Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 17, 2013

HOPKINS: Musings on the ice and snow

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Today is “Hockey Day in America,” and the Sabres are involved in one of the three marquee matchups being broadcast by NBC and its affiliated networks. (Noon, vs. Pittsburgh.)

Which Sabres team will show up? The one that seems mildly interested in playing or the one that wants to be world beaters? Maybe it’ll be the team that seems intent on making Lindy Ruff an ex-coach.

I have many friends who have champagne on ice, to be uncorked the day Lindy gets the axe. I can’t say that I blame them. When he first became Sabres coach he had the good fortune of having the best goaltender in the world, Mr. Hasek. He also deflected blame on his team’s poor play on the referees. A bad call here, a bad call there.

That act got old with me quick, especially when he’d use it in a game the Sabres were out of before the puck was dropped. OK, Lindy, I understand your frustration with the missed tripping penalty, but that still doesn’t explain the 5-1 loss.

Today he has a goalie who hasn’t been the same since he allowed a gold medal-winning softie by Sidney Crosby in overtime at the Vancouver Olympics. At least he’s tempered his act of singling out the refs.

You can’t judge a coach by his goaltending. However, you can judge a coach by his team’s inconsistent performance year-in and year-out, their sporadic playoff appearances, their inability — for years — to go for the jugular when they’re dominating a game and their reliance — again, for years, — of mounting incredible comebacks in the late stages of games.

Some of that might be exciting and sells seats, but a consistently winning team also sells. Look at Detroit, where deep runs into the Stanley Cup playoffs has been a tradition for 20 years. Sensible Sabres fans have seen past their team’s big comebacks and inability to smell blood and have recognized the Sabres for what they have become: a pedestrian but sometimes entertaining team that may or may not make the payoffs and may or may not make a nice run through the post-season. Until they get mowed down by a team that’s serious about winning.

I like the Sabres, but they’re not my favorite; I’ve been a Rangers fan for as long as I can remember and they have their own problems this season. Still, I’ce watched enough of them over the years to recognize a change is needed.

Bringing down the axe on Lindy Ruff won’t solve everything, but it would be a start.

Incidentally, “Hockey Day in America” is a knock-off of “Hockey Day in Canada,” a theme that makes much more sense since the game was invented there and more than 10 percent of the population actually care about hockey.

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Blame it on the snow.

Just over a week ago Lockport was digging out from the largest snowfall that all of Eastern Niagara County had seen in quite a while. (I say “all of eastern Niagara County” because some of you along the Lake Ontario shoreline have seen your fair share of snow already this winter.) For whatever reason, it turned things inside out around here.

I always expect a few motor vehicle accidents when it snows, but the constant reports of accidents on the police and fire scanner on Feb. 8 was staggering. Joining in the mix of typical fender-benders were rollover accidents and one where the driver ended up off the road and in a field. A school bus landed in a ditch along Dysinger Road because the driver couldn’t find the driveway.

It’s tough to blame drivers too much on the run-of-the-mill accidents. However, there were far too many bang-ups on Feb. 8 to not think that many of them could have been avoided if the drivers had simply remembered that it snows in Western New York during the winter and you have to adjust your speed and other driving habits to accommodate the weather.

But, they’ll blame it on the weather, instead of their imprudent speed for the conditions.

Adding to the mayhem was a short-staffed newsroom. One person was out on vacation and a second called in sick. It’s difficult enough working through the day down one person, but when you’re down two, it makes the day much longer. When we’re short-staffed, I’ll pick up the slack where I can, and on Feb. 8 it meant taking a 20-minute drive (less than 10 in normal conditions) to Dysinger Road for the bus accident.

Throw in writing a couple of stories, and it made for an 11-hour day. Then I went out and officiated a senior league (18-and-over division) hockey game where the one team behaved like 5-year-olds in dire need of naps. Not much fun.

Guess I’ll blame it on the snow.