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"Blue collar" play in Buffalo and why it trumps skill in most fans' minds

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04-09-2013, 07:34 AM
  #1
gallagt01
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"Blue collar" play in Buffalo and why it trumps skill in most fans' minds

Preface: I'm sure I'll catch some flak for this post, but I feel like it's something that ought to be said.

I've loved the addition of Steve Ott. I believe he's a good hockey player that's provided leadership and physical play in a year it's been needed and that he embodies the "blue collar" style of play that hockey fans in Buffalo covet.

But his presence on the team and in this city is reaching Drury-esque exaggeration. There's this idea in Buffalo (particularly among casual fans) that the blue collar style should trump natural skill. That's ridiculous.

I had a discussion with some old friends this past weekend about the Sabres and hockey in general. The consensus from their end was that Ott was the team's best player, by far, and that Thomas Vanek doesn't even compare. They aren't Sekera fans, preferred Regehr to almost every defenseman the Sabres have had in the last ten years except Jay McKee and were very keen on using Euro-stereotypes.

This discussion reached its pinnacle when both guys told me that they'd rather have Dustin Brown than Anze Kopitar. They also noted that they would't trade Ott for Kopitar. That's when I gave up talking to them. They aren't alone in Buffalo - people truly believe that. I've heard from several people that Girgensons won't amount to much in this league because he's "a euro." GIRGENSONS. I've talked to people who hate the addition of Larsson because he's "another soft euro." Nevermind the fact that both of these guys play 200-foot games and work hard on a daily basis. I find that these are the same kinds of people that have never liked Jochen Hecht.

These guys are frowned upon because of their names, really. But Steve Ott is held on some pedestal that truly isn't all that deserving. I don't get it.

Ott's reputation is mostly correct. He's a good, hard-working player that has a voice in the room, hits and chips in offensively from time to time. He's valuable - especially on a contender.

But he's not this tough-as-nails, consummate hockey player that's irreplaceable in Buffalo (the toughness theory should have been debunked the second he didn't come to the aide of Ennis when Simmonds boarded him). That's a myth being perpetuated nearly every game it seems.

I value hard work in hockey players. It's important. But if someone came calling and were to give up some solid assets for Ott, I do it. He's a good player and I'm a fan, but he's not untouchable.

Where did this notion that skill trumps hard work come from? When and why did it develop in Buffalo? I do believe that you need a nice combination of will and skill to win, but will is a lot easier to replace than skill.

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04-09-2013, 08:20 AM
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kenfury
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I'm going to offend quite a number of people here so I apologize in advance.

Look at Buffalo in general. Hard working blue collar town that in many ways is anti-intellectual, anti-foreigner, loves an underdog as it is one, and still slightly racist. It is a city that is at a cross roads between the mentality of the 70's and today. I admit this is a very broad brush to paint Buffalo with and it does not fit everyone. It is simple enough to see how this extends to what we want to see in the team. A bunch of straightforward, hard working blue collar, north american boys, who punch above their weight class (Joe Mesi?) give it their all and we can get behind. In fact, does a busted, looser, beat down city like this even deserve a winning team?

I am not saying that I believe this but I see it enough in conversations both in and out of sports in Buffalo that I think it has merit.

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04-09-2013, 09:27 AM
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gallagt01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenfury View Post
I'm going to offend quite a number of people here so I apologize in advance.

Look at Buffalo in general. Hard working blue collar town that in many ways is anti-intellectual, anti-foreigner, loves an underdog as it is one, and still slightly racist. It is a city that is at a cross roads between the mentality of the 70's and today. I admit this is a very broad brush to paint Buffalo with and it does not fit everyone. It is simple enough to see how this extends to what we want to see in the team. A bunch of straightforward, hard working blue collar, north american boys, who punch above their weight class (Joe Mesi?) give it their all and we can get behind. In fact, does a busted, looser, beat down city like this even deserve a winning team?

I am not saying that I believe this but I see it enough in conversations both in and out of sports in Buffalo that I think it has merit.
I think it's a fair point. It certainly seems that way when I have discussions with people from the area.

Player-heritage stereotypes exist league-wide. It's a shame, but it's true. They just seem to be perpetuated in Buffalo.

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04-09-2013, 09:34 AM
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HockeyH3aven
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I want to see a team win. I don't care how fans perceive how they get it done.

Hockey is one of the rare sports where people for whatever reason find ways to vilify skilled guys because they don't punch other guys in the head or run around hitting people and getting suspended all the time.

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04-09-2013, 10:26 AM
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As a conspiracy theorist, I believe it's all a Canadian plot to brainwash US Hockey fans that began with the building of the CNN tower in Toronto and the direct beaming of Don Cherry into WNY homes each Saturday night.

I mean I don't disagree with you at all Loods but your friends should visit the used clothing store on Younge Street where Don drops off all his dinner jackets. And start their own coaches corner on You Tube!

More seriously, I juxtaposed this thread with the one on the 98-99 team where the love for that hard hitting team with a dominant goalie transends all else.

Folks didn't care that Varada was a Euro as long as he hit people. Yet sentiment towards Satan was more luke warm like... if he wasn't scoring then what use was he?

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04-09-2013, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenfury View Post
I'm going to offend quite a number of people here so I apologize in advance.

Look at Buffalo in general. Hard working blue collar town that in many ways is anti-intellectual, anti-foreigner, loves an underdog as it is one, and still slightly racist. It is a city that is at a cross roads between the mentality of the 70's and today. I admit this is a very broad brush to paint Buffalo with and it does not fit everyone. It is simple enough to see how this extends to what we want to see in the team. A bunch of straightforward, hard working blue collar, north american boys, who punch above their weight class (Joe Mesi?) give it their all and we can get behind. In fact, does a busted, looser, beat down city like this even deserve a winning team?

I am not saying that I believe this but I see it enough in conversations both in and out of sports in Buffalo that I think it has merit.

It's Youngstown, Ohio on steroids.

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04-09-2013, 10:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littletonhockeycoach View Post
As a conspiracy theorist, I believe it's all a Canadian plot to brainwash US Hockey fans that began with the building of the CNN tower in Toronto and the direct beaming of Don Cherry into WNY homes each Saturday night.

I mean I don't disagree with you at all Loods but your friends should visit the used clothing store on Younge Street where Don drops off all his dinner jackets. And start their own coaches corner on You Tube!

More seriously, I juxtaposed this thread with the one on the 98-99 team where the love for that hard hitting team with a dominant goalie transends all else.

Folks didn't care that Varada was a Euro as long as he hit people. Yet sentiment towards Satan was more luke warm like... if he wasn't scoring then what use was he?
That's "CN Tower" to you, sir.

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04-09-2013, 10:50 AM
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That's CN Tower to you,
yeah, ya got me there.........

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04-09-2013, 10:50 AM
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Sabre Dance
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Hockey is a great sport because it takes hard work to win. I dont care how skilled you are, if you don't work you wont be a consistent winner.

Hard work and winning go together. Skill and winning do not go together, you need the hard work to bring it all together.

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04-09-2013, 10:53 AM
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Shoey
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I'm glad someone finally said it.

Steve Ott is a fine hockey player, but the hero worship going on in this town because he works hard and hits people has been consistently blowing my mind. Fans want to stick the C on a career 3rd liner? (albeit a good one)

It's the exact same thing that happened with guys like Nathan Gerbe and Trent Edwards, this town LOVES an underdog.

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04-09-2013, 10:56 AM
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Ideally you want a mixture of both blue collar and skill. If there's one guy who epitomized what kind of player most people in Buffalo want, I'd say it was Peca. Hard working, leadership, very tough to play against and would put up solid points. That said, Ott's probably the closest thing we've had to Peca since he left, so I can understand the crush on him.

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04-09-2013, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoey View Post
I'm glad someone finally said it.

Steve Ott is a fine hockey player, but the hero worship going on in this town because he works hard and hits people has been consistently blowing my mind. Fans want to stick the C on a career 3rd liner? (albeit a good one)

It's the exact same thing that happened with guys like Nathan Gerbe and Trent Edwards, this town LOVES an underdog.
I don't know much about the Bills because I'm not a fan, but I agree with your point on the underdog. It's kind of annoying how they are praised in Buffalo, it would be much nicer to have a franchise player who has unlimited amounts of skill who received positive media attention.

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04-09-2013, 11:05 AM
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Buffalo fans appreciate skill. They loved the 06-07 team. It's just that we've had such *****s (for lack of a better word Edit: damn filter. Think small, fluffy felines) on the team the past few years that when a real blue collar player arrives he's going to be celebrated out of proportion.


Last edited by aceface33: 04-09-2013 at 11:11 AM.
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04-09-2013, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by couture23 View Post
I don't know much about the Bills because I'm not a fan, but I agree with your point on the underdog. It's kind of annoying how they are praised in Buffalo, it would be much nicer to have a franchise player who has unlimited amounts of skill who received positive media attention.
Like Sittler, Gilmore, Clark and ....Kessel?????

Just joshin' with you

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04-09-2013, 11:08 AM
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couture23
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Originally Posted by littletonhockeycoach View Post
Like Sittler, Gilmore, Clark and ....Kessel?????

Just joshin' with you
Hey! I may like the city I live in, but I hate the players (past and present )

I wish we had a player like Toews.

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04-09-2013, 11:10 AM
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Hey! I may like the city I live in, but I hate the players (past and present )

I wish we had a player like Toews.
Agree on Toews. He's the complete package.

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04-09-2013, 11:11 AM
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The idea that we had the hardest working team in the late 90's only works because we have the most talented goalie to ever play the game. And he was the opposite of that, a complete diva. Those teams were no better than our current one with Ryan Miller in net.

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04-09-2013, 11:15 AM
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This is town where Maxim Afinogenov was one of the team's most popular players. I think you guys are overstating the point a bit.

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04-09-2013, 11:17 AM
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The idea that we had the hardest working team in the late 90's only works because we have the most talented goalie to ever play the game. And he was the opposite of that, a complete diva. Those teams were no better than our current one with Ryan Miller in net.
No, they were way better defensively, Hasek or not.

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04-09-2013, 11:19 AM
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stokes84
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No, they were way better defensively, Hasek or not.
And this team has more offense. They cancel each other. Not to mention, Hasek made those teams look better defensively than they really were.

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04-09-2013, 11:30 AM
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Shoey
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I know that shots against isn't the best barometer, but the 98-99 team allowed 2,457 shots on goal.

This year's team is on pace for 2,701 (if playing a full 82)

the difference there is roughly 3 more shots surrendered per game... and you can't tell me that Hasek didn't face as many ridiculous scoring chances a night than Miller has this season.

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04-09-2013, 11:33 AM
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RazielMoshman
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No, they were way better defensively, Hasek or not.
Than this year yes, but the Sabres have been responsible defensively most years for a while. This year really is every kind of exception.

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04-09-2013, 11:50 AM
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This is town where Maxim Afinogenov was one of the team's most popular players. I think you guys are overstating the point a bit.
Right, I saw going to say - umm, Grigorenko? People were freaking out about that guy this preseason. Buffalo loves it's hard-working, physical underdogs for sure but this thread is overstating it a bit.

And I definitely wouldn't describe Buffalo as anti-intellectual.

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04-09-2013, 11:50 AM
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stokes84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoey View Post
I know that shots against isn't the best barometer, but the 98-99 team allowed 2,457 shots on goal.

This year's team is on pace for 2,701 (if playing a full 82)

the difference there is roughly 3 more shots surrendered per game... and you can't tell me that Hasek didn't face as many ridiculous scoring chances a night than Miller has this season.
It was also an era which defenders could get away with anything, so its hard to compare that way.

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04-09-2013, 11:50 AM
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msm29
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I disagree in principle, but I understand the point.

Hockey is a blue-collar sport. Much moreso than in any other sport, hard work and extra effort can win games.

My counterpoint would be this: Which team do you think would be more likely to win a Stanley Cup.... A team of Steve Otts, or a team of Ilya Kovalchuks?

Ilya is clearly more skilled, but in a playoff series, I'm going with the Otts.

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