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OFF MAIN STREET / The offbeat side of the news

Citizen Rene

Citizenship ceremonies typically are full of patriotism but lack star power.

But the ceremony held recently in Buffalo's new federal court building had not one but two sports celebrities: Former Sabres great Rene Robert, who became a U.S. citizen, and the team's current captain, Jason Pominville, who watched his wife, Kim, do the same.

Few people recognized the pair.

Robert, in fact, was introduced by a court officer as, "From Canada, Rene Paul RAH-bert," even though every longtime Sabres fan knows it's "row-BEAR."

"She's probably not from Buffalo," Bankruptcy Court Judge Michael J. Kaplan, who presided, told us. "[Robert] said, 'People don't recognize Jason and I when we're not wearing our uniforms.' "

Kaplan said attendees usually want their pictures taken with the judge, but in this case he was the one who wanted a photo with the hockey stars.


Paying up

Turned out in his usual GQ style, Buffalo's mayor briefly donned a Team Canada hockey jersey -- or sweater, to our friends across the border -- at a large charitable luncheon this week to pay up on a friendly bet.

Byron W. Brown and Mayor Doug Martin of Fort Erie, Ont., had bet on teams from their respective countries to win last month's benefit hockey game hosted by the Fort Erie 1812 Bicentennial Committee.

The mayor of the losing side would wear the winning team's jersey at a public event. A small price to pay compared with the War of 1812, when Fort Erie hosted the war's bloodiest battle and Buffalo was set ablaze.

Team USA lost the game, 7-5. But Fort Erie's mayor accompanied Brown to the Salvation Army's 2012 Red Shield luncheon Monday in Cheektowaga and played the good sport, donning Team USA's jersey for the duo's short appearance there.

"He did not have to do that," said an appreciative Brown.

Martin then showed his love of the Buffalo Bills, putting on a team jersey and noting he's a longtime season-ticket holder.

Inflicting the Bills on Canadian fans is our revenge for the burning of Buffalo.


It takes one to know one

Steve Trotter, who rode a barrel over Niagara Falls in 1985 and again in 1995, plans to be in town to watch Nik Wallenda's wire-walk across the Falls.

He said he plans to arrive in the area a day or so before the June 15 walk to watch the stunt with a large group of friends and relatives, including some from Florida, where he works as a bartender, and California.

"It'll be a great time -- Niagara Falls is my place," Trotter, 48, told us by phone. "I want to be there to see this and to support Nik. I wouldn't miss it."

Trotter recently discovered some ties between his life and that of Sam Patch, "the Yankee Leaper" -- the first Niagara Falls daredevil, who jumped from a platform into the water below the Falls in 1829.

Patch was born in Pawtucket, R.I., 20 minutes from Trotter's birthplace of Barrington, and died on Nov. 13, 1829, in a leap into the Genesee River in Rochester -- 134 years to the day before Trotter was born.

"There's got to be some kind of connection there," Trotter said.


You can say that again

May is college graduation season, and Chuck Schumer just can't help himself when presented with the chance to address those captive audiences.

New York's senior senator travels across the state each spring to offer words of wisdom at commencement ceremonies.

He usually isn't listed in the program because he doesn't give the schools a lot of advance notice, he doesn't stay very long at the ceremony and he rarely changes up his speech.

Last Sunday at the University at Buffalo, Schumer again shared his story of how he once gave up a chance to travel across Europe for a year for free to stay in this country with his girlfriend.

She dumped him a short time later. That's how Schumer learned the lesson -- he shares with grads -- "Go for it!"

Written by Stephen T. Watson with contributions from Janice L. Habuda and Anne Neville.