Roby & Kelley: WNSA’s The Sharp Shooters

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) – Quite simply, the most fun I’ve had in nearly two decades of working in radio and television. Bar none. And six years later, people still talk to me about the show. And I wasn’t even on the air.

In August 2000, Adelphia Communications completed it’s purchase of country music station 107.7 The Bullet, WNUC. Much of the staff and equipment were moved to a brand new studio, carved out of the former garage of the Empire Sports Network. WNSA Radio was born, to carry the play-by-play of the Buffalo Sabres, and to compete with WGR in the Buffalo Sportstalk game.

Over the 4 years the station was on the air, there were numerous changes at almost every on-air and behind the scenes position, save two: Jim Kelley and Mike Robitaille. Every hockey game day. Sharpshooters. Must. Listen. Radio. “Better than the game itself,” as Jim used to say, especially when Sabres ownership was in question, and the Sabres were particularly bad.

From Day One, til the station became 107.7 The Lake, everyone knew the two hours leading up to Sabres pregame would be the most informative and entertaining radio they’d hear all day. These guys, Kelley and Roby, were old friends, old pros, and two of the funniest people you’d ever want to meet. Two legends in their own time.

The show was hosted by Mike Schopp at first, and later, by Howard Simon, I was the guy who pushed the buttons, and played the occasional sound effect, and Ricky Jay, Chris Atkins, Neil McManus, Jay Moran, Doug Young, Zig, and probably a few others did sports ticker updates during the time slot. But the show was Mike and Jim. They really brought out the best in one another. It truly was better than the game itself.

I’ve heard Roby say over and over again for the 30 years he’s been talking hockey on radio and TV, that if you have a good defense partner, that your comfortable with, it’s like stealing money on the ice. Each guy knows where the other one is going to be, what his next move will be.

That’s what listening to those to guys together, every hockey game day for 4 years, was like. It was pure, and it was raw, and it was great. They transcended sports talk, and even radio. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here, but for me, listening was like watching ballet or listening to great music. Masters, but not arrogantly erudite. These two Buffalo hockey greats… talking on the radio, made everyone listening feel like they were in on the conversation.

It’s been a long time since that show was on the air. Since then, I’ve spent hours talking with Roby, Jim Kelley, Schopp, and Howard about what a great time we had with that show, and how people still talk to us about it. Jim, God rest his soul, was the most vocal about it. For all his accomplishments in his professional life (He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame, for crying out loud!) I know he counted his time on the Sharpshooters as some of the best spent of his journalistic life. there are thousands of fans who agree.

I was blessed to hear just about every episode of the show from the catbird’s seat in the control room, and got to hear and be a part of the even better, somewhat more R-rated show that went on during the commercial breaks. I saved dozens and dozens of hours of sharpshooters shows, and I’m glad I did. I’m also glad that I can share some of them here.

So sit back and enjoy some Sharpshooters, some Jim Kelley, and some Mike Robitaille. Its interesting to hear the gameday specifics from a decade or more ago, but listen past it for the joy that was had and shared on this show.


Remembering Jim Kelley

Jim Kelley 1949-2010

Longtime Buffalo Sports writer and Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Kelley died after a long fight with cancer. He spent decades as a no-holds-barred unforgettable writer and media personality. He was the kind of columnist that when he wrote in the Buffalo News, you felt like you should cut it out and keep it.

Whether in the paper, on the radio, or on TV over the last three decades, Kelley capsulized EXACTLY what you were thinking, but did it with razor sharp English and that wise-guy grin that was a trademark of his South Buffalo repetoir.

At his heart, Jim was a South Buffalo kid who spent his childhood sneaking into the Aud to watch the AHL Bisons. That guy was always there. But also there, was his amazing ability to connect with every day people, and unparalleled ability to turn a phrase that always seemed to fit perfectly. The combination of those assests, and working like a brute, allowed him to climb his way up from News copy boy, to general assignment sports reporter, to Sabres beat reporter and then sports columnist.

Having and known and worked with Jim for close to 20 years, I can tell you there may not be anywhere else in media someone more loyal, more knowledgable, more hilarious, more credible, and more brutally honest than was my friend Jim Kelley. He never pulled a punch.

I had the great pleasure of doing Jim a personal favor about 7 years ago, which I would have likely long forgotten, had he not brought it up every time we talked. “I owe you,” he’d say, even as he underwent treatment for cancer, and even as he was coming to the realization the treatments weren’t helping, and the the end was near.

I owe you, he’d say. Jim, we all owe you. I don’t know that he could have packed more into a life cut way too short. All I can say is I’m glad to have known him, and that I’m a better man for it.


Listen to The Sharpshooters

Sharpshooters
December, 2001 Mike Schopp, Jim Kelley, Mike Robitaille. On this show, the guys are looking through piles of old hockey cards from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and talking about the memories that came up with each name and each card. My favorite part of this show, and watching Roby pull a card, laugh quietly to himself, and put the card off to the side. we were treated to some great stories in the commercial breaks this day. Jim and Roby both in fine story telling form. I’m glad I didn’t embarrass myself, hearing my voiceover on the open to the show.

More on the audio above:
Sharpshooters 2001: Mike Schopp with Roby & Jim. This is a great show, just thinking about what’s missing from hockey “in today’s game.” The guys share some of their thoughts, and interact well with callers as well.

Sharpshooters 2001: Mike Schopp with Mike Robitaille and Jim Kelley. This show was not only about hockey, and not only about sports, which was one reason why the show was great. Here’s classic Kelley, railing against the political lethargy is Western New York. I told Jim more than once, I’d quit my job to work for his campaign. 

Sharpshooters, November 2002: Howard Simon, Jim Kelley, Mike Robitaille. Howard and Roby argue about a lack of player moves on the Sabres, and Roby explains, to the merriment of Jim, that one can’t suck and blow at the same time.

Sharpshooters, November 2002: More from Howard, Jim and Roby… This time as they join Fan TV for a segment. I don’t think I have any video of the Sharpshooters on Empire, which is really too bad.

Hockey Night in Buffalo, April 1995: This one is from the first time Howard, Jim and i worked together… Then-WBEN Sports Director Howard Simon hosts Hockey Night in Buffalo on WBEN, with then-Buffalo News Hockey Writer Jim Kelley, on the day the Sabres debuted the black and red uniforms at the Aud.

Remembering Jim Kelley: December, 2010 This is a marriage of two Jim Kelley obituary stories I produced, which ran the day after Jim passed away.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Ted Darling and The 1975 Sabres

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY- As the Buffalo Sabres celebrate the team’s 40th Anniversary season, staffannouncer.com celebrates the voices that have brought us Sabres hockey for those four decades, over televisions connected to an antenna, TVs connected to a satellite dish, or from a transistor radio under the pillow for a late night West Coast swing in Winnipeg or with the Golden Seals.

The 1980s Sabres Broadcast Team:Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling, Mike Robitaille, and Jim Lorentz. (Buffalo Stories archives)

On this page, we bring you the Voice of the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Darling, as he narrates the story of the 1975 Sabres Stanley Cup Season, featuring his own play-by-play calls and those of his broadcast partner Rick Jeanneret.

Ted Darling’s smooth voice and exciting yet still authoritative call of Sabres Hockey was heard on radio and TV from the team’s inception in 1970, through 1991, when illness forced him from the booth. Rick Jeanneret, who for generations of Sabres fans is the voice most associated with the excitement of Sabres Hockey, will to this day demur when called the ‘Voice of the Sabres,’ explaining that title belongs only to Ted Darling.

Prior to becoming the Sabres first play-by-play man in 1970, Darling was the studio host for the English-language Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts of the Montreal Canadiens games. His genuine excitement for what he was seeing on the ice, and the stunning pace with which he delivered the play-by-play certainly added to the buzz and excitement of NHL hockey as it was played in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. This was true especially in an era when a play-by-play man’s description was vital: only a handful of games were televised, and the opening day capacity of the Aud before for the oranges were added was in the 10,000 range.

Tim Horton, perhaps now better known for coffee, was a veteran defenceman for the Buffalo Sabres when he died in February, 1974, after a traffic accident on the QEW driving back to Buffalo from Toronto, following a game with the Leafs. Horton was a mentor for many of the young defencemen on the Sabres, including Mike Robitaille and Jim Schoenfeld. The year after Horton’s death, the Sabres made the Stanley Cup Finals. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Like only few other voices, Darling’s is one that uniquely brings Buffalonians back to a different time. Just like hearing Irv, Rick or Tom… Or Van Miller… Or Danny Neaverth… there’s that feeling like home when you hear Ted Darling. His voice is like the gentle whirr of the AM&A’s escalator, or the taste of a Crystal Beach loganberry. If you close your eyes, it’s one of those things that can actually take you back through time for a few moments…

Ted was an original. Ted was a good man and a good friend. Though some in the press reprehensibly said that he was forced from the broadcast booth by alcoholism, it was actually Pick’s Disease, a rare form of dementia which manifests itself similarly to Alzheimer’s Disease, which lead Ted to leave broadcasting. He died from the disease in 1996. Those who knew him, love him. Those who listened to him, loved him. Buffalo loves him still.

Close your eyes now, for a moment, and remember Sabres hockey the way it was…..

Listen to Ted Darling!

 Narrated by Ted Darling, these two tracks are Side One and Side Two of an album put out by the Sabres and WGR Radio celebrating the Sabres 1975 season.

Side One is a recap of the regular season.
Side Two is a recap of the 1975 playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Finals vs The Flyers.

You also hear Ted’s voice along with Rick Jeanneret and Stan Roberts on “Memorable Sabre Highlights,” the 45rpm single record put out by WGR Radio following the 1975 season.

The highlights were on the “B” side of Donna McDaniels’ “We’re Gonna Win That Cup.”

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Stan Jasinski on WKBW, Christmas Day 1954

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The view of Seneca Street from the Cichon’s porch on Fairview Place. The building to the left is Heidi’s Tuxedo, since burned down. My great grandfather lived in an apartment in the yellow house on the right.

BUFFALO, NY  – For me, hearing the name ‘Stan Jasinski’ conjures up images of my grandfather, sitting on his South Buffalo porch listening to cassette tapes of polka radio shows he had taped the previous weekend. Ed “Edziu” Cichon would sit out there, looking at the comings and goings on Seneca Street with a serene smile on his face, enjoying the music, his grandkids, and life in general.

It was a great break for Gramps, from his numerous jobs- from tinsmith at Buffalo Color and National Aniline, to ticket taker for the Bills and Sabres, to bet taker at Buffalo Raceway.

For most of my generation, I would imagine thoughts of Stan Jasinski beckon thoughts of grandparents, and this is true for Edmund Haremski as well.

Stan Jasinski, WKBW, circa 1955.

His family owned Lucki-Urban Furniture, sponsors of Jasinski’s broadcasts from the 50s-90s. He remembers playing the two transcription records from which these audio clips came in his grandma’s basement as a little guy.

The half hour program was recorded on these transcription records, sometime before Christmas Day 1954, for playback on that date. The program is completely on Polish, save the opening and closing voiceover by an WKBW staff announcer, perhaps Larry Brownell.

For those who remember listening to Jasinski near the end of his broadcast career as I do, his cadence and voice is amazingly consistent, sounding virtually identical, and very much recognizable, 40 years earlier.

You’ll hear Stan speaking between the songs, and if you’re like me– with a very limited understanding of Polish– The only words you’ll understand are a few numbers, and the words “Lucki-Urban’ and “Stromberg-Carlson,” the latter being a manufacturer of some of the finest radios of that era.

You’ll also hear ‘Stas’ singing along with the Paderewski Singing Society, working Lucki-Urban into Polish Christmas carols, including a Polish version of Jingle Bells.

  • Pada Snieg-– Polish Jingle Bells.
  • Stan Jasinski’s Complete Christmas 1954 broadcast on WKBW Radio,  with the Paderewski Singing Society.  

Buffalo in the 40’s: This is not Cheektowaga

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Um, no?

Buffalo Stories archives

The postcard company obviously put the wrong image on this 1949 postcard. The only mountains in Cheektowaga are made by the old clothes and sneakers left in the mall parking lot by Canadian shoppers.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

The Golden Age of Buffalo’s Great Retailers

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY  – The outpouring was amazing.

After agreeing to give a lecture at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery about some of the city’s great retailers of the past, I was deluged with people offering up their memories, and thirsty for the memories of the stores of Buffalo’s grand old stores.

Consider this page a taste of the Golden Age of Buffalo Retailing talk that’s been seen by thousands of Western New Yorkers (and can become a part of your next meeting or event. )

Take a stroll down memory lane, and play some classic jingles while looking over some images of Buffalo’s by-gone retailers.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

 

Buffalo in the 80’s: Channel 4’s news team

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

What’s so funny?

Buffalo Stories archives

I’d love to know what probably inappropriate joke Bob Koop made to make everyone laugh here:) The News 4 staff circa 1985. Van Miller, Jacquie Walker, Don Paul, Carol Jasen, and the late Bob Koop.

Buffalo Stories archives

Rick Pfeiffer and Bob Koop on the set at News 4, 1983.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Buffalo in the 40’s: Frank Sedita’s Booze Shop

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I found this postcard a while ago, showing two men standing in a West Side liquor store in the 1940s.

Anthony Tauriello and Frank Sedita. Buffalo Stories archives
Taurielllo & Sedita Liquor Store, 436 Niagara Street. Buffalo Stories archives

The Man on the left would become a congressman in the 60’s (Anthony Tauriello) and the man on the right would become Buffalo’s Mayor– Frank Sedita, the current DA’s grandfather.

Now that I dug out the card, I’m giving it to the Sedita family. Neat heirloom.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Buffalo in the 50’s: WWOL’s Guy King arrested hanging out on a billboard

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was the craziest radio prank to date in Buffalo and Tom Clay– who was one of many men who used the air name GUY KING on WWOL Radio– kicked off Buffalo’s Rock’n’roll radio era in style.

Leading into the Independence Day holiday, Clay played Bill Haley & The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” over and over again, while hanging outside the studio window out on the WWOL billboard in Shelton Square, urging motorists to get a look at him and beep their horns to say hello.

Shelton Square, late 1940s, showing street cars, the Palace Burlesk, and WWOL Radio. Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Police and Buffalo Fire didn’t appreciate the prank, and Clay spent part of the night in the clink.

Buffalo Stories archives

New Book! The Complete History of Parkside

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Complete History of Parkside, Buffalo, NY
A New Book by Buffalo Author Steve Cichon

A history of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood, from its place in the history of the Seneca Nation, to its role in the War of 1812, to Olmsted’s design and the turn of the century building out of the area, and the neighborhood’s 20th century evolutions. Included are discussions of the area’s earliest colorful settlers, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, Delaware Park, The Buffalo Zoo, and the stories and anecdotes of many more struggles, individuals, and institutions that have made Parkside one of Buffalo’s premier historic neighborhoods today.


Questions You’ll Have Answered as You Read:

  • Where is Parkside’s mass virtually unmarked grave?
  • How did a Parkside quest for riches turn to… naked women?!?
  • Why did the FBI have Parkside staked out for most of a decade?
  • You’ll also learn details on how America’s first jet plane was built in Parkside, and the scandal with Parkside roots that nearly brought down a Presidency.

135 historic photos, 172 pages.

Steve CichonABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Cichon is an award winning journalist with WBEN Radio, where he’’s been a news reporter and anchor since 2003, having worked in Buffalo radio and television since 1993. Steve and his wife Monica became Parkside home owners on Valentines Day 2000, and quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. They continue to renovate and restore their 1909 EB Green designed American Four Square, and will likely continue to do so into perpetuity.

Books available for purchase NOW online… and at the following locations:

  • Talking Leaves Books (Main St. and Elmwood Ave. Locations)
  • The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Shop
  • The Darwin Martin House Gift Shop
  • WNY Barnes & Noble Stores
  • Borders WNY Locations
  • Buy online at the Buffalo Stories Bookstore

Steve is available to talk about Parkside History. Please email Steve for details.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com