Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 10/30/10 at 10:48 AM ET
How fitting that as we approach Halloween another soul is in the process of becoming an eternal resident of the Sabres haunted house of contentiously departed captains.
The Sabres blew an early 2-0 lead and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Atlanta Thrashers last night, but the big story in Buffalo is that Craig Rivet, who has worn the “C” since being elected by his teammates upon his arrival in 2008, was a healthy scratch for this game.
Granted, it won’t be as big an item on the hockey airwaves as an Ilya Kovalchuk benching. But in Buffalo, treatment of captains is kind of a sore subject. Just ask the man who made the decision, coach Lindy Ruff, who as a player in 1989 was benched and in turn relinquished his captaincy, effectively ending his time as a player in Buffalo.
“The guys that are playing the best are going to have to play,” said Ruff, who also hinted that Rivet didn’t take the news of his night off very well. “No player understands. He won’t understand.”
When it comes to controversial departures of captains, they don’t do it much better than here in Buffalo. Often it isn’t the fault of the organization, but trouble seems to find them. Thanks to trades, contract squabbles and injury disputes, there is quite an exclusive club that includes the likes of Stu Barnes, Michael Peca and Pat Lafontaine.
In fact, the Sabres are so good at this that, courtesy of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, they may be the only franchise in history to have lost two captains in one day.
You could almost see the writing on the wall for Rivet before this season even started. Recovering from a tough 2009-10 and shoulder surgery over the summer, he raised a few eyebrows when he spoke openly about the possibility of this being his final season as an NHL player.
A beloved man in this town, ex-Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy, had a great quote back in the day that may be applicable to professional athletes in all sports: “Once you’ve started thinking about retiring, you’re already retired.”
Regardless of how much he’s really contemplated the waning days of his career, it’s tough to see the decline of such a great character guy and locker room presence like Rivet. But optimism about his being healthy this year has been dimmed by his struggles on the ice.
Veteran Sabres beat reporter Paul Hamilton of WGR Sports Radio 550 has been around for many of these captaincy dramas, including the Ruff incident over 20 years ago. His opinion of the Rivet situation: “They have to take the “C” off of him now. He can’t be captain of this team anymore.”
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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