Owner in a Skirt, City in Need of Sacking Up

With the devastating but clean hit Chris Neil put on Chris Drury last week and the responses it has occasioned from seemingly everybody in Buffalo — will the city’s Mayor next send a tear-stained letter to Gary Bettman? — we may be witnessing the most powerful case yet for Kansas City being awarded a hockey team. Just not Pittsburgh’s.
On Saturday Sabres’ owner Tom Golisano, informed that day by the NHL that his organization’s hand-wringing over a clean hit was baseless, took the unprecedented action of putting in writing his whining. Take a look:

Golisano Letter - Click for Larger Version

Particularly helpful, wasn’t it, for Golisano to outline for the commissioner the instances in which hitting in hockey is merited? Who knew? Note, though, that Golisano didn’t acknowledge hitting’s role in intimidating or changing the momentum of a hockey game . . . or perhaps even sending a message for the postseason . . . even though those have been a part of hockey since, say, its inception. (Bettman might have responded to the letter with his own asking “What’s with the slug in the letterhead?”) Golisano’s unseemly woe-is-my-team missive occurred fast on the heels of his coach’s meltdown before the media last week. The heaviness of hankies in upstate New York only continued to grow, however.
Saturday night Ottawa and Buffalo met again, and during an intermission the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch fielded fresh sobs from a Buffalo broadcast crew. Imagine inviting a guest on the air to discuss a high-profile, highly controversial piece of communication and then, irritated by the guest’s defense of eons of hockey’s toughness and his calling out the coward who wrote it, dismissing those views by claiming “in fairness, you haven’t read [Golisano’s] letter.” That’s precisely what the Buffalo broadcast crew did.
Garrioch accurately characterized the Golisano letter as “whining to a new level,” pointing out that last season, in the playoffs, Flyers’ owner Ed Snider never thought to bellyache to Bettman when his player, R.J. Umberger, was laid out in even more viscious fashion by Buffalo’s Brian Campbell. Here’s Garrioch the sensible in smackdown mode:

One can’t help but place the Sabres’ sullying of our sport this past week in the context of a battered wife syndrome for sports set off city-wide perhaps by Scott Norwood. And Brett Hull. More recently Alexander Ovechkin. And now Chris Neil. Buffalo has a terrific hockey climate, and some superbly skilled legacy. What it doesn’t have much of these days is heart and grit.

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20 Responses to Owner in a Skirt, City in Need of Sacking Up

  1. OrderedChaos says:

    I don’t like Chris Neil’s hit, but the Buffalo hand-wringing is excessive. On re-watching the video of the fight, I found Buffalo’s Andrew Peters to be the most egregious offender on the ice. Buffalo goaltender Martin Biron sought out Ottawa’s Ray Emery. The two netminders dropped gloves and masks, with Emery clearly getting the better of Biron.
    Then, after their fight ended, Peters skates over and jumps Emery. Peters, clearly a “skill” player with 2 points and 104 PIM, starts punching Emery in the face after the netminder’s fair (if lopsided) fight against Biron.
    Peters’ decision to jump Emery was outright cowardly, the act of a bully; yet where is Ottawa’s chiding letter to the NHL? It doesn’t exist.
    Golisano wrote, “There is nothing entertaining about a big man hitting a smaller man in the head.” He seems a hypocrite to say that with guys like Peters wearing the blue and yellow.

  2. David says:

    It was high and it was late by a player with a reputation for dirty play. A fellow District Blogger might be able to fill your head with some knowledge.
    Respectfully, A Buffalo citizen that sacks up
    p.s. Enjoy another spring without hockey

  3. Chimaera says:

    LOL, buffalo really gets all uppity of late.
    I’m still confused where the whole thing on this is all around a questionable hit (and we can all agree its borderline) but they ignore the fact that Peters goes with Emery. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  4. Chris says:

    Hate to spill more “sack spooge” on your wagon, boys, but this hit in no way compares to Campbell’s lights out hit on Umberger.
    I lead to you John Buccigross’ take on it, since his words ring better than my poor attempt would:
    “I don’t understand why a shoulder pad to the head is not equivalent to an elbow to the head. This is a hit that needs to be outlawed in the NHL. Chris Neil had plenty of time and space to make a decision on how to hit Chris Drury. That alone tells you the hit was a late hit. It was superfluous, unsportsmanlike and excessive. How many stories have we read of players being seriously hurt after hitting their heads on the ice? It is why USA Hockey now mandates all coaches wear helmets during practice.
    The force of Drury’s head hitting the ice was frightening. It could have killed him. We have situations and circumstances where injuries will occur during the course of a hockey game. We all know this going in. Part of the game’s appeal and zest is its danger. The soul of the game might very well be the fear. The fear creates concentration. The fear creates chemicals in the body that result in a state of pleasure and ecstasy. Hockey, because of fear, is our Chemical Romance. Most NHL players don’t play scared, but there is an underlying fear. This is good. For kids, it teaches them to overcome fear and pain and rise above. But there are instances that cross the line. The reason why the NFL mandates a strict policy against helmet-to-helmet shots is because quarterbacks and receivers are DEFENSELESS. They can’t defend themselves while attempting to perform their task.
    The NHL needs to implement this standard NOW. Hitting defenseless players in the head with shoulder pads is hockey’s equivalent to helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL. In Drury’s case, it is even more dangerous because of the whiplash effect of the brain slamming into the wall of the skull. It might be difficult for NHL officials to see some of these hits throughout the course of a game. I would not put too much pressure on them.
    But, after the fact, there are hits that can be reviewed. A review can see if players had intent. It is a fast game with collisions. Those collisions are thrilling and exciting. But when a player is hit two seconds after he shoots or passes the puck, like Drury or Paul Kariya in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, these hits are unnecessary because the intent is clearly to injure.
    In studying Brian Campbell’s hit on R.J. Umberger in last season’s playoffs, Campbell was anticipating Umberger receiving the pass on the breakout. He was making the right play. His left foot was planted on the ice as he set to hit Umberger. Because Umberger missed the breakout pass and was lunging forward to gather in the puck, he lowered his body. As a result, Campbell’s shoulder pad caught a lot of Umberger’s head. But I would not have penalized Campbell. He was planning on hitting Umberger in the torso. The late move made it a head hit. The NHL can look at hits in this way.
    The NFL still has hard hits, the hardest hits in its history, because of the speed and athleticism of its players. The NHL still will have big hits. But the NHL and NHLPA need to work together and figure out the difference between a hockey-play hit and a superfluous hit. Neil should have received a two-game suspension. Again, I wouldn’t put pressure on the on-ice officials unless the hit is as clear as day.”
    I agree with Bucci’s take wholeheartedly. And so should you. Feel free to get all snot-nosed about it here, but when Buffalo invades Washington again on April 2nd, I’ll be the drunk guy next to you at the game – bringing a playoff like atmosphere to an arena that hasn’t had one since spring of 2003.

  5. DaveD says:

    You sir, are a total troll.
    Meaning, you only wish to insense and not even try to oonverse.
    Let me explain:
    “Owner in a skirt….”
    This title – was it chosen to incite, or to actually mean something. I think it be the former.
    “On Saturday Sabres’ owner Tom Golisano, informed that day by the NHL that his organization’s hand-wringing over a clean hit was baseless, took the unprecedented action of putting in writing his whining.”
    Ah. Now I see you mistake. It happens, all mortal human beings do it. You simply read his words with a bit of bias. Allow me to clarify:
    “I am deeply concerned with the standard the NHL has adopted that seems
    to allow violent hits to the head.”
    Since this is the VERY FIRST SENTENCE in his email I can see why you were mislead into thinking he was talking about anything else besides deliberate headhunting. I mean, the man simply cannot say it in plain English!
    It’s not the legalities of the hit. It’s not the dirtiness. Plain and clear, the man is OBVIOUSLY whining – and yes, OBVIOUSLY making a case to send the Sabres to Kansas City.
    Let me continue:
    “Hitting is a very important part of our game. You hit to break up a
    shot, you hit to disrupt a pass, you hit to battle for the puck and you
    hit to gain position for a defensive or offensive play. There are many
    times a player is vulnerable. And there are many times when a player can
    make a hit on a vulnerable player but chooses not to for fear of
    injuring an opponent for no practical advantage. It’s called respect.”
    This would be his fourth paragraph. In it’s entirety. I can OBVIOUSLY see where he is still whining.
    To continue:
    “What we cannot allow are hits that are designed to injure and maim. The
    hit delivered to Chris Drury the other night was a hit to injure. In my
    view there is no other way to view that play.”
    “As you know, we have been on the other end of hits which cause injury to
    the head. Tim Connolly, our star offensive player was knocked out of the
    Stanley Cup by this same team. Although I didn’t like it, Tim’s
    situation is very different. He had the puck; he was making a play and
    could have reasonably seen the approaching player. I never complained.”
    Now I can see the whining. Now I can see why you are asking the NHL to move this franchise to KC. Wait a minute – no I don’t!
    So Golisano is stating the a guy with a head hit – THAT IS STILL OUT – is not cause for complaint. But YOU say a guy with a head hit that Golisano is complaining about IS cause for calling him a whiner and moving the franchise?
    Way to take the classy path. You just earn my admiration for your total non-bias.
    “One can’t help but place the Sabres’ sullying of our sport this past week in the context of a battered wife syndrome for sports set off city-wide perhaps by Scott Norwood. And Brett Hull.”
    That be your words. And they are, urm, CLASSY.

  6. pepper says:

    Love the passion of the Sabres fans and ownership – from the pizza shop owner willing to raise funds to pay Ruff’s fine to the owner himself sending “the letter.”
    Love Neil’s hit too – dirty perhaps, but a clear statement in a statement game late in the season. This is what makes rivalries and subplots and excitement to the next game story, daresay playoff matchup.
    Let the opponents bring the retribution. Sutton ran Green and none of us complained about Brash disfiguring Vishnevsky in response.
    Drury – keep your helmet tightened up.
    That was a fantastic game all around.

  7. Bill says:

    Neil: Cheap Shot Artist
    In case you weren’t listening Chris Neil stated that he hits to hurt people, so yes we do know his intentions because he stated them. He is a petty thug, who will get his ass kicked in the playoffs. At least Scott Stevens in the video said he hoped Kariya wasn’t hurt and shows a little class.
    I guarantee if Heatley or Alfredson got blindsided in the head requiring over 20 stitches, causing his eye to be swollen shut with concussion-like symptoms, Ottawa players, fans, and coaches would be crying foul. Would you be honest enough to admit this?
    In seems obvious to me they hate Buffalo in part because we tend to make them look pretty damn bad in the playoffs.
    Ottawa is responsible for at least three Sabres’ injuries: Connelly, Gaustad, and Drury. But you only hear us protest the Neil hit because it was dirty. Believe me what goes around comes around and turnabout is fair play. If a Senator goes down in like manner, I don’t want to hear a peep.
    The real [whimps] are Heatley and Speeza who wouldn’t raise a finger to stand up for their goaltender.
    And remember one thing Buffalo kicked Ottawa’s [butt] in the playoffs last year.

  8. Bill says:

    Garrioch the fat slop got a pass, on the Sabres telecast, I would have laid [him] out.

  9. On The Drury Hit…

    I always find it amazing that so many people can see the same thing, yet come to completely different conclusions……

  10. Scai says:

    This season alone there have been plenty of hits to the head, resulting in injuries, concussions, fights, all sorts of things. Never has a player been punished for this kind of thing BECAUSE IT’S LEGAL. That is official policy of the league, and everyone who wants to, knows that.
    Only now that a Buffalo player has been on the wrong side of such a hit we are (once again) being treated to such an amount of whining. No word out of Buffalo about outruling hits to the head until now. Buffalo is full of hypocrites and liars.
    And to comment to Heatley about the Snyder-accident is the most shameful thing I ever heard. Mair should be taken out off the game forever.

  11. Ironic that in reality, the city of Buffalo, the Buffalo Sabres and its owner have done nothing BUT ‘sack-up’.
    This must be an Atlanta Thrashers fan-blog.

  12. Trevor says:

    If Golisano was “whining,” what do we make of Craig Laughlin after Briere’s love tap to the area formerly occupied by OV’s balls? The same guy who defended OV’s cheap shot on Briere only weeks earlier couldn’t put the clamp on his leaking vagina long enough to realize that put the OV/Briere issue to rest.
    I used to think this blog was worthwhile, but if you’re actually in need of an explanation of the difference between the hits by Campbell and Neil, you have no business writing about hockey.

  13. OrderedChaos says:

    Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated agrees about the whining, also draws the Campbell parallel, and gives Golisano tips like:
    “You might suggest to your players that they wear their helmets properly. If Drury’s chin strap had been pulled snug, as the manufacturer intended, chances are his bonnet would have stayed on after Neil’s hit and protected his head when it hit the ice.”
    Trevor, looks like you’ll have to stop reading SI too if you don’t like reading opinions with which you disagree.
    We like a good debate — those that don’t, we bid you adieu.
    P.S. I still haven’t seen anyone reasonably defend Peters’ attack of Emery yet. Kind of a large point to ignore IMO if one is trying to take the moral high ground.

  14. BfloSack says:

    The league and the refs are the ones in need of sack. This was a cheap, dirty, cowardly hit — unlike those on Connolly and Umberger during last year’s playoffs. But that’s ok, because Neil realizes this is the only time he’ll be able to headhunt. With the playoffs coming up, Buffalo will be healthy and stocked, and Neil will know that he’ll soon be playing golf or badminton while the Sabres will still be playing hockey. We have plenty of sack here and we’ll have plenty more once playoff time rolls around. We’ve got plenty of sack to spare for Chris Neil should he decide to hit someone sightside, who’s in possession of the puck — in other words, cleanly… manly.

  15. Zubaz says:

    Ordered Chaos,
    Nobody is defending Peters fighting Emery for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think any reasonable hockey fan thinks it’s appropriate for a player-especially a goon like Peters-to fight a goalie, who’s at an obvious disadvantage due to his equipment. Lindy Ruff even admitted that was too much. Sabres fans(myself included) might have loved seeing it happen, but I seriously doubt any of them would defend it. I certainly never would.
    The other reason nobody’s brought it up is because Peters’ actions have absolutely no bearing on whether or not Neil’s hit on Drury was legal or adhered to “The Code” or however people want to phrase it. And the hit is the issue here. Sabres fans, in their objection to Neil’s hit, are not claiming the moral high ground, as you call it. They’re simply arguing that Neil went out of his way to deliver a hit that was intended to injure. By your logic, in order for the Sabres and their fans to object to what they perceive as an illegal/unsportsmanlike/dirty play, they must also object to every single other illegal/unsportsmanlike/dirty play, whether or not the two are analogous. You’re comparing apples with oranges. If you want to argue whether the Sabres’ response to the hit was justified, that’s a completely different matter.
    Also, if you don’t want Sabres fans to post impolite comments on your site, maybe you shouldn’t write snide posts that resort to name calling. You know, like this one?

  16. Meza says:

    Love him or hate him Don Cherry says it all the time. Keep your head up and on a swivel. True, Drury wasn’t coming across the middle, but he was admiring his pass/slot. The NHL rule book allows for 2 seconds after a player has released the puck in which he can be hit. Drury didn’t see him and it was in .44 seconds. Don’t get mad at a player for playing within the rules.
    I didn’t have a problem with the Umberger/Campbell hit, it was with the puck around and it was a bad play on Philly’s part. What I do have an issue with Tom is that in this season alone there have been questionable hits as Buffaslug fans call them, but sadly Tom did not put pen to parchment then. Example Aaron Downey was hit, after dumping the puck, with a hip check that started halfway across the ice. He was bent over and vulnerable, any pad that an NHL player has, most likely, is not soft. They are to protect. So why now, why this hit? Was it that Tom just had enough? or is it because it was one of his players. That is the rub with people. I don’t know if it’s the letter itself or the fact that it was made public. I believe that letters like this should be kept behind closed doors. So that it doesn’t sound like you are whining. Even before the hit they just held a GM meeting, why not bring up these hits then. My last point and then you can get back to your tissues. The Neil statement that he hits to hurt, come on stop saying that he intentionally went out to injure Drury or any other player. Every player hits to hurt, so the player won’t come down the slot next time, so he won’t try to go through the crease, or he won’t embarasse you D with a dipsy do.

  17. Chris Neil reminds me too much of Claude Lemieux. Both have a reputation for being dirty, and both of them have rightfully earned the Rodney Dangerfield award numerous times.
    Since this is an unofficial Caps blogsite, I’m going to send you a link that should remind you of what your glorious Caps (minus Dainius Zubrus) will be doing during the playoffs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlvmGM96CiM

  18. Meza says:

    Crosschecking how time passes and Buffalo fans forget where they were just 2 years ago. Get over the Turgeon hit. Oh yeah does Brett Hull mean anything?

  19. Crosschecking says:

    Meza, Brett Hull does mean one thing: skate in crease according to 1999 rules equals no goal. Don’t you just love arbitrary rule changes when a championship is on the line? No one has certainly forgotten that, including ESPN. http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/worstcalls/010730.html
    Also, Pierre Turgeon was hit from behind by Dale Hunter when he WASN’T playing for the Sabres.
    I have to give the Caps credit for one thing: they’ve made it to the Cup finals once, only to get swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Sabres made it twice and did not get swept on both occasions. 1999 is still debatable considering that they were playing a team from the Texas Recreational League.

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