Knowledge is good

It’s not that I’m the oldest mutt among Tampa's hounds, so to speak, but I was very happy to learn a new trick Tuesday when it comes to hounding.

As I’ve learned the inner workings of hounding in Tampa, namely the hotels and day-before arrival times of teams, I’ve stored this information away, in my mind and in notes within my cell phone. And, up until yesterday, I thought I had a pretty good handle on things.

The problem, though, was that I couldn’t find the Buffalo Sabres. For some hounds, this wouldn’t be a problem. But, being raised in western New York (Machias, to be exact), the Sabres are my favorite of favored teams. I carrying 25 pucks to be signed, and a full book of cards.

The night before, a call to one of the Tampa hotels frequented by NHL teams incorrectly led me to believe the Sabres, though late in arriving, would be staying there. Tuesday morning, as I was making my way over Tampa Bay, a follow-up call exposed the inaccuracy. I called the other hotels, coming up empty-handed. I drove to other hotels, but saw no signs of the team.

Finally, I headed to the St. Pete Times Forum, figuring the Sabres would have a morning skate. After talking with some fellow hounds, we learned and confirmed that the team was staying over on Clearwater Beach. Sure, it meant a long drive over and back, but it was the Sabres.

That effort, I believe, was rewarded. Not only did I add another 41 autographs to the collection, including 20 pucks, but I also rejoiced as my beloved Sabres dealt the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-1 loss.

I also realized that the Lightnings' cold-weather opponents, such as the Sabres, might take advantage of scheduling breaks and stay someplace else than walking distance from the St. Pete Times Forum.

Big names signing pucks were, top row, from left: Maxim Afinogenov, Martin Biron, Chris Drury; and bottom row, from left: Ales Kotalik, Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek.

Others who signed pucks were Brian Campbell, Teppo Numminen, James Patrick, Derek Roy, Lindy Ruff and Jaroslav Spacek.

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