Thursday, January 12, 2012

One of a kind

I've never talked with anyone about this hockey-related subject before, but, under the circumstances, this is probably the time.

I ran the Sabres' press box for six seasons during my time in the team's public relations department. I tried at all times to be cordial, friendly and professional to visitors. But I am willing to admit now that there was one team that I hated to see come to Buffalo: the St. Louis Blues.

And the reason for that was Ron Caron, who passed away the other day at 82.

Caron was the Blues' general manager during those years of the late 1980's and early 1990's. I can't speak for his personality when he wasn't watching a game by his team. But during those times in Memorial Auditorium, Caron turned into the proverbial "mad man." As the joke goes, here was a man who wore out his suits from the inside.

The press box was mostly open in terms of seating, meaning few areas were sectioned off from the rest of the occupants. When Caron came to town, you could expect plenty of yelling and screaming, with press notes flying around like a ticket-tape parade in New York when the situation called for it. Which it usually did.

As I recall, and it's been a while, he did some loud complaining a couple of times to me about the Sabres' operation not meeting his specifications somehow. My job then was basically to take it and shut up, which I did. I also saw Caron belittle my press box staff, which was comprised not only of my friends but who were volunteers who showed up because they loved the game. They didn't fight back either, but simply rolled their eyes when the Blues came to town too. Because they knew it would be a long night.

The calmest I remember Caron, oddly enough, was the night Clint Malarchuk had his jugular vein cut during a game with the Blues. At one point, Caron grabbed someone nearby and demonstrated what to do to stop the bleeding in such a situation. Mostly, though, I stayed away from that end of the press box.

This story is about Caron's full life. It's almost comforting to know that he didn't act like a maniac all the time, and could be, if anything, a bit charming and funny.

But I can't say I'm surprised that the obituary included a story about how he wound up getting banned from the press box in Detroit. Caron is a good reminder that it only takes a moment to be civil to those around you, if only because the memories you create can last a lifetime.

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