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SABRES CARNIVAL FUN-FOR-ALL IS ON TAP TRIBUTE IS PAID TO RUGGED SPORT THAT MAKES BASEBALL PLAYERS BLANCH

"There are 900,000 former Canadians living in Southern California and I know why they moved here. It's because they all hate hockey."

The above words were spoken by Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Washington Redskins, when he lived in Southern California and owned the L.A. Kings.

They are repeated here today in hopes that the factual joke will bring in some readers who have no interest in hockey, but might want to hear about an upcoming carnival that will be a family affair.

It makes for a topic that rates attention even from those who have little interest in the Sabres and those cynics who have said that no fan has ever seen a puck go into a net. There is no truth to the report that today's subject was chosen because both of my regular readers have been scolding me for supposedly ignoring the other major league franchise in Buffalo.

Back in the mid-60s, I was a syndicated sports columnist in New York City and during those years I found many reasons to like the world of hockey.

First, the players perform despite injuries that would have a baseball player screaming "I can't play with this hangnail." Secondly, some of the best people I have met on the sports scene are hockey players like Danny Gare, Jim Lorentz and Gordie Howe.

The time with Howe was spent in a discussion of the possibility of American prisoners of war being alive in Vietnam. That conversation came about after Howe noticed that I was still wearing my POW/ MIA bracelet.

A strong reason I am partial to the local hockey situation is that in all my years in all sports, I have never met a classier owner than Seymour Knox III of the Sabres.

Now for the carnival. The Buffalo Sabres "Face-Off for Fun" will be staged from 1 through 7 p. m. on the floor of the Memorial Stadium next Sunday. And I have only a small argument to offer the gent who said, "This is as much a liniment sniffer's dream come true as those football banquets you've written about."

(Once again I will note that a "liniment sniffer" is a person who would rather spend an hour with a pro athlete than with Kim Basinger.)

My small argument would go, "The other affairs that I called a liniment sniffer's dream come true involved adults only. The Sabres carnival will involve the children in the family. And you'll see the players joining the action in a way different from athletes in other sports."

As I wrote that last sentence, I closed my eyes and envisioned stars like Alex Mogilny and Bob Sweeney being dumped into the dunk tank that will be at the Aud Sunday. While the stars are being dunked, the booth will be supervised by either a Sabres player, a Sabres alumnus or a coach. The same arrangement will seen at the other booths on the floor.

In those booths will be the chance to be photographed with a player, a chance for a shot on the Sabres goal, a pie throwing contest and other carnival games on the first and second floor concourses.

Among the other attractions on the floor of the Aud Club will be a Chinese auction of Sabres memorabilia in the Aud Club, a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit and a special edition of Sabres Magazine.

The beneficiaries of the carnival will be Children's Hospital and the newly formed Buffalo Sabres Foundation which will contribute to various local charities.

On Thursday, Seymour Knox IV, one of the general chairmen of the event, was asked why the club decided to have a carnival this year when the strike threatened to wipe out the entire season.

"We decided the best way to celebrate our 25th anniversary year was by showing our appreciation to the community," he said. "So we started working on the carnival in October. And we feel good about the way all the players wanted to be integral parts of the activities.

"We have worthwhile charities and we have received so much help from people like Irwin Pastor of Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Buffalo, Diane and Don Luce who organized the alumni, the Marine Midland Bank, Rich Products, Delaware North, Tops Markets, Empire Sports Network, WGR Radio, Thorner Press, Burger King, and, of course, the Sabres board of directors.

"Then, too, the office personnel here have done a lot of 'above and beyond' work to make things right with the event. And we have had volunteer workers from every one of the outside companies."

Because of all the help, the prices for the carnival are low -- $5 for presale, $6 for day-of-event sales and no charge for children under 3. With each ticket comes a "Face-Off For Fun"" souvenir puck and five tickets to a carnival game.

Now a friend is saying "You should buy the chance to shoot a puck at the goal. Then you could bury that line about no fan ever seeing a puck go into a net."

In fact, I did see a puck go into a pro team's net once. But that's another story.

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