Well that certainly didn't last long. At least as far as the
coach was concerned. The Buffalo Sabres fired both coach Ron Rolston as well as
long time GM Darcy Regier. Look, you never like to see a guy lose his job, but
Rolston was in way over his head and has been criticized from every corner of
the hockey world. When Mike Milbury of all people bashes you on national
television then you know that there is an issue. Rolston took over on an interm
basis last February for then fired Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. He didn't even make
it a quarter of the way into his first season with the head coach mantle before
the Sabres brass decided that a move was necessary. That really doesn't speak
well for your resume.
My take on the subject is that Rolston really didn't have a
clue as how to coach in today's NHL. He was quickly developing a reputation as
a guy who had little respect for the safety of the players on the ice and when this
concern is paramount amongst todays NHL media one needs to be fully aware of
the ramafications of the decisions that he makes and how it will reflect on his
team. Say what you will about fighting, but when you give the amount of ice
time to a guy like John Scott (who probably shouldn't even be in the league)
and that player then is involved in two ugly incidents there are going to be
questions. Rolston needed to go and the Sabres will be better off for it.
Regier is a different story. This is a classic example of a
guy who is a very good general manager whose time had simply come. The Sabres
enjoyed some great successes with Regier under the helm. However they have
struggled mightily over the past couple of seasons despite new ownership and an
infusuion of deep pockets. He will land on his feet and secure another gig
somewhere else pretty soon and The Puck Hog wishes him nothing but the best.
And a big welcome back to former former Sabres coach Ted Nolan who was screwed over in his first gig as a coach for the Sabres. Just to make him feel welcome, the Sabres have already screwed him over, this time to START his new (old) gig...I mean, have you SEEN their roster?
Finally, to complete the house cleaning, give a big hello to Buffalo Sabres legend and all time leading scorer, Pat Lafontaine. Hey, it worked for Colorado and Joe Sakic. Now all Buffalo needs to do is hire former Sabres goalie Dom Hasek and it will be one big happy family...Something tells me that Ted Nolan would be thrilled about working with Hasek again!
Well let me just offer up a story on the Charlotte News and Observer which could potentially change your viewpoint of the posed question.
Craig Adams, a much maligned right winger/center on the Pittsburgh Penguins intervened to help rescue a film maker who was wrongfully imprisoned in a Venezuelan hell hole and perhaps not only saved the man's freedom... But his life as well.
Despite being in the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, Cellucci displayed sheer heroism in securing freedom for Tim Tracy, the younger brother of Hurricanes announcer Tripp Tracy. Adams and Tripp just happened to be former teammates at Harvard college.
But the real story here is Paul Cellucci. A man who was dying yet still had a heart to serve. The fact that he actually passed away just three days after Tracy was released only compounds the man's effort.
If only ALL politicians could have such a heart to serve their constituents rather than themselves then this world would be one helluva great place!
With the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp starting, I thought I would recant one of the greatest days of my life. Which quickly turned into one of the worst and most embarrassing.
It was sometime in September, the year 2000.
Since I was acquaintances with several of the Penguins players and staff, I would always get a little extra privileges out of my trips to the Penguins training camp. The Iceoplex at Southpointe was always a fun place to watch training camp because of the restaurant that overlooks the ice where you can enjoy a great lunch while watching the Penguins battle it out for roster spots.
This was also before the Sidney Crosby hype machine brought thongs of fans to the practices, so the sessions were sparce in comparison to nowadays where you have a difficult time even breathing.
My current girlfriend and I took our spots at a table right next to the window. A spot I picked for two reasons. One of the reasons was the obvious. It overlooked the practice.
The second reason however was of critical importance to me.
There was no one inside the restaurant save for the foursome at the table directly adjacent to ours. A foursome which included then General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Craig Patrick.
Hoping to overhear an inside scoop on a trade, or perhaps a roster cut, I felt that this would be the perfect place to position myself so that I could pay attention to every detail of my experience.Rumors, on ice action and a great bacon cheeseburger.
Oh, and my girlfriend to.
While sitting down, I made eye contact with Mr. Patrick. Nodding my head in an acknowledgement gesture, he returned the nod and I took my seat.
Things were going great. I was watching first year coach Ivan Hlinka blunder his way through the drills, one of my acquaintances, Andrew Ference was getting into a scuffle and my cheeseburger tasted great.
And then it happened.
Now let me just preface this by saying that I have met several celebrities over the course of my life, and it never even phased me. I had even once accompanied Hulk Hogan in his limo to a wrestling match back in his hay day, and I was always simply fine with being myself and treating the celebrity as if they were just another average Joe.
But this time, unbeknownst to be, it would be different. MUCH different.
The door to the restaurant opened in mid bite. And in walks this really big guy followed by two others whom I hardly even noticed. In walked my idol. The great Mario Lemieux.
My girlfriend would later tell me that for the ensuing half of a minute that every single muscle in my body froze. My half eaten burger would stay inches away from my face as I prepared to take a bite. My eyes would be locked on the greatest hockey player of all time, and my mouth would remain only partially open.
Mario the Great walked right up to our table and introduced himself to us. My girlfriend shook his hand and told Mario her name. She released his hand and he turned his attention to me, extending his hand for the required handshake.
Now, honestly. I truly don't have any explanation for this. I thought being "star struck" was something reserved for teenage girls of the 60's and the Beatles. Or comparing it to todays Justin Beliebers.
At least I didn't cry.
What I DID do however, was nothing. Absolutely nothing. I didn't say my name, I didn't shake his hand. I didn't utter a syllable and I didn't move a muscle. I froze. He froze. It was a staredown which lasted about five seconds before he said, "OOOOkayyy", turned to my dumbfounded girlfriend telling her that it was nice to meet her and promptly sat down at down at the executive table. Thus leaving my life forever.
I can't be positive about this as the seconds that had just passed were now a jumbled haze in my mind, but I think that my girlfriend kicked me under the table.
As he sat down, it was like a switch went off over my entire existence. Waking me up from a sort of coma that I was wide awake for the duration and painfully aware of every single shred of my surroundings.
What the hell?!?!
What had just happened??? This wasn't supposed to go down like this! It was supposed to go much smoother and end with me getting a tryout contract!
But the sad reality set in quickly. And that reality was that I had just made a complete ass of myself in front of the guy who was my hockey hero! My dream day had quickly and definitively turned into an unfathomable nightmare.
Yet like every Hollywood story (yes, I know we're in Pittsburgh here so just use your imagination) there is redemption. There is a happy ending. And once again, it began with my patient girlfriend whom I had ignored while in my hockey induced heaven. Bless her gorgeous heart.
It seemed like the very second that I had composed myself, without a word she stood up and walked directly over to the table of Penguins executives directly behind us. She looked Super Mario in the eye and explained that she didn't know what had come over her boyfriend. She explained that we had been dating for several years and that she had never seen me act like this. She explained that I was a HUGE fan of his and it would mean so much to the both of us if he could give me another chance.
Now you have to understand that my girlfriend at the time could be incredibly persuasive. Especially where men were involved. She was the definition of the term, "drop dead gorgeous".
I love her still to this day for my second shot at meeting Mario Lemieux.
And I love Mario the Great for stepping up to the plate and giving the idiot that I am another chance at meeting him. Not only did he introduce himself, he actually sat down at my table for almost twenty minutes and simply talked the game that we both love.
The guy is genuine and passionate about hockey. He doesn't feel robbed by his rash of injuries that kept him from the chance at possibly catching one of Gretzky's many records, but instead blessed that the game that he has given so much to has given him so much more in return.
It was the only time which I would meet Mario. Since then, I have hung out with several guys on the squad on multiple occasions. Been to an unnamed players house for a barbeque and another's for a pool party. I have even learned of several locker room incidents which were confirmed by the players who witnessed these events. I have been inside the locker room during the games.
Mario wasn't present at any of these events.
And in retrospect, none of them can even compare to the time that I sat down with greatness for 20 minutes of my life.
Embarrassment be damned, because it was well worth it.And even if I don't have the same girlfriend, I STILL have The Hockey Goddesses!