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Immediate reactions: Canisius 87, Niagara 74

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Immediate reactions: Hurricanes 5, Sabres 3

blog by Ryan Nagelhout  • 

We were all wrong about Andrej Sekera.

The defenseman played nearly a decade in the Buffalo Sabres organization, and not once did it come up that every single person in Buffalo was pronouncing his last name wrong.

Drafted in 2004 by the Sabres, Andrej Sekera (AWN-dray SEH-kuhr-uh) played 339 regular season games for the Sabres, and we all sounded like poorly informed telemarketers when talking about him during his career.

The first indication something was wrong came before the game when the starting lineups were announced on the public address system.

The guy wearing No. 4 didn’t sound very familiar. We all checked the pronunciation guide in the press box and, sure enough, the last decade of your hockey existence has been a lie. His name still might not have been clear when he was credited with an assist on Alexander Semin’s first goal in the second period, but the third period brought plenty of chances for clarification.

Any of the 18,468 fans at First Niagara Center in Buffalo heard Sekera’s last name when he scored the game-winning goal with 10:10 left in the third period, breaking a 3-3 tie on a shot from just inside the Sabres zone that beat goaltender Jhonas Enroth.

And if they were left in the building at the final horn, they got another chance when he picked up an assist on Jiri Tlusty’s empty netter to seal a 5-3 Hurricanes win. The three-point performance earned him the game’s second star and one more chance to finally hear his name pronounced correctly in the Queen City.

So what happened to Andrej Sekera? Did he change his mind about the pronunciation when he arrived in Carolina? Was he attempting to start over? Get a clean slate. Did he Dick Whitman his former life in Buffalo?

Sekera

“The guys butchered my name,” Sekera said after the game. “I told them probably seven times in the dressing room, they still couldn’t figure it out.”

The Slovakian blue liner played seven seasons in Buffalo. Sabres announcers called him “Seh-CARE-uh” the whole time. Fans followed suit. Why didn’t he say anything? Did no one want to listen?

“I don’t really care,” he said. “I’m an easygoing guy, so however they want to pronounce my name, whatever’s better for them. It’s not my job to make sure the name is pronounced right. Some people will do it one way, some people will do it the other way.”

The correct pronunciation of Sekera’s last name is a total nontroversy, but it is interesting because this sort of thing has happened before.

Henrik Tallinder’s last name magically changed one summer. Every few years a Sabres defenseman suddenly goes by something slightly different, which goes to show you that the reality we construct in a single place isn’t always the reality that exists on the rest of the planet. It might not be reality at all.

Fan opinion on Sekera shifted so wildly during his time in Buffalo that it’s easy to wonder if we ever really knew him at all.

How much can you really know about a guy that’s always going by the wrong name? How much can anyone really understand about a player’s ability from the 300 level? Are we all just guessing when it comes to evaluating talent in sports? Isn’t that why professionals make the trades while we watch?

There aren’t any easy answers to any of those questions. This is a league where Paul Gaustad was worth the first-round pick that became Zemgus Girgensons.

We don’t really know what general managers in hockey think anyone is worth. Sekera, who has seven goals and 25 points in 47 games with Carolina, was apparently worth a Jamie McBain and a pick that became JT Compher.

Maybe those two amounts are worth the same. He’s clearly on his way to career highs in every category, but he said after the win that he’s the same player he’s always been.

The name doesn’t matter, and neither does what any of us thinks about him as a hockey player.

By the way, Phil Varone played his first game as a Buffalo Sabre on Thursday night, picking up an assist on Brian Flynn’s second-period goal. Pronounce the “e” at the end of his last name, you guys. Hopefully everyone got it right the first time.

(Editor’s note: The official Sabres website says “vuh-ROAN-ay.” Whom can we trust anymore?)

Fresh Hot Takes

— Sekera did clarify his statements about the weather in Buffalo, something that got Sabres fans riled up over the summer.

“I guess somebody wants to have 5 minutes of fame on Twitter or whatever, get some more hits,” he said. “I didn’t understand it. The lady asked me if I liked the weather better in Raleigh or Buffalo and I said, pretty much for the season when I was here, September or August, the first couple of weeks are nice but then it’s just rainy, cloudy, snowy. And you don’t see the sun sometimes for a couple of weeks. ... That’s all I meant, that every city is better than Buffalo weather-wise, not living-wise. I spent 7 years here so I won’t be burying any people in the organization or something like that. They brought me in this league. They made me the player I am right now. So I can be only thankful for that.”

Sekera said that as the temperature outside First Niagara Center hovered at 8 degrees Fahrenheit so, yeah, he totally needed to clarify what he meant when he said that the weather around here could be better.

— Nathan Gerbe plays for the Hurricanes these days. Perfectly timed, he scored a nice goal on Wednesday night that I’m sure got people mad about the fact that he doesn’t play for the Sabres anymore.

Here’s the thing: there are only 29 other places hockey players can go play in this league. It’s not like every former Sabre can be jettisoned off to the KHL to be forgotten by the majority of Western New York.

A lot of Buffalo sports fans have this “If he can’t win here he’s not allowed to win anywhere” attitude about its athletes that is downright unhealthy.

The reality is that lots of teams feature players that either didn’t work with another team or got traded there to acquire other players. That’s how it works.

It keeps the circulation up in the league. It’s bound to happen. Trading Daniel Paille to the Bruins wasn’t the worst thing Darcy Regier ever did just because Paille won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins. He played a small part on what was a great hockey team.

That’s how good teams are constructed. Neither Paille or Gerbe are the pieces that could make this Sabres team great. And that’s why they are no longer here. What I’m trying to say is that this isn’t really a big deal. It’s normal, even.

— Enroth hasn’t been very good between the pipes since his “It’s tough to win with this team line.

He didn’t speak to reporters after the game, but no one in the Buffalo room seemed happy about letting three different leads slip away.

— Martin Biron got a nice hand from the crowd as he was introduced as another HarborCenter hire.

I think he’s now in charge of the Martin Biron Goaltending School for Kids Who Don’t Tend Goal Well. Something like that. Congrats, Derek Marty!

— Ville Leino had a shot on goal tonight, which gave him consecutive games with a shot on goal for the first time since Dec. 27 at Toronto. Mike Harrington had a column about Leino that had some interesting quotes from both he and Sabres coach Ted Nolan, but I think it was a bit off the mark when it comes to the winger.

The problem isn’t that he’s doing absolutely nothing, it’s that no matter what he does it will never be enough because of the contract he signed. He is absolutely underperforming, almost to a hilarious extent, but no matter what the result on ice it won’t satisfy anyone. It’s a zero-sum game.

Ville Leino is a black hole, which actually makes him a fascinating player to watch. 

Zenon Konopka’s Rabbit, Hoppy, Now Follows Me on Twitter
I think that spells the end for this segment. It’s just all too real now.

Let’s Check in with Genocide Apologist John Scott
Scott, who was the lead programmer of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600, was scratched on Thursday night. In a related story, no one died.

Hot Twitter Takes of the Game

And that man knows a good hot dog when he sees it!

This is better than any poetry you tweeted out during the game and you know it.

...

Hit of the Night
Ville Leino had a nice hit that wasn’t even in the conversation for the in-house Carubba Collision. Conspiracy!

Stat-line I liked:

Pass.

Stat-line I didn’t like:

It wasn’t a one-goal game! There were so many stats ready to go with a one-goal game!

Next Game:
Saturday (1/18) at Columbus (7 p.m.) — Them. Again.

(Top photo courtesy of the official Sabres Facebook page. Middle photo by me.)

Ryan Nagelhout is a freelance writer who blogs at The Goose’s Roost when he’s not writing children’s books.

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, carolina hurricanes, downtown, hockey, immediate reactions, ryan nagelhout

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