my dream. This is certainly way beyond my expectations. This is much, much bigger than I ever anticipated.”
The two also lamented the absence of their former linemate Rick Martin, who passed away suddenly in March 2011. The statue will permanently reunite the high-scoring trio in front of First Niagara Center.
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“Rico might be gone, but he’s still with us every day,” said Robert. “Yesterday, Gilbert and I played golf. When we got to the seventh hole at Park (Country Club) we started talking about Rico. He was not only a good hockey player, he was a great icon. You can never forget what Rick Martin has done for the city of Buffalo, not only as a player but with the charities he was involved with.”
“It’s sad that Rick is not here. Spiritually he’s here, but physically he’s not,” explained Perreault. “He’s always in our heart.”
Joining Perreault and Robert at today’s press conference was Mike Casullo of North Tonawanda, who became the first fan to purchase an Alumni Plaza brick when they went on sale during the summer.
Casullo said his record-setting brick purchase was purely coincidence.
“I had been getting the emails, and always intended to purchase one,” said the longtime Sabres fan. “I just happened to be on my lunch break one day, and figured ‘why don’t I just do it now?’”
|Mark Pysyk (Photo: Sabres.com)|
It probably wasn’t the scene that Ron Rolston expected to see on the first day of training camp for the Rochester Americans. Not only was the head coach able to run his troops through their paces in the cozy confines of First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo, but he had a whopping 34 players in attendance. Normally AHL camps open with a bare bones roster, and don’t increase until final cuts are made from the parent club. With the Sabres in lockout mode, the second-year bench boss was enjoying having to deal with two groups of 17 players.
“It’s quite a bit different. Usually you have to wait for guys to get sent down. I think at last year’s camp we started with just three lines,” said Rolston. “But it’s a great scenario for us to have this many players and this much depth. When you look at the guys out there, we have 10 defensemen on the ice that can play in this league at a very high level. It’s the same up front; we’ve got a lot of depth up there. It’s a good situation for us because right off the bat it puts us in an environment where we have to be competitive, and the guys have to compete for jobs. That’s the kind of team we want to be – difficult to play against. I think this is just going to add to that because of the competition here.”
Sabres GM Darcy Regier spoke to the media following today’s second session, and said he’s already started to make use of the free time that he’s been afforded due to the lockout.
“I actually got up to Quebec City; I saw (Mikhail) Grigorenko play last weekend in his first two games (with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts),” Regier said. “I will see more junior games, do more scouting. And obviously we’ll spend a lot of time in Rochester. But we’ll find ways to get better as an organization in this period as well.”
Regier was impressed with Grigorenko’s play last weekend, saying that he’s already shown improvement since watching him at the Canada-Russia Junior Challenge series in August.
“Offensively he had six points – four in the first game and two in the second. I actually liked his play in the second game more, when he set up the first two goals. I’d seen him in Halifax (in August), and he was more involved five-on-five this time. That’s a very good hockey club that Patrick Roy has in Quebec and he’s a big part of it. He’s their number one center and he’s playing with a couple of really good players. It’s a good team, and I think Patrick expects him to be the go-to-guy when he’s there. It’s an opportunity for him to grow as well.”
Forward Mark Mancari arrived at camp a shell of his former self. The 6-foot-4 winger returned to Buffalo 20 pounds lighter, after spending last season with the Vancouver Canucks organization. A seventh-round pick of the Sabres in 2004, Mancari realized that bigger isn’t better, and reported to camp at a svelte 208 pounds.
“I spent the summer working extremely hard. I lost a lot of weight, and I tried to work on my foot speed a little bit,” explained Mancari. “I think with the NHL changing, and rules changing, I thought that being big, heavy and strong was the way to go. Obviously I think I made a mistake in that decision. This year being lighter, I already feel better out there. It’s only been one skate but I definitely feel better, and I feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction.”
Mancari has posted back-to-back 30+ goal seasons, and has averaged almost 30 goals over his last four AHL campaigns. Regier was pleased to see the changes that Mancari has made, and believes he can make an immediate impact in Rochester.
“If you look at what was one of the inhibitors of him making the next step, it was foot speed. When you lose that weight, that’s certainly going to help with your feet. He’s a smart player and someone who works hard on improving. He’s a leaner, meaner Mark Mancari who can score goals, and I think that’s great for the organization.”
Forward Evan Rankin was the only player missing from today’s on-ice sessions, as he was battling a virus.
It’s an early wake-up call for the players on Saturday, with practices scheduled for 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. at First Niagara Center. These are both closed to the public. The Amerks will open the Rochester portion of training camp on Sunday at Blue Cross Arena at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
General admission tickets for the Amerks’ home preseason game at The Sports Centre at MCC versus the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7:05 p.m. are now on sale for $5 and can be purchased at the Customer Service desk inside The Sports Centre at MCC or at the Amerks Main Office located at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the ink barely dry on Patrick Kaleta’s new three-year deal, Darcy Regier continues to work on getting the team’s last remaining restricted free agent under contract.
Coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him score 15 goals and 19 assists in 48 games, the 22-year-old Ennis remains unsigned with training camp set to begin in late September. Regier says that talks have been ongoing, and is confident a deal will get done soon.
“We spoke with his agent yesterday and I think that will continue today,” Regier told the media today at First Niagara Center. “The positive is that it’s moving in the right direction.”
Regier also confirmed today that he has not met with unrestricted free agent Shane Doan, and nothing is scheduled for now. But with multiple media outlets reporting that Doan is in Vancouver today meeting with Canucks management, Regier said the Sabres would definitely have an interest in talking to with the 35-year-old Doan if he continues to make his North American tour of possible landing spots.
“What I would say about Shane’s situation is that I admire the level of loyalty he’s provided to Phoenix. He’s spent his whole career with that organization, and I think that’s meaningful and I admire that. But in the event he’s not going to stay there, we certainly do have an interest.”
The Sabres lost 334 man games to injury last season – the equivalent of losing four regulars from the lineup each night. Despite playing a career-high 63 games, Kaleta missed 15 games as a result of three different injuries. Regier would like to avoid the injury bug again this season, and is hopeful that some subtle adjustments to the protective equipment will benefit an aggressive player like Kaleta.
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH DARCY REGIER
“I’m always hard on manufacturers because they build their equipment for the players, and the players are largely about comfort and lightness – but comfort and lightness doesn’t always work on the protection side,” explained Regier. “We’ve become a lot more involved in the equipment the players are wearing, along with the player. We go back to the manufacturers and let them know we’re not prepared to use their equipment because it doesn’t provide adequate protection. Because when Pat gets hurt, we don’t have as good a replacement as he is as a player.”
|Jake McCabe (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
It’s been an interesting past few weeks for defenseman Jake McCabe. Not only was the 18-year-old from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, selected in the second round (44th overall) of the NHL Entry Draft by the Sabres, he also had a front row seat to one of the most compelling dramas of the offseason.
Standing six feet tall and 195 pounds, McCabe is coming off an impressive freshman season at the University of Wisconsin where he posted 12 points (3+9) in 26 games. One of his teammates and close friends on the team just happened to be fellow blueliner Justin Schultz – the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers, and the star of what simply became known in the social media world as the “Schultz Watch.”
Drafted by Anaheim in 2008, Schultz went unsigned by the Ducks during his four-year signing period. He became a free agent in late June after leaving Wisconsin following his junior season, quickly making him one of the most sought-after unrestricted free agents in recent memory.
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW WITH JAKE McCABE
McCabe was living with Schultz throughout the courting process, and couldn’t believe what was unfolding before his eyes.
“He was pretty calm about it. That’s just his demeanor; it’s how he goes about things every day. He wasn’t cocky at all, but he had all the right to be. Twenty-six teams were after him, not many guys get that opportunity when you’re going to sign an entry-level contract,” explains McCabe. “Teams were just asking ‘come to us, come to us.’ He talked to some really cool people - guys like Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey gave him a call. They were trying to pull all his limbs each and every way. He talked to his family, and he thinks that Edmonton will be a great fit for him.”
Schultz’s ultimate decision gained attention across North America, but especially up north in Canada where it was compared to how LeBron James chose to play with the Miami Heat last summer. McCabe said the negative publicity was unwarranted, especially as some media painted the picture of Schultz being nothing more than an attention-seeking diva who had yet to play a game in the NHL.
“That whole ‘Schultz Watch’ thing kind of got blown out of proportion. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t want publicity; he doesn’t want things to get that big. But it did, and he handled it well,” McCabe said. “People were questioning his character, which is kind of ridiculous since they don’t even know the kid. In my opinion, he’s a great guy.”
McCabe has no doubt that Schultz will have an immediate impact with the young Oilers, and looks forward to seeing him play at the NHL level.
“He’s such a competitor. At every practice he’s the hardest worker out there. He’s always pushing to be better in every aspect of his life. I played golf with him the other day and he shot a four-under-par 68. He’s a great ping pong player, bowler. You name it. He strives to be the best at everything.”
Development camp concludes on Thursday night with the Blue & Gold Scrimmage at First Niagara Center. Game time is 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 each for general admission seating, and can be purchased at the First Niagara Center box office or online at Tickets.com. Parking is available for the scrimmage for $4 in the First Niagara Center ramp and $2 in the surface lot.
|Frederick Roy (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
Because he’s not a goalie, the name Frederick Roy doesn’t jump out at you on the development camp roster. A 92-point player with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts last season, the shifty, five-foot-10, center looks like just another camp invitee doing his best to impress Sabres management this week at First Niagara Center. But that’s where his anonymity ends.
Frederick is the son of Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, who played 18 years with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. These days, Patrick is the co-owner, head coach and general manager of the Remparts, a position that could have made life very interesting for father and son over the past few seasons. However, according to Frederick, it was never an issue.
“We knew that when we got to the rink it was business. I was just another player. At home we are really close, we are really good friends. It’s just that we work well together – he’s a good teacher and I’m a good student.
“He’s taught me one way to play the game – the hard way. It’s 100 percent every time I set foot on that ice; I give my heart and soul to the team I’m playing with.”
This can be an unsettling time of year for someone trying to earn a roster spot with the big club. Whether it’s the NHL Entry Draft, trades or free agency, there’s always seems to be some sort of roster shuffling going on that could affect your future. Corey Tropp explained that no matter how much you need to stay focused on your own personal goals, you can’t help but read or listen to all the offseason chatter.
“You pay attention to it; I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t. But I have a job, and that’s to compete, work my tail off and make the team coming out of camp. That’s what I’m striving for,” explains Tropp, who turns 23 on July 25. “At the end of the day you’ve just to got to think realistically that if you play well enough, and you’re working hard enough, your opportunity is gonna come.”
Tropp knows that he’ll be given every opportunity to possible to compete for a roster spot in training camp, after playing 34 games with the Sabres last season. But he also realizes that it’s not going to be handed to him.
“I think the staff here is very fair. If you perform better than somebody else, you’re gonna get that opportunity, and you’re gonna be that guy that maybe they thought the other guy was. My mindset is to control what I can control. Right now that’s getting myself prepared for September.”
Growing up as the son of an NHL’er, Marcus Foligno has experienced first-hand how quickly a player’s life can be uprooted by a trade. But he was reminded of it again recently when his brother Nick was dealt from Ottawa to Columbus on July 1. The brothers were together when the trade went down, so Marcus was there to see Nick’s immediate reaction.
“He took it well. I think he was shocked really. He loved Ottawa, the city and the community. Nick and his wife were very involved. One of the things about Nick is that he’s really good at public speaking, and he did it a lot in the community. He’d had a good year, but it was just one of those hockey deals. He took it pretty well, and he’s really excited to be with Columbus. They have an organization that’s up and coming. He’s really looking forward to getting there and being a big player for that team. He’s gonna fit well with them.”
If Darcy Regier needs a new ringtone, he might want to look no further than the new pop hit “Call Me Maybe.” Four days away from the entry draft, Regier admitted at today’s press conference at First Niagara Center that he’s been making more phone calls than usual heading into one of his busiest times of the year.
“We are very active as it relates to finding ways to improve our hockey team. Some of the names you hear that are out there, we’ve had conversations with those teams,” Regier explained. “I think it’s way too early to know whether or not anything will happen. I think there are a lot of teams like us in similar positions that are trying to do the same thing. At the start of the draft week, even the week before, you start to get a sense. But then as we get closer to the draft, things have a way of materializing.”
With a pair of first-round picks at 12th and 21st overall – and two more in the second round – Regier said the Sabres have some “flexibility” in terms of what they are able to do. But whether that means trading up or acquiring a proven NHLer, Regier expects it play out over the course of the next 96 hours or so.
“It’s too early. It could go anyway. We could use those four picks just to pick players in the draft. It’s the value of the players in the draft and how soon they may be ready for the National Hockey League, versus the cost to acquire some other player.”
Edmonton and Columbus own the first two picks this year, and the chatter has been that the Sabres should try and use their wealth of early draft picks to move up into one of those spots. But according to Kevin Devine, Buffalo’s Director of Amateur Scouting, this may not be the year to mortgage players off your roster for high draft picks.
“It depends where. We’re not adverse to moving up. But this year’s draft, it’s the first since I can remember, where there’s really not a consensus top five out there. If you polled all the head scouts in the league, you’d probably have 30 different lists."
Devine says the lack of proven star power at the top of the draft may scare some teams off if they are considering a blockbuster move into the top five.
“At the top of the draft, there’s no Stamkos or Nugent-Hopkins. I don’t see a draft like that this year. I think it’s a very good draft. It’s as many as 20 players deep in the first round where you can get a real good player. But for us to move up in the top five and the price it’s going to be, I’m not sure if it’s worth it because I’m not sure if any of those players have distinguished themselves any better than a player who might be around nine. Now if we’re sitting at 12 and we really like a guy and we see him falling, there’s a possibility we might move up. For us to move up into the top five, it’s a low percentage at this point. We’re more likely to move up from 21 than 12.”