Tale of the Tape: I’m sure every guy has had to go through this, the girl who gets pissed off after you didn’t return her call. That’s pretty much how this fight has been about. The News gave the sabres positive coverage during the 2 year run the team had. But in the summer of 2007, that all changed. After the Sabres botched the Drury/Briere situation, Bucky Gleason commented in one of his articles that Quinn, Golisano, and Regier reminded him of the 3 Stooges. Rumor has it that Golisano was none to please with that comment and hasn’t returned a call to the News since then. You would of thought Golisano could of handled that insult a little better since he did run for Governor and should be use to the name calling. That missed call has turned the Sabres and TBN relationship quite frosty. The News has been pretty open when it comes airing their grievances towards the Sabres. Whether it’s calling a press conference an hour before it happens or a news reporter sitting in the Sabres locker after a game only to have the Sabres sneak out the back door. TBN staff has let the cat out of the bag.
Winner is: The Buffalo News. Whenever you have a team with the track record of bungling decisions over the last 2 years as the Sabres do, it’s a KO first round. Calling the hierarchy of the Sabres the 3 stooges isn’t that bad of a insult, and the product on the ice deserves all the criticism they can get.
WGR 550 Vs WNSA 107.7
Tale of the Tape: This was the version of the WWF vs WCW fued of the the late 90’s. Lots of wrestling fans call that time the golden era of wrestling because of the competition between the companies. You could make the case that this radio rivalry was the golden era of sports media coverage in Buffalo. It was a time when Empire Sports and WNSA owned by former Sabres owners John Rigas faced off against WGR Sports radio. WGR at the time berated the Sabres, while WNSA played the role that WGR plays today as being Sabres apologists. These two stations pulled no punches towards their hatred for each other. I can remember WGR afternoon host Chuck Dickerson calling out the WNSA Hosts Howard “No Balls ” Simon and Schmuck Schopp as he would call them, “a bunch of hacks who couldn’t hold a candle to his jock.” WNSA would return the favor and call Dickerson “Fubar” and criticized the station for wanting to fire everyone. If you were to use the political spectrum in terms of both stations, WGR were considered extreme to the right, while WNSA was extreme to the left. For the most part WNSA beat WGR on the ratings scale and it seemed WNSA would win the radio battle.
Winner is: WGR 550. The fight lasted till the 10th round with WNSA leading on all scorecards, but John Rigas was forced to throw in the towel. Once Rigas went to jail, Adelphia declared bankruptcy and Empire Sports went off the air while WNSA was bought out by WGR. The ironic twist is that the bankruptcy of WNSA led to a mass overhaul in programming for WGR. Bob Gaughan (former sports director) and Kevin Sylvester (Current Sabres host) were fired from the WGR morning show after finishing dead last and was replaced by Howard Simon. That wasn’t the only house cleaning. Dickerson who was teamed up in 2002 with Mike Schopp who left WNSA after he got wind of the bankruptcy issue, was let go after WGR bought the rights to broadcast Sabres games. Rumor has it that Dickerson was let go due to Sabres management not wanting a non-hockey guy as the drive time and lead in host to all Sabres games (I’m sure the fact Dickerson trashed the Sabres for years didn’t help either). WGR may of had their Vince McMahon moment of buying out WCW (WNSA), but McMahon wasn’t let go after surviving the radio wars.
Tale of the Tape: The days before the current crappy rushed Sabres post-game show, the best local show in Buffalo was Hockey Hotline. The format of the show was quite simple. Two guys, fans calling in, post game interviews…priceless. Mike Robitaille and Brian Blessing hosted a call in show after games where Robie would normally go off on the Sabres problems and take phone calls from fans. Why is this show not on after games? Well Mr. Mulliquinn says that fans don’t want to see 2 guys sitting around and just talk hockey. I guess the fact that it was Empire’s number 1 rated show doesn’t matter in the “Land developer’s” mind. Of course this is the same idiot who thought the banana slug logo was cool without consulting a focus group (sorry, mulliquinn got me off track of the original topic).
Where does Doug Gilmour come into play? After Gilmour was traded (yes, Darcy use to make trades) during the 1999-2000 season, the future Hall of Famer was a big disappointment for the season and half he played for the Sabres. After the 2001 season, Gilmour was a free agent and the Hotline Guys speculated that Gilmour was going to retire. Instead, Gilmour signed with the Canadians and played a couple of more years. A reporter asked Gilmour if he had any regrets on his time in Buffalo, “Yeah, I would of liked it if I was able to punch out the guys on Hockey Hotline.” Gimour stated that he and his former Sabres teammates didn’t like the hosts because they never would come down to practice or the games to observe in person, instead the duo watched from their Empire Studios (He has a point).
Blessing told reporters that Gilmour has a right to his opinion while Robie acknowledged that maybe he should of gone down to the arena more often. But that wasn’t it for Robitaille, the analyst admitted that he had gone soft on Gilmour for his lack luster season with the Sabres (7 goals & 31 assists). “As far as Doug is concerned, I never in the 9 years I’ve been here protected a player so much. I’m not proud of it. I sold out, and the reason being I thought he deserved it cause of what he’s done for the NHL.” AWWWWWW…Real glad that if you’re a crappy veteran for the Sabres, Robie will cut you a break.
The Winner is: Doug Gilmour. After Gilmour left it only took 10 months for the Adelphia scandal to go down. Soon after the Dominos fell for Adelphia, Blessing was not renewed for the show and The Hotline was canceled after the 2003-2004 season. Gilmour is going to the Hall of Fame, while Blessing is calling horse races (At least that’s what I heard) and Robie is only getting about 20 minutes of airtime a month for the Sabres.
Vic Carucci vs The 89′ Bills vs Themselves
Tale of the Tape: Ah, the Bickering Bills. Before there was Kobe and Shaq, Owens and…well all of his former quarterbacks, no one knew how to hate each other better then the 1989 Buffalo Bills. It may be unfair to group Vic Carruci in this battle. This was more like a triple threat match. Carruci vs the Bills vs themselves. Carruci was the one who stirred the pot and coined the creative nickname for the Bills.
It all started after the successful 1988 season where the Bills were just one game away from reaching the Super Bowl. The team came in the 1989 season with the highest expectations in decades. The team was relatively young and immature. The Bills finished the season 9-7 winning their second straight division title, but that was just part of the drama. The Big fire storm came after a 35-14 lost to the Colts in week 4. Jim Kelly was knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder. After the game Kelly put the blame on right tackle Howard Ballard for the injury, saying that 4 out of the 5 lineman were good in pass protection. This didn’t sit well with the locker room as a lot of players felt Kelly shouldn’t of called out a teammate in public like that.
The next battle scars occurred after a week 14 loss to the hapless New Orleans Saints. Thurman Thomas was on the Daryl Talley Show (ah remember the days when every Bill had a show) and called out Jim Kelly for his play and for him calling out players in the media. Kelly responded by calling out Ronnie Harmon and other Bills for their lack of coming up in the clutch.
Carucci caught some fire from Thomas after the former Buffalo News reporter wrote a ton of stories about the dealings with the disgruntled Bills. Thomas after one of the Bills loses went on one of his tirades against Carucci by accusing the writer of stirring s@#t up and trying to put a wedge in between the Bills team.
Winner is: Everyone! After Kelly and Thomas aired their grievances toward each other at a press conference and Bill Polian (god I miss him) gave his famous “get out of town” speech. The team lost in a valiant effort in the divisional playoff game against the Browns. For the next 4 years the Bills left their bickering Bills stigma behind, and the rest was history. Carucci on the other hand made a pretty good living after his work for The Buffalo News and is now the lead NFL Columnist for NFL.com.
Tale of the Tape: 1996-1997 Buffalo Sabres Season…you want to talk about drama within a team, this team made the Sopranos look like a normal family. Want to talk story lines? Quinn vs. Muckler, Muckler vs. Nolan, Hasek vs. Nolan, Rigas vs. Knox. But none of those rivals got physical (physical…physical) the way Hasek and Kelley did.
Let’s set up the situation. It was game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, Sabres against the Ottawa Senators. Sabres were up 1-0 in the second period when Sergei Zholtok’s shot from the left point was deflected past Hasek and into the net. Hasek immediately fell to his back in apparent pain. He got up, flexed his leg, and skated directly to the Sabres bench. Hasek thought he would miss the rest of the series even though he was pronounced day-to-day by the Sabres team doctor.
Buffalo News columnist Jim Kelley observed all of this, and wrote a column that night for the next day’s newspaper that detailed the day’s events. He concluded with these words: “I don’t for a moment believe that Dominik Hasek intentionally bailed out on his coach and his teammates Monday night, but I do believe the pressure of having to be unbeatable may well be more than even he can bear. If that’s the case, there may be more than a slightly sprained knee to worry about.”
The next day was an off day in the series, but not in terms of the developing soap opera. Hasek calmly denied that he had quit on the team while holding a copy of Kelley’s column in his hand. Everything seemed fine, just a columnist criticizing a player. Dom was cool as a cucumber.
Fast forward to game 5 of the series where the Senators easily beat the Sabres 4-1. After the game, Kelley was in the hallway outside of the locker rooms when Hasek came out of the Sabres’ training room and physically attacked the newspaper writer. A combination of writers (Bucky Gleason) and reporters had to pull Hasek away from Kelley, but not before the writer’s shirt was torn.
The weird part was that this was 4 days after the original article was posted and that Hasek had acknowledge it. Did someone from the Czech Republic translate what the article said about Hasek collapsing under pressure. Hasek later said in GQ article (what the hells is so GQ about Dom) that what ticked him off the most was that the article came from the city he played in and thought he deserved more respect. Hasek did apologize to Kelley but the league would suspend Hasek for 3 games for the fight. Sabres ended up beating the Sens in 7 but lost to the Flyers in 5 games in the Eastern Semi-finals. Hasek wouldn’t play for the rest of the playoffs.
Winner is: Dominik Hasek. After this incident, Hasek would go down in history as one of the best goaltenders of all time. He ended up winning 2 cups with the Red Wings and is since retired in his motherland of the Czech Republic. Hasek did have his strange moments after the incident (getting Nolan fired and forcing a trade from the Sabres), but will forever be viewed as a great goaltender. Maybe I’m being harsh on Kelley, but he would still be a fixture in the Buffalo Sports media (Empire & TBN) for the next 7 years, but whenever he would critique Hasek, I couldn’t help but think that Hasek kicked the crap out of this guy. That wasn’t the case when I thought about Dom, so Dom is the winner.
Honorable mention: Jerry Sullivan vs Bruce Smith, Jerry Sullivan vs Willis McGahee, Buffalo Bills vs WGR, Doug Flutie vs. WGR.