By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Western New York’s legions of hockey fans have had a rough year.
The 2011-12 season ended with the Buffalo Sabres missing the playoffs and the NHL lockout has, at least of this writing, prevented the team from taking the ice to improve their standing.
With this in mind, picking up veteran sports columnist Sal Miaorana’s latest offering, “100 Things Sabres Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” is a refreshing answer to these hockey doldrums.
Miaorana, the longtime Bills and Sabres columnist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, released his 17th book, published by Triumph Books, earlier this year and for hockey fans starved for something other than gloomy lockout news — or, if the work stoppage has been resolved by the time this hits print, a primer to get ready for a truncated season — it’s a refreshing change of pace.
The book has a newspaper tempo and sensibility, being subdivided into 100 capsules, most of column length, making it a quick read and plenty easy to pick up and put down. Miaorana’s straight-forward, tight delivery keeps pages turning.
For diehard fans, much of this is a refresher course. A majority of the capsules focus on games, play-by-play of which most diehards are able to cite from memory, and players whose stats are equally as memorable.
At times, Miaorana’s “100 Things” hook is a neutral zone trap of sorts, with several of the capsules becoming repetitive. Players, games and seminal moments in the team’s history are intertwined and don’t lend to such a neat subdivision. The in-game heroics and awkward departures of some star players like Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Danny Gare and Chris Drury are referenced in their individual chapters and retold in chapters reliving the games themselves.
At points one wonders whether this team really has 100 things people need to know — does the career of Bill Hajt really qualify as must-know material? — but what any Sabres fan who picks up this book will agree is there are plenty of great memories worth recalling. Miaorana’s book skillfully covers them all.
“100 Things” is at its best in the anecdotes Miaorana unearths from newspaper accounts and interviews with some of the team’s most interesting personalities. Sabres fans will get a chuckle out of stories like Lindy Ruff adeptly averting a rookie hazing by veteran Jim Schoenfeld — known for hiding in the team shower and throwing buckets of water on unsuspecting youngsters — by donning Schoenfeld’s own suit before Schoney pulled the prank.
Similarly, the heartbreak at the core of any Sabres fan’s existence is remembered in the team’s many near-misses. The 1974 and 1999 Stanley Cup runs bring back the gut-wrenching feeling of defeat. So, too, do the dashed hopes in the 1994, 2005 and 2006 campaigns that ended in conference finals defeat.
But the memories are, on balance, much fonder in this book and for Sabres fans looking for an excuse to think fondly of their beloved sport, Miaorana’s “100 Things Sabres Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” certainly does the trick.• WHAT: "100 Things Sabres Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" • BY: Sal Miaorana • GRADE: B+ Contact managing editor Eric DuVall at 693-1000, ext. 4112.