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Going off the ice with Sabres insiders

Most sports addicts dream of working behind the scenes with their favorite teams. NeXt recently got an exclusive look at what happens off the ice with the Buffalo Sabres when we sat down with Dan Dunleavy, play-by-play broadcaster, and George Babcock, assistant equipment manager.

Dunleavy said he prepares for a game by studying the Sabres’ opponent’s previous two games. It doesn’t always have to be the team’s last two games against the Sabres. While watching, he looks for tendencies of the opposing squad, such as specific line combinations. He also said he watches a lot of video and interviews.

On game day, he starts off his day at 10:30 a.m., when he arrives to the arena. He picks up his game notes, then watches the team’s morning skate (which is open to the public). Here, too, he specifically watches for line combinations – who is with whom, any play moved up or down on a line, and so on.

After the morning skate, the locker room is open to the media. During this, he looks for players’ focal points, for example, who the player may connect to a lot during the game.

After that, head coach Phil Housley speaks at the podium and the media can ask questions. "You can even ask what he had for lunch today," Dunleavy joked.

After the coach speaks, Dunleavy goes home for lunch. He comes back around 4 p.m., works out in the team gym, and then gets ready for the game. One thing he wants to avoid is overpreparing, though he also doesn’t want to be caught looking at his notes during a broadcast.

When asked what has been his most memorable moment over the past five years with the Sabres, he said the comeback game versus San Jose at home, when the Sabres were down by three in the beginning of the third period. That’s when the Sabres scored two unanswered goals and went into overtime. Only one shot was counted in OT, and that was Evander Kane’s overtime goal.

Dunleavy said he loves the ecstatic home crowd cheering as the team wins the game.

In the locker room, Babcock said game day is the easiest day for him.

First, he makes sure every players’ skates are sharp and gloves are dry. When the players leave for lunch, the equipment managers get the skates out and ready.

For away games, Babcock and his team move the locker room out. They makes sure every player has his white helmet in his bag, because without it a player cannot play. Babcock said they triple check for the helmets.

They also check for modified equipment, because every player has special equipment. "Hockey is the most equipment-sensitive sport," he said.

After the interviews, Ian Ott, manager of public relations, gave a tour of the press box, the broadcasting booths and the Pegulas’ private suite.

NeXt’s backstage look at the Sabres ended after that day’s game, with a ride in the elevator next to general manager Jason Botterill and legend Rick Jeanneret. A surreal moment.

Evan Przybylak is a sophomore at Hamburg High School.


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