From the Archives: Rick Jeanneret screams WOWIE HOUSLEY!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

On the day Phil Housley was named the Sabres Head Coach, a quick search for WOWIE HOUSLEY netted nothing… So I had to dig into the archives and post fresh it myself.

Sabres broadcast crew, Mid-80s, in the Memorial Auditorium Press Box. Mike Robitaille, Jim Lorentz, Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling

Listen… as Rick Jeanneret calls a Phil Housley goal for the Buffalo Sabres in the 1988-89 season, with ROCK’EM SABRES setting the proper 1980s Sabres mood.

Audio and images from the Buffalo Stories Archives/Steve Cichon collection.

The Complete Legend of Haseoke

Grainy video apparently shows Dominik Hasek “singing” the hits
SPOILER ALERT: Not Really

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

In the dark back room at a Radio Station in Buffalo, New York, Steve Cichon, the producer of the Mike Schopp Show, found a dusty box of tapes labeled “Dom–Karaoke.” After viewing a few tapes, it was obvious that these tapes were, indeed, of Dom doing karaoke. As the “curator” of the Haseoke Archive, Steve chose a tape to play each day on Mike’s show. 

Buffalo, NY – Today is a day about legacy.

Dominik Hasek, arguably (should read CLEARLY) the most talented man ever to don a Sabres sweater, will see his number -39- hoisted into the rafters of the First Niagara Center this evening. (Most Talented Sabre and Greatest Sabre are two different ideas, but I’ll save that for another day.)

Hasek’s career in Buffalo and my career in radio started at about the same time. As a teenaged radio producer, I was at Sabres morning skates when John Muckler was being asked about Grant Fuhr or Hasek starting.

By the end of the ’90s, when the Sabres were making deep playoff runs, I was a semi-regular at game day skates and in the post-game dressing room first for WBEN, then for Channel 4.

It could get pretty emotional after a big game. When the Sabres lost the 1998 Eastern conference Finals in Game 6 to the Washington Capitals, I walked into the room just as Rob Ray punched out the glass door of a convenience-store-style drink cooler/fridge. Donald Audette sat in his locker stall, jersey off, pads on, sobbing uncontrollably.

One of the great things about that team was their emotional investment. It takes magic to win in sports, and that Sabres team had it. They had that intangible something– everyone feeding off of one another, all on the same page with the same goals.

Creating and fostering that magic is the fleeting task that every coach and front office tries to accomplish in athletics. It’s that rare and impossible-to-predict atmosphere that is the most difficult part in creating a successful team. Finding talented players is the relatively easy part.

That Sabres group was made up of a lot of guys touched with that rare magic but most had little talent. Domink Hasek, of course, was the talent, and it was from him that the magic flowed. But just as he was a like a brick wall in the net, he was like a brick wall in the feng shui of the spirit of that team.

Watching it up close, there were little signs. Literally. Like the one in Hasek’s dressing room stall which read like something a third grader would post on his bedroom door. “DO NOT TOUCH EVER” said the sticker above a pair of nail clippers hanging on the wall near Dom’s pads. It’s unclear whether actual tomfoolery or just the active prevention of tomfoolery precipitated the sign, but it wasn’t really in line with the aura of boyish fun surrounding that team.

By 1999, I was a TV sports producer on the Stanley Cup beat. My job was to watch morning practice, and get in the lockerroom and ask the questions that sports reporters ask. Hasek was one of the “must talk to” players. His “treatments” right after practice usually meant he wouldn’t speak in a press conference, which meant 20-30 reporters, producers, and cameramen surrounding Hasek’s stall waiting for him to come out. His “20 minute treatments” would sometimes take more than an hour, but the whole gaggle had to be ready. Dom wouldn’t wait for people to get into position. Sometimes, he wouldn’t speak for more that a minute or two. If you weren’t ready, you missed it.

I have always done impressions. By this point, you could have heard me on the radio doing “Johnnie the old tyme hockey guy” (who suspiciously sounded like John Muckler), Gary Bettman, and John Butler.

Sometimes spending a half hour on one knee waiting for Hasek to come out, I can clearly remember doing quiet Hasek impressions– lips pressed close to the microphone I was holding ready for Hasek. I was just loud enough so that the videographers I was working with, usually Jeff Helmick or Scott Swenson, could hear it in their earpieces but no one else could.

Those impressions continued in the car and back at the station, and often involved a liberal sprinkling of classic Hasek terms like “groin”, “butterfly” (the sprawling move which he had a hard time doing because of his groin injury), and “I nono”, which is how it sounded when he started most sentences with a negative headshake and the words “I don’t know.”

domonstageA few years later, impression refined, I was working at WNSA Radio and The Empire Sports Network producing the Mike Schopp Show. Our stations were owned by Rigas Family, who also owned the Sabres. Once, we were supposed to have a St. Louis Cardinals beat writer on, and he stiffed. On the air, Mike asked if Dom could come on and talk about the Cardinals, so only identified as “Dom,” I did the interview with Mike. I knew very little about the Cardinals, which made it even better.

Hasek was still a Sabre at this point, and Mike and I were told to never have “Dom” on the show again. But as luck would have it, he was soon traded, and the ban was lifted. Mike had the lyrics of “Lady Marmalade,” the LaBelle classic which was enjoying a resurgence with a Christina Aguilera cover on the charts.

“What would it sound like if ‘Dom’ was doing karaoke and sang ‘Lady Marmalade,'” asked Schopp. “That would be like ‘Haseoke,'” said program drector and sports update guy Chris Atkins. Haseoke was born.

I’d produce a “Haseoke” clip for Sabres game days, first with Schopp, then Howard Simon. As “the curator of the Haseoke archive,” I would help introduce whichever clip I had “found” that day. When I left WNSA and moved over to Entercom, Haseoke appeared again regularly with Schopp and The Bulldog on WGR. In the beginning, they were mostly just “Dom” trying to sing and doing a poor job of it. As it evolved, “Dom” started to fill his songs with hate for the Sabres, and would often sing a song where the lyrics could be bent into cheering for whoever the Sabres were playing against.

Once Hasek retired, new Haseoke songs would only pop up when Hasek was in the news for something.

In truth, Haseoke was born of my frustration and dislike for Hasek as a guy. He might have played up an injury because he hated the coach. He roughed up my good pal, the late hockey writing legend Jim Kelley. He was arrogant. He made me wait on one arthritic knee just because he could and he wanted to eff with reporters.

I know I wasn’t alone in my feelings. I once had a brief, smiling conversation with Darcy Regier about Haseoke. He started it, and he )was smiling. While Marty Biron was the Sabres starting goalie, I talked as Dom with Biron– LIVE on the air– and told him how terrible he was and the Sabres were. Marty loved it.

That was then. I’m far more removed now, but I’m glad to see that Hasek appears to be a bit more level-headed and even likable these days. Even if they were both faking it, was nice to see Hasek and Ted Nolan enjoying a conversation together earlier this hockey season. Hasek of 15 years ago couldn’t have been bothered to fake such a thing.

The fact he seems a bit more humble and likeable has let the steam out of my desire to “curate” any new Haseoke tapes. But as I wrote to open this piece, today is about legacy.

As Hasek is justly being remembered as worthy of having his number retired, I might be remembered for this. I know for many Buffalo sports talk show fans, I’ll forever be linked with Dom. In fact, over a 20 year broadcasting career, despite covering Hurricane Katrina and plane crashes and big trials and big snow & ice storms and winning awards for reporting and journalism, Haseoke might be the only thing I’m remembered for, if anything at all.

If my legacy is making people smile…. I no-no… I’m happy for it.

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.

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

Rock ‘Em Sabres on WNYB-TV 49, and We’re here, we care, WBEN

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

With the Sabres flying high, rest assured I’ll be dipping into the Sabres Archives quite a bit on this blog… This time, we’re going back to the late 80’s with a pair of sound files.

bells-sign

This is a 60 second verision of the Rock Em Sabres Jingle, paired back-to-back with WBEN’s “We’re Here, We Care” song. That edit is taken directly from the reel that used to play over the Aud Speakers before game time.

sabreswnybsm

The second sound clip is a commercial for WNYB-TV 49– the Television Home of the Sabres before the Empire Sports Network. This spot promos a West Coast Trip, with a game against the Stanley Cup Champion Oilers, as well as a game against the Flames. The announcer voice on the spot is that of Steve Mitchell… And of course the play-by-play clips feature Ted Darling.

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

Rick Jeanneret’s greatest calls…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Last year, the Buffalo Sabres put out a CD chock full of Rick Jeanneret Highlights (many of them acquired DIRECTLY from staffannouncer.com!) The CD was produced by all-time Buffalo sports producer Greg Bauch.

rj80s

Now that the Sabres have moved on to selling a Rick Jeanneret DVD, and since I get 5 or 6 emails a week asking where that CD can be found, I’m loading up many of the highlights from the 2005 CD right here…. Along with some RJ photos.

roby-rj-cichon
Mike Robitaille, Rick Jeanneret, and some “Lame-O Hanger-on” (ok, its me) on the Empire Sports Network Fan-TV set in 2001.

This CD was originally sold to benefit the Sabres Foundation– A really great charity. Please consider buying the Rick Jeanneret DVD (sorry! Link is LONG dead!); or simply making a donation to the Sabres Foundation if you’ve enjoyed these highlights.

Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorentz, Empire Sports Network
Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorentz, Empire Sports Network

Goals:

Memorial Auditorium Scoreboard
Memorial Auditorium Scoreboard

Fights:

The audio of the Dykstra Nystrom fight was on a tape in the drawer of the WBEN sports office when I started there in 1993… This comes from that tape.. Saved by Randy Bushover and John Demerle. It’s an all time great call.

Steve Shields fights Garth Snow, Marine Midland Arena
Steve Shields fights Garth Snow, Marine Midland Arena

I was at the Shields/Snow game… and can still muster up the feeling of glee… watching Steve Shields skate the length of the ice to rip into Snow. I also made getting a copy of this highlight one of the first things I did when I went to work at Empire Sports Network in 2000.

Saves:

Classic moments:

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

Milt Ellis, Norm Wullen, Joe Byron, and the sounds of The Aud

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

miltellis
Milt Ellis

Buffalo, NY – He was so understated, you didn’t miss him until he was gone.

But there’s no doubt I’m not the only one who can’t help myself when I’m in an echoey room– I have to break loose with a Milt Ellis tribute.

1st Buffalo Goal, his second of the season, scored by number 20 Brent Peterson. assists to number number 7 Dale McCourt, and number 23 Hannu Virta. Peterson, from McCourt and Virta. Time of the Goal, 13:22.

Every Buffalo hockey fan past a certain age has a Milt Ellis impression, whether they know it or not. Milt is a Buffalo institution– although he’d be the last one to say so. He’s the most humble, sincere, honest man you’ll ever meet.

The Aud Complete with scoreboard, overhang Oranges, and "Cigarette Butt" Sound Baffles hanging fromt he ceiling.
The Aud: complete with scoreboard, overhang Oranges, and “Cigarette Butt” Sound Baffles hanging from the ceiling.
Stan Barron
Stan Barron

Milt’s Memorial Auditorium public address career started with the AHL Hockey Bisons in the mid-60s. His friend Stan Barron was the PR man for the Bisons, and they needed a new PA announcer. Stan called Milt and Milt continued to be the voice of goals, penalties, and New York State Smoking Regulations until 1997 (yes, he worked for two years in the then-Marine Midland Arena.)

Longtime Leafs PA Announcer Paul Morris
Paul Morris

A hockey fan long before the Sabres skated into Buffalo, Milt has always held a place in his heart for the Leafs. When he was growing up, he could get the Leafs games on the radio and TV. Though he’ll tell you he really doesn’t consider himself having a “style,” has has said that he’s always admired the work of longtime Leafs PA Announcer Paul Morris.

Sabres broadcast crew, Mid-80s, in the Memorial Auditorium Press Box. Mike Robitaille, Jim Lorentz, Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling
Sabres broadcast crew, Mid-80s, in the Memorial Auditorium Press Box. Mike Robitaille, Jim Lorentz, Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling

The Milt Ellis Jukebox is filled with Milt’s Public Address announcements, as well as other ephemeral sound from a night at The Aud.

Many will remember Milt introducing “The National Anthem, with Tenor Joe Byron and organist Norm Wullen.”

Selections from both men are programmed into the jukebox… Also included are a full length interview Mike Schopp conducted with Milt at WNSA Radio in 2001, and a portion of a show from WDCX– The Christian Station that was Milt’s “Day Job” the entire time he was the Sabres PA announcer.

Also a brief clip from one of the men Milt looked up to as a PA Announcer… The Voice of Maple Gardens, longtime Toronto PA man Paul Morris.

miltjukebox


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