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Buffalo, You Should Be Proud

A little more than a week has gone by, yet everyone is still talking about it—the NHL AMP Energy Winter Classic. The event arguably is the biggest sports spectacle ever to happen here in Western New York.

Whether you were at the stadium or watching at home, and whether you were a fan, a player, an NHL official, a front office employee, a member of the media or anyone else even remotely associated with the game, you could not help but get caught up in the hype and excitement and the sheer magnitude of everything going on.

CBC’s Don Cherry pretty much summed it up: “Buffalo, you should be very proud!”

We were at the stadium all week in preparation for the game, and on game day arrived early and stayed late. Here are our cheers and, for good measure, a few jeers, recapping our takes and observations of the experience:

Cheers—To CBC, for its outstanding coverage which showcased Buffalo and the Sabres in such a positive light. Their pregame show, with a 90-second montage done to the tune of the old “Talkin’ Proud” song, and an extensive tour of the old Aud was great nostalgia. And it was beamed to households all across Canada.

Jeers—To the Crosby Broadcasting Corporation, formerly known as NBC. Yeah, we know the league wanted to showcase and market its marquee player, but the Sid the Kid coverage was way over the top. (Patriot’s Teddy Bruschi wants to know, where was Crosby’s wife?)

Cheers—The tailgate party. We already know that Buffalo has one of the absolute best tailgate scenes in football. Now add families and kids having fun, pregame entertainment and interactive games, and subtract the binge drinking, violence, drugs and fighting that is all too prevalent at Bills games, and you end up with the best outdoor party ever in Buffalo history. Think the Bills front office was paying attention? Nah!

Cheers—MSG Shootout host Kevin Sylvester did a fabulous job as game day host.

Cheers—NHL media department. We deal with a lot of “media relations” people in the sports business. Most are pretty decent; some are snooty and arrogant. NHL PR Guy Jamey Horan and his staff couldn’t be any more accommodating. These guys get it.

Cheers—Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell, who scored the lone Sabres goal.

Jeers—To Brian Campbell, who walked into a packed media interview room after the game scarfing down a pizza and swigging this pink stuff that looked like Pepto Bismol. Campbell is always one of the more accessible players for the media, but this was just a poor display.

Cheers—Lindy Ruff and that cool varsity jacket. With great sincerity and emotion, he had this to say: “I thought the jackets fit the game, you know, fit the uniforms, fit the game. It was fun. You know, it’s always good to put the blue and gold on when you wore it for as long as I wore it. I put that jacket on with pride today.”

Jeers—The song that the Dead Fat Woman used to croak out on the ice at the Philadelphia Spectrum is not our national anthem.

Cheers—Could you ask for a better intro than the Celtic Pride Bagpipes leading the two teams onto the field?

Cheers—11,500 fans watched the game indoors at HSBC Arena.

Cheers—To Ryan Miller and his postgame press conference. While TV cameras and photographers were filming and clicking away, Miller pulled out his own camera and took a photo of the media throng. “I don’t want to forget any of this,” Miller said.

Jeers—The Sabres front office just loves the heck out of Ronan Tynan. Why is it then that every time they truck out Tynan for the big events, the Sabres always seem to lose? Just sayin’.

Cheers—NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig became an instant celebrity in Western New York in the course of a week. This crusty, 52-year-old Edmontonian supervised the entire construction of the ice surface and field, and did an outstanding job. Despite the challenges and headaches he had to endure, his daily briefings were always full of cheer and optimism. “We’re ready to play. Let’s go.”

Cheers—To that hilarious commercial featuring Ryan Miller in a “‘yo mama” smackdown with Kings keeper Jean-Sebastian Aubin. Wonder how many takes it took for Miller to get the Chinese right?

Cheers—For the 32 flags of NHL clubs and conferences that adorned the top of the upper deck. One of the little touches that made it a great place to be.

Cheers—To the fans who came. All 71,217 of them, who together set an NHL attendance record. Kudos for sticking around to the very end, as seemingly everyone did. That leads us to…

Jeers—With everyone leaving at the same time, the roads around the stadium were taxed to the limit. Erie County sheriffs get poor marks for traffic movement.

Jeers—To anyone, and we mean anyone, who had a ticket to this game and didn’t use it. Not that we saw any empty seats…