BRO Submission By Suzanne Taylor:
Having no idea what to expect, on Friday the13th I threw on a sassy black dress and the highest heels known to man, and moseyed into Aces & Blades, the annual casino-night fundraiser for the Sabres Foundation. All I knew was that there would be card games (at which I usually fail) and auctions (at which I usually succeed) and Sabres players and alumni (at which I have no record one way or the other).
I couldn’t have had more fun unless I’d won the puppy, too.
In the 100-level Harbour Club, the night begins with the current Sabres dealing blackjack. There was also the sound of roulette wheels from the 200-level Harbour Club, but… well. those stairs… those heels… Attendees choose their table, or switch among them to maximize the impact of what one fan online called “an expensive meet and greet.” At $100 per ticket, it is actually one of the less expensive fundraisers around town… until you start losing at the tables. Or winning at the auctions. We planted ourselves at “Hank” Tallinder’s table. By “we” I mean that a friend of mine played blackjack while I watched and drifted off periodically to the silent and fishbowl auctions. I can’t play cards: ADD, shiny objects, where’d all my chips go? But Hank can, and he did a fine job for the House (read: the Buffalo Sabres Foundation), while being so entertaining that no one missed their money.
A live auction divided the night, giving the players a chance to go “home” to rest up for the next day’s game. The fishbowl auction featured baskets from almost every player; the silent auction featured signed jerseys and helmets and other collectibles; the live auction featured, well, some actual live things. As is the current trend at these events, a puppy wearing a Sabres jersey which had become personally acquainted with all the attendees by auction time was one of the live auction items. Other live items included personal appearances by players and personal hockey classes. There was also a bubble hockey table painted to represent the two teams at the REAL Winter Classic, the rink surface of which was signed by Sabres players, and a package of Aud memorabilia. Add those prizes to an open bar, and the potential for plunging into a personal recession was pretty high for me. I hit the fishbowl auction instead.
And I won! I won Patrick Kaleta’s basket, which actually came with a live item: a lizard in its own little terrarium. It was so cute! Of course, my taking it home meant almost certain death for him, freezing in my car in a bar parking lot… and one of the volunteers has a son who would really love to have a lizard… you can see how that ended. Every basket had an autographed jersey in it – I was actually surprised to pull the jersey out and see that it has the current official logo on it. Apparently, the changeover to the new old logo is only official in my own mind. Among other things, the basket also contained a blanket, a pillow, and a martini shaker… Kaleta is my kind of guy.
After the live auction, the players are replaced at the tables with Sabres alumni, and autograph-seeking becomes a little less of a taboo (note to self: next year, bring your own Sharpie™). We ended up at Lindy Ruff’s table, and it was clear that this was not his first rodeo. Ruff is notoriously friendly when approached by fans, but apparently also well-versed in blackjack. Aside from my own trips to the bar to rehydrate my acquaintances and trips all around the floor to get hats signed, we stayed planted there, doubling-down like pros, until Ruff finally begged off because he had a game the next day. In his place we got a guy who my acquaintances dubbed Dave Snuggerud, with little objection or accuracy, and we finished the night with him.
The upshot of the evening was not merely my acquisition of the coolest martini shaker I’ve ever seen — a portion of the reported approximately $100,000 raised benefits the Buffalo Sabres Foundation: “committed to enhancing the quality of life in the Western New York region.” My first thought is, “Clean my house!” but that’s not how it works. The Foundation has chosen to make its primary focus to (1) assist youth hockey initiatives, (2) support children’s health and wellness initiatives, specifically those that serve the underprivileged and handicapped, and (3) provide support to non-profit organizations that provide vital services to those in need in our community. I got to do all that on stiletto heels with an open bar. I love hockey.