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:
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.