Hockey in January in Buffalo

Burford, Ontario & Buffalo, New York (Map)

Winter 2010.


I awoke to the new year in typical fashion, from JC's couch in Puce.

Rye & I had plans to depart for Buffalo today, so he was quickly over to JC's & we left while I was still in a fog.

Rye let me dictate which route we took to Buffalo & how long we would delay.

After much research into Simcoe, Nanticoke & Dunnville exploration0, I eventually concluded that our time would be best spent in Western New York.

We did swerve off of Highway 403 for a brief detour along Brant County 53 though. This brought us a through the pleasant little farming community of Burford. You can see their arena & skatepark above.

Although I enjoyed many aspects of Burford, it did remind me about how there are January days absent of snow in these parts of the country - which hurt my heart as I thought about the relentless 7-month winter of Newfoundland.

0 - These are communities near the shores of Lake Erie, to the south of Highway 401/403.

I was initially bummed out about our Buffalo accommodations because I couldn't find any interesting hotels for us to stay at: I'd find one, then realized it was being renovated...then I'd find another, but realized it was being torn down for a medical complex.

I had accepted that we would have to stay at one of the boring, Soviet-style, concrete monstrosity hotels that inhabit downtown Buffalo.

That was until I found the website for the Hotel Lenox!

Originally constructed in 1896 as an apartment building, it was converted into a hotel in 1900. Its location near the affluent mansions of Millionaire's Row, meant many people staying in this area were the highbrow type of people who'd spend their summers in the Hamptons & their winters at the Hotel Lenox.

Today the hotel is reverting back to apartments & the only floor for rent is the top floor (the 8th).

The hallways may not have been ideal for the claustrophobic & the elevator was somewhat rickety, but the hallway was clean, the floor layout was interesting & the two of us were happy with the cleanliness of the room they assigned (which was also on the city skyline side per my request).

The four taps in the bathroom confused me, until I realized there was a cold shower tap, hot shower tap, cold bath tap & hot bath tap.

The number one thing I may love about old hotels is how they typically don't screw their windows shut.

It may have been a little cold, but later on, I would need to snap some nighttime exposures from our room.

The elevator was broken on the day we were leaving and we had to take the stairs - which were nastier than some abandoned buildings I've been in - but then again, normally a person shouldn't be back here.

I can only imagine the tall tale that a princess would be whining about if he/she had to walk these stairs.

Enough about the hotel.

After dropping off our belongings and inspecting our 115-year old room, Rye & I set about an afternoon wander through the Buffalo streets.

As previously mentioned, this was an extremely affluent neighbourhood at one time, so we were both impressed with all of the buildings around us. As an example of how affluent this neighbourhood once was, when President McKinley was shot in Buffalo in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was immediately sworn into presidency in a mansion only a stone's throw away from our Hotel Lenox.

I had only explored Buffalo one other time & that trip was all about getting into buildings - which brought us into depressed neighbourhoods. This time, this was a whole different side of Buffalo.

The funny thing is that looking at a map of the neighbourhoods of Buffalo & where we walked, I now see that we veered away from the nicer neighbourhoods, and into the working class, Italian-settled, West End neighbourhoods.

Our walk went from working-class housing, to the odd abandoned building, to the telltale liquor stores & fast food of rougher neighbourhoods.

I wasn't sure how rough this Lower West Side neighbourhood was, but seeing as the day was growing old and we had a bit of cash/electronics/tickets on us, we decided to grab a few Yuenglings & Joozes, then head back towards our Hotel Lenox.

We were feeling good after a few delicious Yuenglings & we delayed until it was time to hurry to the game.

Thankfully we ran into a fellow Bruins fan, who informed us that we were NOT within walking distance of the arena...and that we should get onto the Buffalo Subway.

Wait, Buffalo has a subway?!?1

1 - Apparently it is classified as a 'light rail' system.

We ended up riding the subway for a good 10 minutes & realized just how far we were from the arena, which made us thankful for that friendly Bruins fan from St. Thomas.

As we arrived early instead of late, we went for a walk around & I was very excited to find the Aud Club. Seeing as I had explored the abandoned Buffalo Memorial Auditorium here 4 years prior, I knew about the Aud Club in the old Sabres arena, a swanky affair with nice woodwork and funky carpets.

I was required to have a beer at the new Aud Club. I knew it wasn't the same as the old one, but it's nice to see them preserve a few things from the old arena.

The new arena also had the same fast food stand-style statistics which the old Buffalo arena had, but I thought it was weird that I didn't remember seeing Hasek & Trefilov on the old one...

Comparing with the old stats board, it appears they are for different years.

As for the HSBC Arena itself, I really despised the corridors.

A lot of modern arenas are very similar, but Buffalo's was especially bad because it reminded me of a movie theatre.

Instead of being at a sporting event, it felt like I was at Silver City. No bueno.

We had crumby seats in the upper deck which were so tiny that I questioned how anyone actually large could sit comfortably. Neither of us are beacons of fitness, but we should be able to sit relatively comfortably, and it felt like we were spilling out over onto the next person.

This damn arena wasn't gaining any points.

Once the festivities actually started, I noticed someone I modeled my game after - Alexandre Mogilny - on the screen & also at centre ice, which improved my mood.

(It also helped that I had an empty seat next to me & poor Rye had a large Sabres fan spilling over into his lap.)

In between the periods, Rye & I went for some food & decided to try the local Buffalo specialty Beef on Weck; although we were both really skeptical of roast beef on a sandwich bun without sauce (this sounded even more ridiculous to Rye who doesn't have Massachusetts friends who eat dry roast beef sandwiches on the regular).

Anyway, neither of us enjoyed our Beef on Wecks & thought Buffalo Chicken Wings might have been a better idea.

At least the Beef on Wecks came with a pickle.

The game went back & forth in a New Year's Day gunfight, eventually resulting in a 6-6 shootout.

I had watched Boston win in 4 arenas at this point (Boston,Detroit,St. Louis,Columbus), so I was flirting with continuing towards a possible goal of seeing Boston win in every NHL arena.

Unfortunately, I'll have to return to Buffalo if I want to see Boston win a game in every NHL arena. Less than ideal.

Rye & I disappointedly went out on the town & tried to make the best of it. Seeing as it was New Year's Day and the weather wasn't exactly pleasant, there weren't many people out in downtown Buffalo. We found an okay place where no one bothered the two guys in Boston jerseys (we actually met two more Boston fans from Ingersoll); then we went to some fucking terrible dance bar where everyone wore $100 unbuttoned button-ups and stared at us...then we finally finished up by going to the indie district of Allentown near our hotel.

After slices at a very New York (Yawk) pizza joint, we purchased one more pint at an awesome old house-turned-bar.

Rye was hurting by this time & I realized we should go back. Closing time may be 4a.m. in Buffalo...but this poor bastard needed to call it a day.

Whereas yesterday was one of those mild, rainy days that I so dearly miss in Newfoundland, Rye & I woke up to wintry conditions over Buffalo on this 2nd day of 2011.

Since we had to check out of the Hotel Lenox, there was also time to drive around for a bit.

I really wanted to see the Buffalo State Asylum - a Kirkbride designed by my favourite architect (H.H. Richardson) - so we pointed the GPS that way.

As this place is currently under hopeful renovation, I wasn't all that jet set on infiltration. I'm simply hopeful that the largest building designed by Richardson, can be saved for future generations.

After a walk around the asylum, Rye & I returned to a location only 2 blocks from the Hotel Lenox. As we knew this area now, we figured it was a good place to grab lunch (although we would end up with very sub par food (the Great Lakes pints were good though)).

The distance from our breakfast bar to the subway station could be easily walked in all of 2 minutes.

I was thankful that we were able to find an alley between the two, to drink some of the Yuenglings we grabbed from the car.

In writing this article, I checked the temperatures for these days and it was 45° on January 1 and 30° on January 2. I definitely remember it being colder, and I know Rye would support me, as we were both damn cold while drinking our Yuenglings in this alley. Maybe it was simply cold by comparison, cold because I only had a Cam Neely jersey on, or cold because the wind was 30mph (with blowing snow)...or maybe it was a combination of all three.

All I know is that Rye & I drank our beers damn fast so we could retreat to the subway. It was a humourous time in the alley (with a restaurant worker coming out and shaking his head at us), but we also didn't dawdle.

When we reached the end of the subway line, we exited and made our way over to the east side of the HSBC Arena, looking for another hidden place to consume our other Yuenglings. We found an alley that was wide & across from a popular parking lot, but most people seemed preoccupied with getting into the warmth, instead of harassing us for being drains on society.

We drank more comfortably in this alley as it seemed warmer (we were likely just drunk), watching the starlings flutter about and inspecting the industrials buildings all around us.

We eventually finished up & made our way over, stopping at some kind of Team Canada Beer Tent along the way.

We quickly concluded that it was completely whack & headed for the arena's doors.

Today's game was between the Canadians and the Swiss.

We only purchased tickets for "Quarter Final Game IV" - so we had no idea that it would work out that we'd see Canada.

Nonetheless, I've never been one for Canadian sports patriotism & I was more excited to see Nino Niederreiter of Team Switzerland.

(Aside: It's not that I'm anti-Canada, it's just that I don't like cheering for the same things as everyone else. Even as long ago as 1996, I remember being REALLY excited when Hasek stopped Kariya & my Czechs beat Canada for the championship. I DO...DEFINITELY...appreciate what Canada has done for me & my future, but I just don't see hockey as an end-all thing, where if I don't cheer for Crosby or Kassian, that I should be deported to Kladno or Ljubljana as a traitor. It is JUST pro sports, it is not as if I'm saying we should dissolve the Dominion or that I wish I could renounce my citizenship.

Fuck. Whatever. Go Niederreiter!)

I also despise Crosby, which has nothing to do with my disinclination for cheering on Canada in the Olympics/WorldCup/WorldJuniors. (I like plenty of Canadian hockey players (Beliveau, Hamilton, Stamkos, Pietrangelo), but I think Crosby is a whiny vagina - I'd easily trade him to Russia for Ovechkin.)

Knowing my disdain for Crosby, many of my friends were amused by the above picture.

The neatest part about attending a Canada game for me, was that we could see Bob McKenzie & James Duthie! Two popular TSN analysts.

Anyway, Canada won by some score & everyone was excited. Rye & I left Buffalo & it was quickly dark since we were so close to the winter equinox.

We crossed the border smoothly, I cracked a few beers & Rye brought me home safe.

Fantastic times in Buffalo.



1 - University of Buffalo Map Collection - Buffalo Neighborhoods

2 - Wikipedia - Buffalo, New York

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