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Idle hands and minds
Christmas break, an historic blizzard, and hockey on the backburner
When I made the (rash? impromptu? wise?) decision to jump on and cover the latter two games of the Buffalo Sabres’ three-game trip to the mountains and deserts of the west, I didn’t realize I was there to watch the last games we’d see from them for more than a week.
Hockey has taken a backseat in Buffalo for good reason. A "once in a lifetime” winter storm hit the city and prevented the Sabres from hosting Tampa Bay on the 23rd, visiting Columbus on the 27th, and just might prevent them from hosting Detroit on the 29th.
I live in the city of Buffalo, not a suburb, and let me tell you it’s brutal out here but I’ve been very fortunate. Others around the area have had to deal with much harsher outcomes and hardships. Lives have been lost from the storm and cold and it’s horrible to see happen. Natural disasters don’t happen very often in this part of the world very often and efforts around the neighborhood to help each other out are incredibly heartening.
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I get asked sometimes,“Why would you choose to live in Buffalo” when it comes to the winter weather and the like, but a few dicey months of cold and snow are more palatable when you have good people and people doing good around you. What’s heartening and even grounding is listening to the players and coaches discuss the storm and how it affected them.
“It was the worst one that I've ever been in,” Kyle Okposo said. “The only other thing that I could compare it to was when I was a kid, there was a huge tornado that ripped through St. Paul and went basically four streets over from me, which was which was pretty scary. But I mean, this was just two days of constant pounding and like the winds. Looking outside that first day, you're walking down the stairs, you couldn't see my neighbor's house. You know, it's just the ferocity of it. And the staying power, too, was crazy.”
The deaths and destruction it caused was on everyone’s mind—players, coaches, executives, and media—how could it not? We’d all just gone through it in some way with varying degrees of effect and difficulty. I can say I didn’t properly process any bit of it which became quite clear during the day Thursday. Not exactly the greatest opportunity to have that occur, but when you’re actively or passively ignoring what’s happening around you and how it affects you, it’s going to strike you eventually.
So, yeah, hockey’s been at the back of most everyone’s mind while all this is going on which makes it difficult to really dig in on what is going on. Sure, there haven’t been Sabres things happening lately, but a few of their prospects are playing at the World Junior Championships and although it’s early, they’re looking very good.
Jiri Kulich, whose play and production have picked up recently in Rochester, looks like an absolute stud for Czechia and Isak Rosén has been outstanding for Sweden. They each played for their countries during the 2022 WJC in August and going back at it again now for the 2023 tournament shows they’re on another level.
This is the type of growth you want to see from players at their age and in this position. They’re more veteran players for their teams this time around and they’re leading by example. It’s this kind of play you want. I think back to when Alexander Nylander was in a similar position for Sweden during the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.
Nylander was a veteran player and alternate captain on a very good Sweden team that year and he was just…OK. That year it was a young Rasmus Dahlin who everyone was eager to see (and he performed quite well) but with Nylander, Dahlin, Lias Andersson, Elias Pettersson, Timothy Liljegren, and more it was a team you wanted Nylander to shine and dominate on and he didn’t. Again, he wasn’t bad, but he certainly wasn’t their best player by a stretch.
Top talents playing to their strengths and bettering lesser players and standing out among peers of equal or greater ability is the stuff we’re here for and love to see. Here’s to hoping Kulich and Rosén can keep it up throughout the tournament.
A note of thanks
I want to thank all of you for paying to read my work here at Noted Hockey. It means the world to me that you’re supporting my career like this and Substack informed me that I’ve surpassed 100 paid subscribers which makes me a Best Seller by their metrics. When I switched to paid subscriptions, I did that knowing it might turn a lot of people off and they wouldn’t want to read my work.
I get it, I’m not new online and I understood I’d been making everything previous to that available for everyone to read, but I had to get back to writing and doing so with regularity first. I couldn’t just go paid immediately when I’d been out of action as long as I was after I was laid off by The Athletic. After all, when you fall out of view long enough you miss a lot of people who are new to the sport and its coverage as well. Showing up again seemingly out of the blue can result in people wondering who the hell I am and why the hell should they pay to read my work. It’s like the whole thing with the newspaper industry not figuring things out soon enough. You let the horse out of the barn for long enough, the horse isn’t going back in without a fight. And I wasn’t about fighting horses both real and figurative, but I did have to show that I can both still do this, do it regularly, and do it well.
To that end, thank you for believing in me and being here from the hop and I hope this is the start of a what becomes a really good thing here. It’s already very good and extremely heartening and inspiring to have your support.
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I know we’re past Christmas and all, but people like gifts any old time, right?
For the Noted Founder subscribers, I’ll be reaching out to you soon about your perk and ways to reach out to me regarding that.