Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Events Weekly Features Classifieds Contact

Welcome to the NHL, Ryan Vinz

photo-2 In the midst of all the emotion, the excitement, the fast developing-by-the-minute story all unfolding at First Niagara Center, in a game that the Buffalo Sabres defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2, was the story of Ryan Vinz.

Vinz made his NHL debut tonight as the Sabres’ backup net minder to starter Jhonas Enroth, pressed into service about 6pm when the blockbuster trade sending Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues was made official.

The diminutive Vinz, who is listed at 5′ 8″, played as a goaltender for Clarkson University and now works for the Buffalo Sabres as a scout, and also serves on the HarborCenter staff as Director of Hockey Technology. He was leaving the office after a day’s work, and was planning to join his brother before the game and then catch the action in the stands, a routine he had followed on many a game night. Little did he know that his life was about to change in a big way.

Vinz gave a glimpse of how this all came together just an hour before puck drop. “Luckily I was still in the office and I had my equipment with me, so it worked out pretty well.” Indeed, with the game about to start, the Rochester farmhands hundreds of miles away playing in Chicago, and the Sabres desperate for a back up emergency goaltender, Vinz was handed the opportunity that many can only dream of. A chance to suit up and play a real game in the NHL.

He was asked tonight that had the Sabres been nursing a 6-1 lead and it was late in the game, would he have gone in? Vinz laughed and replied, “Naw. This was about as good as it gets as far as an experience for me.”

He admitted that he didn’t play too much hockey during his days at Clarkson. “Pretty much held the door for the others. And had an awesome view,” Vinz replied. “But getting to do this at the NHL level? Yeah. Psyched.” Vinz admitted that this was one of his proudest hockey moments ever. “I was very surprised about everything. And really nervous. But it was very exciting.”

Vinz’ brother ended up getting to watch the game in the stands, and it had to be almost surreal watching brother Ryan on the bench in a Buffalo Sabres uniform, when the plan just hours earlier was for the two brothers to share a couple beers and watch their team play. “I don’t know if he got anybody to use my ticket,” said Vinz. “He probably sold it online,” said Vinz with a laugh.

With Jaroslav Halak, the goaltender acquired in the trade with St. Louis, planning to join the Sabres in time for their next game at Dallas, Vinz will go back to his regular job in the Sabres organization. But for just one night, Ryan Vinz was an NHL goaltender. It will be a memory he will cherish for the rest of his life.

Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in life. Tonight was that night for Ryan Vinz.

Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in life. Tonight was that night for Ryan Vinz.

Coming to the ballpark: new sound, LED boards

More exciting changes are coming to Coca Cola Field, the home of the AAA baseball Buffalo Bisons, as the team announced today two significant capital improvements to the 27 year old ballpark to enhance the fan and visitor experience.

Two new LED boards will be added to the club level balconies, to be placed at the 1st base and 3rd base sides. The 50′ x 2.5′ ribbon boards are manufactured by Daktronics using state of the art pixel technology. The boards will feature a time of day clock, a constant line score and also feature additional promotional messages as well as out of town baseball scores.

Additionally, the team is installing a 120 speaker sound system throughput the ballpark. In the past all sound was emitted from central speakers placed in the center field scoreboard, which caused a decrease in sound quality at times, especially during windy conditions. The new system was manufactured by Cannon Design.

The current dot matrix panels along the balcony as well as the current sound system have both been in place since the ballpark opened in 1988.

The Buffalo Bisons and their owners Bob and Mindy Rich are privately funding these new venue enhancements, which carry a price tag of over $225,000. Since the downtown ballpark opened, the Bisons have invested over $23,000,000 in capital improvements to the publicly owned venue.

The Bisons will hold a public open house on Saturday, March 8, from noon to 3pm, which will include all sorts of games for the youngsters, tours of behind the scenes facilities such as the clubhouse and press box, and a chance to take a hack or two in the Bisons indoor batting cages. Visitors are invited to sample a ballpark hot dog and soda, and the event is free and open to the public.

Graphic rendition courtesy

Graphic rendition courtesy

(716) Food and Sport: HarborCenter’s new urban bistro

(716) exteriorMove over, RealSports in Toronto. There’s a new kid on the block, and it pretty much blows you away.

This afternoon at First Niagara Center, details on the latest component of the fast developing HarborCenter were unveiled to the public and the press, and from the looks of things this will be a dynamic piece of the emerging Canalside neighborhood.

“(716) Food and Sport” is the name of the new sports restaurant and bistro that will be an important part of HarborCenter. The two level themed restaurant will be located on the corner of Scott St and Washington St. It will be approximately 13,000 square feet in size, have three bars and seating for 350 patrons. Each of the bar tops will be illuminated and be designed to replicate that of a hockey rink. This will be just one of many unique architectural and design enhancements which will include custom graphics and art which will embrace the “716” theme.

With 55 high-definition sets throughout the facility, the signature viewing experience will be a 38 foot video screen which will hang over the main bar and will be visible from both levels. It will be the largest such screen in the continental United States.

Dominic Verni is the restaurant’s General Manager, and offered more insight as to what the customer experience will be like for patrons coming to the new establishment, when it opens its doors this fall. “Our celebration of food will be highlighted by Western New York culinary favorites featuring locally produced ingredients. Our menu will be complimented by craft beers and signature cocktails, will feature 40 beer selections with over 20 varieties on tap. Our celebration of sport will include being Buffalo’s premiere destination before and after all sporting events in downtown Buffalo. It will be the best destination to watch all major televised events, providing a unique and exciting viewing experience.”

HarborCenter President John Koelmel gave a construction update on the facility, while offering high praises to the construction crew who continue to keep the project on schedule despite the harsh weather conditions and the challenging winter. “We are still looking to open the entire facility in the fall of this year, except the hotel which will open the following spring.” Koelmel did say that there is no firm date set for the opening of (716) Food and Sport, except that they hope to tie in the date with the opening of the facility, and offered a range of time from September to November depending on the overall construction progress.

Koelmel indicated that there is one more piece of the HarborCenter project which is still under review, and that is the retail tenant mix that will occupy the space abutting Main Street. “That is still taking shape. While it will only represent only 1% of the total square footage, we think it will benefit the district positively, and disproportionately so,” said Koelmel. Both Koelmel and Verni also stated that there are no immediate plans to provide seasonal outdoor dining at the restaurant, despite the presence of an ample sized plaza and pedestrian space outside their door bordering Scott Street,, one of the only such spots within the entire HarborCenter footprint. “We are working the with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, where there are some exciting plans to present outdoor dining options along the new canals and in other sites in the district,” said Koelmel. “At some point we might introduce this here at 716 but right now we can tell you that there will be plenty of such experiences nearby, and we want our restaurant to compliment that array of dining choices for people who come down here.”

Once open, (716) Food and Sports will create 150 new jobs. “We’re putting a 10 pound project into a 5 pound site. It is an experience that will knock your socks off,” Koelmel promised.

(716) 1 theater

(716) 1st floor bar

(716) plans

The Bisons have a new manager

BisonsThere were more than a few raised eyebrows late last year, when the highly respected and popular manager of the Buffalo Bisons, Marty Brown, abruptly announced that he was leaving the Toronto Blue Jays organization and not returning to Buffalo to manage the Bisons in 2014.

Brown had quite a following here in Buffalo and was very well liked within the Bisons’ organization. He led Buffalo to its last league championship back in 2004, when the Bisons won the International League Governors Cup. Last year, on his return to Buffalo, his team fell just short of qualifying for the postseason playoffs, yet hopes are still high that the team would take that next step and return to the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Enter Gary Allenson.

Allenson will be starting his 20th season as a manager at the minor league level, eight of those years spent in the International League. Last season, he managed the Blue Jays’ AA affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was introduced to the media, and then to the public, at the Bisons’ annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the Adams Mark Hotel downtown on Thursday.

“It’s a great league. It’s a competitive league, and it’s a tougher league than that other league (the PCL),” said Allenson. “It’s a man’s league and I’m happy to be here.”

For the Bisons, Allenson will have a strong familiarity with many of his roster players, some of whom played for him at AA last season. Toronto Blue Jays VP and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was also on hand, and promised that the Buffalo team should be well stocked going into 2014. “I think we have a stronger roster here than last year,” said Anthopoulos, who is still dealing with the crushing disappointment of last years’ results at the big league level when expectations for Toronto were red hot.

Allenson readily admitted that he knows he has some big shoes to fill in replacing Marty Brown, also stating that he had little interaction with his fellow manager, other than on the phone discussions regarding things such as player call ups and individual player issues. “He was in big league camp, and I talked with him on the phone I would deal with player performance, that sort of thing. He’s a class guy. He’s a baseball man and has been in baseball for a while. I don’t know the reason why things didn’t work out and why he left but he’s a good man as far as I know.”

Buffalo will open their 27th year of professional baseball downtown at Coca Cola Field on Thursday, April 4 vs the Rochester Red Wings. Opening Day is just 76 days away.

Remembering Taro… and the man who created him

taro1Peter Farrell and I are sometimes asked by our Artvoice readers, “Who Is Taro?”

We almost always end our Puck Stop columns with a “Taro Sez” segment, offering rapid fire bullet points about things going on the the world of hockey. But back in the day, what Taro said was far far more important. Those old enough to have experienced Sabres hockey back in the Aud days remember well the phantom sign painters, whose hilarious and clever quips straight from Taro were a must read. And it was always a different sign – at every single hockey game.

So who exactly was Taro Tsujimoto? Click on to this article by Boston Globe and Deadspin writer Alan Siegel. A terrific interview with former and longtime Sabres’ Public Relations Director Paul Wieland will have you in stitches and wanting for more as he recalls the 1974 NHL Draft and how the legend of Taro came to being.

We are tremendously proud to play our small part in keeping Taro’s memory and legacy alive through the pages of Artvoice. As much as we enjoy covering Sabres hockey, how cool it must have been to be a part of the team’s media corps back in those days.

Cheektowaga Democratic politics – not all bad news

Jim Rogowski is all smiles as he took his oath of office to begin his third term on the Cheektowaga Town Board. Many see Rogowski as a front runner for the office of State Assembly in next year's election

Jim Rogowski is all smiles as he took his oath of office to begin his third term on the Cheektowaga Town Board. Many see Rogowski as a front runner for the office of State Assembly in next year’s election

Former State Assemblyman and Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski greeted me as soon as I walked into the main hall of the Cheektowaga Senior Center tonight. “So Andy, do you miss Cheektowaga at all?” he asked. “Yeah I do, Dennis,” I quickly replied. “I miss this – the people, the good people, the camaraderie, the fellowships. It’s like coming home again.”

And so it was tonight, as Cheektowaga Democrats assembled in the time-honored tradition of a festive inaugural for their newly elected officials. The honorees tonight? Returning Council Member James Rogowski, and two newcomers, Diane Benczkowski and Timothy Meyers. Cheektowaga Democrats easily swept all three of their candidates into office this cycle. Once an automatic in Cheektowaga, a changing demographic landscape in the town, coupled with much lower voter turnouts in recent years has meant fresh challenges in bringing the robust Democratic voting base to the polls in town elections.

Much of the talk tonight surrounded the still unfolding story of Cheektowaga Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak and the scandal surrounding his office and accusations of current and former staffers. Many expressed disappointment at the image hit that Cheektowaga has taken in the past ten days. “We’re good people, down to earth people here in Cheektowaga,” one man, a committeeman and volunteer fireman fumed. “People are reading about this in the worldwide press and they must think we Cheektowagans are all bumpkins and hillbillies.”

Everyone had a story to tell. Many expressed concern for the Gabryszak family, many for the victims and others who might yet come forward, some even for Dennis himself. Like most political families, Cheektowaga is close knit, somewhat dysfunctional, and have been through the wars together. But paramount throughout the evening was the pride many people have in the town, and the pride of seeing their three inaugurees take their oaths of office.

My own thoughts wandered to the ties that have bound me to these people, as one by one, they and their families stepped up to the dais and took their oath of office, administered by Town Justice Paul Piotrowski.

For JIM ROGOWSKI, I remember very well my involvement in the campaigns for his dad, former Sloan Mayor, Cheektowaga Council Member and Tax Receiver Bill Rogowski. As a youngster, Jim’s two brothers would be off to ball games or head out with friends, yet Jim would stay behind, pull up a chair and sit with the grown ups as we sat at the kitchen table at the Rogowski home on Curtiss Street in Sloan to work on Bill’s campaigns. Jim had a keen eye for politics. He would sit with a notepad and write things down and crunch numbers. This, mind you, was while he still was in grammar school. I knew then that someday he would follow in his dad’s footsteps. In his two terms on the Town Board, he has been a ball of fire and leader on many issues and problems facing Cheektowaga government. I’ll make a bold prediction now – by the time Jim’s current term of office is over he will be long gone as a Council Member. He will be occupying a higher public office.

DIANE BENCZKOWSKI has been a Depew School Board member for 12 years, and ran twice unsuccessfully for town office. But this was clearly her time. Former Council Member Patricia Jaworowicz, the first woman ever elected to public office in Cheektowaga, had retired due to health reasons after a long long stint, and the situation was ripe for a strong woman, preferably with Polish-American roots, to take that seat. Diane and I first met a year and a half ago, and we discussed the impending retirement of Pat, the role of women in Cheektowaga politics, and campaign themes that could spell success for her. She embraced those themes and ran an almost flawless campaign. With the help of a great campaign team she took first place in the Primary and garnered the most votes on the Democratic line in November. Best of all, she enjoys the vigorous support of almost all the disparate factions of the Democratic family. Her name will undoubtedly be on a short list of candidates for County Legislature in LD-8 come 2015 as Erie County Democrats mount an effort to take back that house.

TIM MEYERS is another son of local politics. A generation ago, his father Ken Meyers successfully ran for Supervisor in an era that was the darkest in Cheektowaga’s history, a town then mired in corruption and scandal. He cleaned up government and left a legacy for honest governance in the town that still is the marker. I know Ken well because he is the guy that inspired me to get involved in public life and to run for office.

My signature memory of Tim was also him as a young boy. It was Election Night 1979 and the Ken Meyers Fever campaign, running in a longshot desperate campaign for re-election against the machine on two minor lines, had waged a huge street to street war with the help of hundreds of volunteers. I was still in school and it was my first ever real campaign and I gave it my all. 400 people packed a warehouse on Benbro Drive that night, and right around 11 o’clock, the call came from election headquarters: all districts had been tabulated and out of 35,000 votes cast, we had won. The margin of victory? 83 votes. The hall erupted into sheer jubilation as Ken Meyers and his family stepped onto the stage. It was the most emotional scene I have ever encountered in politics. And as the cheers rang out, there was Tim, the youngest of four children up there with his siblings, and he was bawling. Weeping openly at the scene unfolding in that hall. It is an image that is seared in my consciousness and will be forever.

Today Tim is a dad in his own right and talked often about the importance of family and the investment in children and youth as a central theme of his campaign. Tim and Val’s four beautiful kids had to be especially proud as dad took his oath. But no one was prouder then his papa Ken.

As the night concluded, the consensus among the crowds was that the Democratic family is alive and well out in Cheektowaga. The Cheektowaga Town Board has some fresh new blood, and Supervisor Mary Holtz expressed her optimism that her new team will do well in the new year.

And even ECDC Chair Jeremy Zellner got some good cheer as he took his seat close to the proceedings. Emcee Jeff Whiting mistakenly introduced him as “Town Chair Zellner”, which got a few chuckles. Chairman Frank Max shot out, “Hey Jeremy, you got a good seat there at this event. You’re gonna have to buy me lunch.” More laughs. Good times.

And a good night for Cheektowaga… great reconnecting with so many old friends.

Andrew Kulyk covers Buffalo Sabres hockey and Buffalo Bisons baseball for Artvoice and is a Democratic political operative who occasionally opines on relevant topics in local and regional politics. Follow Andrew on Twitter @akulykUSRT

Ukraine’s EuroMaidan demonstration comes to Buffalo


It all started on November 21. The Ukrainian nation, enroute to signing a historic trade agreement with the European Union to strengthen economic and cultural ties with the west, quickly derailed when their president, Viktor Yanukovich, abruptly announced that he would not sign the agreement, instead opting for a closer economic treaty with Russia and Belarus.

The outrage quickly spread to the streets of their capital, Kyiv, and then throughout the rest of the country. An attempt to release former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a Yanukovich political rival languishing in prison on trumped up corruption charges, was rejected despite demands by the Eurozone that this release be a part of the deal.

These past two weeks the protests have spread throughout the world. Neighboring countries Poland and Georgia, amongst others, have displayed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. New events are happening in Kyiv literally by the minute as hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the capital, calling for the ouster of their president, new elections, and to sign the treaty with the European Union. General strikes have been organized in the western Ukrainian cities of Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk.

So it was just a matter of time before Buffalo’s Ukrainian/American Community got in on the demonstration and voice their support.

That event will take place, tomorrow, Friday, December 6 at 4:00PM in Niagara Square downtown, as a support rally will be staged to express solidarity with the freedom loving peoples back in Ukraine. Later that evening, a presentation of EuroMaidan events will be held at Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, 562 Genesee Street, with the program beginning at 7:00PM.

“Both events are open to the public, and we invite all Western New Yorkers and members of the press to attend,” said Luba Terech, one of the demonstration organizers.

Follow updates of Euromaidan events as they happen in Kyiv and throughout the world at Kyiv Post

The national Christmas tree, on display in Independence Square in central Kyiv, is decorated with flags and nationalist banners. The square has been ground zero for massive demonstrations these past two weeks.

The national Christmas tree, on display in Independence Square in central Kyiv, is decorated with flags and nationalist banners. The square has been ground zero for massive demonstrations these past two weeks.

Chippewa’s new bistro, The Lodge, officially opens its doors

Most patrons stepping into The Lodge, the Chippewa Entertainment District’s newest restaurant and bistro, probably don’t realize that this entire project might not have happened, had it not been for the outcome of a one-on-one pick up basketball game.

So explains principal owner Adam March. “I was over at the previous owner’s house (The Bayou nightclub), I think it was back in 2009, and we were playing basketball. He has a couple kids, I was 26-27 at the time, and he told me if I could beat his nephew in basketball, he would sell me the bar. What he didn’t know was that I had played high level basketball, and still do. And so, it was half joking, half serious, but what I then was not aware of is his nephew was the senior starting point guard at the state champion Nichols team at the time. So I step out, and he steps out, and says, ‘let’s play.’ And heh. I won. And from the results and fallout of that game we put the deal together.”

March and his fellow co-owners have spent over a year and invested $1.2-miilion into creating The Lodge. This two level restaurant and entertainment bistro is over 6000 square feet in size. and the second floor offers panoramic views of the lower level bar and seating area, and contains a separate bar and party area, and game room, as well as a New Orleans style gondola balcony outdoors with sweeping views of the Chippewa streetscape. The stupendous interior design on both levels offers instant photo opportunities for visitors and patrons, with its unique lighting, shimmering acoustical tiles and beveled wall designs mimicking woodlands and flowing water, among other distinguishing touches.

This afternoon, owners, management, staff and invited guests assembled to do a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Representing the government sector were Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and State Senator Mark Grisanti. Brown and Grisanti presented proclamations on behalf of the city and the state.

Designed to mimic the ambiance of a mountain chalet or ski lodge, The Lodge is the architectural vision of a man named Rohit Kapoor. “He’s originally from Buffalo, lives in New York, and we brought him down here, with his Buffalo ties, and asked him to put his own style on this. It took months and months and months, this is not how we envisioned it from day one. It was a buildout, it was a flow and continual buildout of ideas. All our art is locally commissioned by Buffalo artists. All the furniture, the bar design is locally created. It was a nice accumulation of ideas and contractors and then the creation of a unique menu. We can see the public appreciates what we’re doing. Since the soft opening the response and enthusiasm has been overwhelming,” said March.

March and his partners are involved in business, investment and capital projects throughout the Buffalo area, and he admits that this was a fun project to do. “We believe in the growth and momentum that is happening in Buffalo and specially downtown, and we’re right in the middle of it all here on Chippewa,” said March.

“We’re not resting on our laurels. We’ve acquired the space next door at the former Lux nightclub and we are still not ready to unveil our specific plans but will be doing so shortly. It will be exciting and the public will love it. It will be yet another piece of the entertainment district down here that will be unique to Buffalo.”

Adam March (center) is joined by his partners and government officials as a ceremonial banner/ribbon is cut to open The Lodge

Adam March (center) is joined by his partners and government officials as a ceremonial banner/ribbon is cut to open The Lodge

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »