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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jay Wells

     (Born May 18, 1959) -- It's fair to say that Jay Wells saw lots of North America during his long career in hockey. And that doesn't include the traveling he did while playing.

  Wells played for the Kingston Canadians of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After a brief stop in the minors in Binghamton, he went up to the NHL for good -- in Los Angeles. There he played for almost a decade, establishing a reputation as a tough, rugged defenseman.

  In September 1988, Wells had to fly back across the country, as he was traded for Doug Crossman. That relationship lasted for a little more than a season. In March 1990, Sabres General Manager Gerry Meehan had the chance to give up some toughness up front for some skill and size on defense. That's why he gave up Kevin Maguire in a trade for Wells; there were draft choices involved.

  Wells put on a Sabres uniform for one game, and then got hurt and was sidelined until the playoffs. He did see action for Buffalo in 1990-91 and 1991-92 before he was traded to the Rangers. From there, Wells eventually played for the Blues and Lightning. How did he miss Vancouver?

  In 2008, Wells had a heart attack at the age of 49. But it was a minor one, if such a thing exists, and he's now an assistant coach in junior hockey for Barrie (Ont.).

--- Budd Bailey

Running Notebook: Who will be picked?

Sources say that white smoke has come out of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame meeting. The class of 2012 has been selected. It will be announced a week from Sunday in The News, and the class will be honored at the annual race in Buffalo on August 31.

The weekend's races got off to an early start with an event on Thursday night in Tonawanda. That has to be one of the flattest courses in the area, and it was a perfect night for running. And I'd like to thank all of the fasst runners in my age bracket who stayed away so I could win a medal.

Here's the rest of the schedule, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* Buffalo Greek Fest 5K, 146 W. Utica St. in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 796-3381.

* Run with the Rapids 5K, Old Falls St. in Niagara Falls, 9 a.m. Saturday, 278-2115.

* Chris Griswold 5K Race, Como Park in Lancaster, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 685-2640. This is one of the few races of the year that usually hands out singlets. It's also the only race I've won garden hoses in back to back years as a door prize. 

* 4 for the Corps, 4 miles, Arcade Village Park in Arcade, 10 a.m. Saturday, 353-6216.

* SSPP's Charge of the Knights 5K, 5480 Main St. in Williamsville, 6 p.m. Saturday, 440-8003.

* Take-Off for Learning 5K, Jamestown Airport, 9 a.m. Sunday, 969-8520.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Black-Eyed Susan day filled with great racing

By Gene Kershner

BALTIMORE, Md. –- We’ve arrived in Maryland and are set to enjoy an action-packed weekend that culminates in the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course. On tap Friday afternoon is the 1 1/8-mile $300,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. Friday’s card also sees the return of the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, a race last run in 2008.

The 88th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features nine fillies trying to step up within the 3-year-old filly division, which saw Believe You Can and Rosie Napranik strike first blood in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4. Last year’s Black-Eyed Susan winner Royal Delta went on to win the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award after winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (formerly the Distaff) at Churchill Downs last November.

This year’s race will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (4 p.m.) as part of NBC’s weekend coverage of the Preakness Stakes.

Let’s take a look at the field for the Black-Eyed Susan (trainer, jockey, odds in parenthesis):

1 – Glinda The Good (Asmussen, Nakatani, 12-1) – Hard Spun filly draws the rail and comes out of a non-graded stakes win at Oaklawn Park where the second place finisher came back to win next time out. Has late speed and the pedigree to handle 9-furlongs. In the mix.

2 – Disposablepleasure (Pletcher, J Castellano, 5-1) – Solid connections that one may be able to get a decent price on based on her last two outings. She finished nine lengths behind the Kentucky Oaks winner in her last outing holding the show in the Fair Grounds Oaks in late March. Her work looks solid and she could be sitting on a big race. Trainer Pletcher agrees, “I think the mile-and-an-eighth will suit her well, so we’re optimistic that she’ll show up and run her ‘A’ race.”  Interesting.

3 – Welcome Guest (Brown, Dominguez, 4-1) – Lightly raced filly stretches out for the first time in her fourth career race. Chad Brown is having an outstanding year so far, so don’t dismiss this one too quickly. She ran a formidable second to the second place Kentucky Oaks finisher in her last effort. Exotics play.

4 – Mamma Kimbo (Baffert, Smith, 7-5) – Discreet Cat filly has been working lights out for Baffert and although she has only raced twice, she looks to be the one to beat after dominating the competition in her debut. Clockers were fawning over her work over the Pimlico strip earlier in the week. The Fantasy runners didn’t fare that well in the Oaks, but this one looks primed and ready and Baffert picked this spot specifically.

5 – Oaks Lily (Hills, Leparoux, 30-1) – Finally broke her maiden at Keeneland in her eight career race. It would be a shocker if she prevailed against this level of competition.

6 – Plum (Jenkins, A Castellano, 30-1) - Local horse and rider attempt to shock the division. Positive work tab and comes in second off the layoff, but will be seriously class tested in the Susan.

7 - In Lingerie (Pletcher, Velazquez, 9-2) – Her best two efforts were on the polytrack at Turfway Park, which presents questions. On the dirt at Gulfstream, she finished four back of ZoImpressive. “She ran a very credible race the first time we ran her,” Pletcher said. “She missed the break and got some dirt in her face for the first time, and finished up well to a really nice filly, so we were pleased with that.” The Empire Maker filly shouldn’t have an issue with the 9-furlongs, and sports an impressive 4-furlong work earlier in the month. Their probably won’t be a lot of value here due to the sterling connections, but tough to toss on surface issue alone.

8 – Wildcat’s Smile (Galluscio, Napravnik, 10-1) – Rosie looks to sweep the second filly jewel aboard the Forest Wildcat filly. She finished second by a nose in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct last winter, so she can handle the 9-furlongs. She did take on the boys, winning the $260,000 New York Bredders’ Futurity last fall at nearby Finger Lakes. However, others look more enticing.

9 – Zucchini Flower (Motion, Russell, 10-1) – Motion uses local rider and stretches the Flower Alley filly out for the first time. Motion puts her in here for a reason. Possibly an exotics play underneath in trifectas and superfectas, but I don’t think she’s a win threat.

Post Time Outlook – 1 – Mamma Kimbo; 2 – Disposablepleasure; 3 – In Lingerie; 4 – Welcome Guest

Good luck and let’s cash some tickets.

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

 

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jay Riemersma

     (Born May 17, 1973) -- Bills' fans heard the name of Jay Riemersma quite a bit during the 2011 season. When Scott Chandler started catching touchdown passes, he was frequently called "the best Bills' tight end since Jay Riemersma."

     You probably didn't know that Jay started his football career as a quarterback in college. In fact, he once replaced future Bill Todd Collins at the position during a game at the University of Michigan. But a rotator cuff injury ended Riemersma's hopes at that position.

     So he became a tight end for the Wolverines, and was a pretty good one. The Indiana native was drafted in the seventh round by the Buffalo Bills in 1996.

     It didn't take Riemersma long to become a starter, lining up with the first unit eight times in his rookie year. He stayed with the Bills until 2002, in spite of having eight surgeries. In 2001, he caught a career-high 51 passes.

     Riemersma jumped to the Steelers in 2003, but hurt his Achilles tendon in 2004. He never played again, and ran for Congress in 2010.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Preakness 137 post draw

By Gene Kershner

BALTIMORE, Md. -- The post position draw for Preakness 137 was completed this afternoon at Pimlico Race Course, the home of the second jewel of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. The field includes 11 sophomore colts who will be traveling 1 3/16-miles around the Pimlico strip on Saturday afternoon (NBC, Ch. 2, 4:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m.).

The field includes six horses that return after running in the Kentucky Derby and five fresh faces who will attempt to claim the Woodlawn Vase, touted as the most valuable trophy in American sports (assessed at over $1 million in 1983).

Some interesting tidbits and quotes from the post draw:

-  Post No. 6 has yielded the most winners (15) since 1909.

-  Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Preakness five times, the last being from post No. 7 with Lookin at Lucky in 2010. The morning line favorite Bodemeister (8-5) drew post No. 7. “I think it’s a good post. With him, anything in the middle would have been fine. In the Preakness you just don’t want to be stuck down on the inside, where you have to use your horse a little bit," said Baffert. “The Derby winner drew well also. Everybody is in a good post.”

 -  Kentucky Derby champion I'll Have Another (5-2) installed as the second choice drew post No. 9 and trainer Doug O'Neill seemed rather pleased with the outcome. “I thought the draw was really good. I’m very happy with that. Being outside of the legitimate speed, most jockeys would be real happy with that. We’re OK with that," exclaimed O'Neill.

-  The six Kentucky Derby horses drew right next to each other in posts 5 through 10.

Here's a look at the field and the post positions:

PP Horse Jockey Odds
1 Tiger Walk Desormeaux 30-1
2 Teeth of the Dog Bravo 15-1
3 Pretension Santiago 30-1
4 Zetterholm J Alvarado 20-1
5 Went The Day Well J Velazquez 6-1
6 Creative Cause Rosario 6-1
7 Bodemeister M E Smith 8-5
8 Daddy Nose Best Leparoux 12-1
9 I'll Have Another Gutierrez 5-2
10 Optimizer Nakatani 30-1
11 Cozzetti Lezcano 30-1

 

We'll have a Friday handicap of the Black-Eyed Susan (BES) and post-race recap of the BES and the Pimlico Special right here at the Sports, Ink blog. On Saturday at noon, we'll start our live blog of Preakness Day from Pimlico, so be sure to check back for your thoroughbred racing fix.

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

Bandits notebook: State of the league

George Daniel, the commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, seems to be a reasonably happy man these days. He believes the league took some good steps forward during the 2012 season.

"It's been a terrific season for us," he said during a conference call with league media members Wednesday afternoon. "It's been the most competitive season in the 26-year history of the league. No one could have predicted the outcome of the season -- Washington missing the playoffs, the emergence of Minnesota, the wonderful story in Edmonton, the emerging young players in Rochester. ... We've made a lot of strides."

Daniel will be at Saturday's championship game between the Rochester Knighthawks and the Edmonton Rush, as he'll present the Champion's Cup to the winner. What's more, he'll do it live on the CBS Sports Network.

"The national television deal was a major stride," Daniel said. "It's the first time we've been on live television in prime time in the history of the league. ... I know some people, like our Canadian fans, complain that they don't get the channel yet. CBS has some work to do in Western Canada, but they will get there."

Daniel doesn't know just how many people out there are watching the games; CBS started its broadcast schedule in early April and the numbers haven't been compiled yet. He does know that the live broadcasts have created some buzz through email and social media sources.

The biggest rule change in 2012 centered on forcing teams to move the ball across the halfcourt line in eight seconds instead of 10. That, along with smaller goalie equipment, seems to have picked up the pace of the game.

"All the feedback around the league from coaches and Governors say they are happy with the changes," Daniel said. "I'm very pleased with increased scoring and game flow."

Once the championship game ends Saturday night, the league moves into offseason mode. Daniel said the biggest issue concerns the labor agreement with the players. The two sides had the option to opt out of the current deal last November 1, but the deadline was postponed until some grievances were settled through arbitration. That should happen in the near future.

"We believe in the bargaining process," Daniel said. "We want to get a better system in place. This is year five of the agreement, and there are changes we need to make. We signed it in a different economy, and there are some things we'd like changed.

Meanwhile, NLL rookie of the year Adam Jones of Colorado -- formerly of Canisius College -- headed the all-rookie team. The other members of the team were Kevin Crowley of the Philadelphia Wings, Jordan MacIntosh and Evan Kirk of the Minnesota Swarm, and Johnny Powless and Stephen Keogh of the Rochester Knighthawks.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Thurman Thomas

     (Born May 16, 1966) -- Many Buffalo Bills' fans remember their first look at Thurman Thomas. He wasn't the happiest of men.

     Thomas attended Oklahoma State, where he played with another good running back in Barry Sanders. However, he injured his knee while playing for the Cowboys and slipped out of the first round of the NFL Draft.

     ESPN was in its infancy when it came to televising the draft, and it showed Thomas waiting and waiting to be taken. Finally, he went to the Buffalo Bills in the second round.

     You'd have to say it worked out well for both sides. Thomas became the greatest all-around running back in Bills history. Thomas could run, catch passes, and block. If he had been a step faster, he might have been the greatest running back ever. But what we saw here was pretty good Ñ a league MVP and an eventual Hall of Famer.

     Thomas stayed with the Bills for 12 seasons, and jumped to the Dolphins for a year in 2000 when Buffalo had salary cap problems. That just didn't seem right. Thomas came back to Buffalo in 2001 to sign a one-day contract so he could retire a Bill. He's back in Western New York now, hopefully for good.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Iubo Petrovic

     (Born May 15, 1949) -- The Buffalo Stallions' best player during their first two seasons just might have been forward Iubo Petrovic. In fact, he might have been one of the most anonymous stars in Buffalo's sports history.

     Petrovic came to Western New York from his native Yugoslavia, as the Stallions leaned heavily on players from that country in the early years. Petrovic had 35 goals in 31 games as a rookie, which was first on the team. Countryman Slobodan Jankovic was second with 24 goals.

     A year later, Petrovic had 44 goals in 39 games. Again that led the team, with Charlie Cordas finishing with 40 goals.

     What's more, Petrovic never called attention to himself. He simply went about the business of helping his team win.

     Petrovic left Buffalo in 1981, landing in Kansas City. He had 15 goals in 25 games for the Comets, and then moved to Phoenix where he had eight goals in 15 games. Petrovic was then done with American indoor soccer at the age of 33.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports HIstory: Danny Gare

     (Born May 14, 1954) -- The Buffalo Sabres reached the Stanley Cup finals during Danny Gare's rookie year, and the right winger was a good-sized reason why.

     Gare was a second-round draft choice of the team in 1974. He had scored 68 goals in 65 games in his last year in junior hockey, but Gare wound up on a checking line with Don Luce and Craig Ramsay in 1974-75.

     The best defensive line, naturally, spends all of its time in the other team's end. This group seemed to do that. Gare finished with 31 goals and 31 assists. A year later, he finished with 50 goals Ñ hockey's magic number.

     The forward had 50-plus goals one other time (1979-80), and was a fine player with the Sabres through December 1981. That's when he was traded to Detroit in one of the biggest deals in franchise history.

     Gare spent more than four years with Detroit and part of a season with Edmonton before retiring. He has done some coaching and television work since that time.

     On November 22, 2005, Gare had his uniform number retired by the team.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Babe Dye

     (Born May 13, 1898) -- One of Canada's greatest all-around athletes spent part of his athletic career in Buffalo, and virtually no one remembers it now.

     Babe Dye deserves better.

     Cecil Henry "Babe" Dye was born in Hamilton, Ont., and shortly after that moved to Toronto. He arrived in the National Hockey League in 1919 with the Toronto St. Patricks. A year later he scored 33 goals in 23 games for Toronto, and he continued his winter sports success throughout the decade.

     But Dye needed something to do in the summer. He played baseball for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1920. In 1922, his contract was sold to the -- you guessed it -- Buffalo Bisons.

     Dye played 122 games for the Herd that season, hitting .312. In fact, he never hit less than .290 in his four full seasons in Buffalo. Legendary Philadelphia owner/manager Connie Mack reportedly offered Dye $25,000 to give up hockey for baseball.

     Dye, who also played for Toronto in the Canadian Football League, was finished with baseball in 1926. He played in the NHL until 1931, and was picked for the Hall of Fame in 1970.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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