By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Here’s a story about how I made a tiny, tiny bit of NHL history, at least according to some interested observers.
First, I should explain what made me think of it. Oddly, our Commander in Chief is involved.
There was a story on television the other day about the results of President Trump’s annual physical. Someone focused on the point that the doctor’s report claimed his height was 6-foot-3. It then showed clear photographic evidence that he is actually closer to 6-1½. People do shrink after they hit age 60, as you may have heard, although some don’t like to admit it.
Come to think of it, plenty of people tend to round off their height and weight when asked about those vital statistics. The height goes up (especially among males, I would guess), and the weight goes down (especially among human beings).
This is only partially true in the world of sports. Yes, heights are rounded up – and in some cases they are more than rounded. If you check with people who played high school basketball, they’ll tell you that they gained at least two inches from their actual height to the listing in the roster. They say with a laugh that they were never taller than they were on game nights.
However, weights also go up, especially in a game like football. If the Bills suited up a linebacker who weighed 215 pounds according to the program, the other team might direct the entire offense at him. So he might check in at an alleged 240. Such numerical games are rather funny when you think about it, but these shenanigans are part of the game in sports.
This is where I come into the story.
When I worked in the Buffalo Sabres’ public relations department, I had a working roster on my computer at all times. If someone needed it, I could print it out and hand it out or send it along (email was in its infancy and mostly done for internal league documents). Naturally, I tried to keep it fairly accurate and up to date.
But the players’ weights were a bit of a problem in that situation. There was no “official” method of determining heights and weights; doctors didn’t run lists up to us at the start of training camp. Sometimes the numbers were simply copied from a player’s arrival into the organization, and then rolled along, year after year.
At some point, I figured that should change. So every so often, I stuck my head in the training area at Sabreland in Wheatfield, where the weights were posted on a piece of paper and updated each week or so. I’d bring a copy of the roster with me, and update the weights for each player. I was never too sure how this would go over so I kept it to myself.
This was all quiet and anonymous, until one day I walked out of the training room with paper on a clipboard. Jim Kelley, The Buffalo News columnist, greeted me just past the door, and asked what I was doing.
“Just updating the weights of the players for the team roster,” I answered, causing a bemused expression on his face.
“You must be the first person in NHL history to ever have accurate weights on a roster,” Kelley said with a laugh.
“I’m good with that,” I answered.
Jim never wrote anything about the issue during the rest of my time with the Sabres. I don’t remember when I started doing such updating, so I don’t know just how long I published accurate weights during my six-year tenure with the team. I will say that absolutely no one in the team’s front office ever noticed that the numbers changed a little during the course of a season, or complained that they should be boosted to make the players look bigger than they really were.
I recently checked with another NHL public relations person from my era. He would send the training camp roster to someone in the hockey department for checking. The roster came back with extra inches and pounds added to all of the top prospects.
“Oh, yeah, I’m certain you were the only person to use legitimate heights and weights,” the person reported.
So maybe Jim was right, and I did make hockey history.
By the way, I never told a single person other than Jim about what I had done during that time.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)
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