“Keep the Quality Up:” Hickey Freeman and Rochester’s historic garment industry

The Hickey Freeman Co. was founded in Rochester, New York in 1899 and it continues to manufacture high quality, handmade suits and garments.

by Ryan Tantalo

Presidents, Senators, Olympians, sportscasters, and professional athletes have all worn Hickey Freeman suits manufactured in Rochester, New York. Known for its quality and style, the manufacturer is a lonely remnant of Rochester’s once prolific garment industry.

Although demand for handcrafted menswear had recently declined, and many U.S. companies outsource manufacturing, Hickey Freeman continues to produce handmade suits and sport coats.

The manufacturer sells clothing under its own label, Hickey Freeman, and produces clothes designed by other labels like Ralph Lauren.

In January 2021, President Joe Biden’s inauguration suit and overcoat were manufactured for Ralph Lauren in Hickey Freeman’s Rochester plant. In 2016, Ralph Lauren collaborated with the Rochester clothier to make blazers for the U.S. Olympic team. 

These achievements might fly under the radar for non-Rochesterians, but many locals recognize the brand’s impact.

23-year-old Sekou McAdams works in the Hickey Freeman factory store, on the ground level of the century-old building. Inspired by his grandfather, McAdams began wearing custom suits at 7, and aimed to work at Hickey Freeman since he was 12.

McAdams hopes to one day open his own haberdashery. He sees fine clothing as an important part of his character.

“People look at you differently when you wear a high-quality suit,” McAdams said. “I just imagine George Eastman rolling up to this factory in his 1920s Rolls Royce, and I want to channel that.” 

McAdams credited the decline of suits to a lack of knowledge about tailoring and a shift toward more casual dress in workplaces and offices.

“Unfortunately, it’s a dying business… there’s not enough people with passion,” McAdams said.

McAdams expressed disappointment that the history of Rochester’s garment industry is not memorialized in local museums or galleries. He contrasted this with the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, “they commemorate that [negative history], but we don’t appreciate our history.”

Tailormade: Rochester’s Garment History

According to WXXI.org, Rochester’s first tailor, Jehiel Barnard, came to the city in 1812. By the 1890s, Rochester was the fourth largest manufacturer of men’s clothing in the U.S. 

Rochester’s economy benefitted from the city’s proximity to the Genesee River, Erie Canal, and Lake Ontario. Those waterways helped power factories and allowed merchants to transport goods throughout the country.

According to “The Hickey Freeman Story: A Temple of Fine Tailoring,” by G. Sheldon Brayer, the Hickey-Freeman & Mahon Company was founded in Rochester in 1899 by Jeremiah G. Hickey, Jacob L. Freeman, George A. Brayer, and Thomas Mahon. 

The men pooled their collective knowledge of the tailoring industry, and $25,000 (over $800,000 in 2022), to incorporate their new clothing manufacturing business.

Historical images of the Hickey Freeman logos, factory and staff – located in the Factory store

In 1908, the company consolidated with the Beckel-Baum Company, another Rochester clothing manufacturer. At this point, it adopted the Hickey Freeman name, which it maintains today.

In 1912, the Hickey Freeman factory opened on Avenue D and North Clinton Avenue in Rochester. The 77,000 square foot building brought the entire business under one roof and allowed many employees to commute on foot.

During its long existence, the company faced numerous economic hurdles. The Great Depression threatened business, but Hickey Freeman worked with its employees and union to keep costs low and quality up, according to “The Temple of Fine Tailoring.”

World War II also created economic peril. By 1945, Rochester’s work force decreased by 25%. Allied victory, however, provided a spark and the company once again rebounded and increased production.

Since then, state and federal programs provided various amounts of assistance to preserve the historic operation. Over 100 years since its inception, the company continues pursuing its original mission of creating high quality, handcrafted garments. It’s one of the few remaining businesses of its kind in the U.S.

McAdams explaining the interior panel of a Hickey Freeman jacket, including hundreds of hand stitches

The Role of Immigrants

Immigrants played a crucial role in the Rochester garment industry. Hickey Freeman’s business relied heavily on the contributions of immigrant employees.

Even before the company’s founding, Jeremiah Hickey learned to speak German to communicate with the other tailors he worked with. Jacob Freeman immigrated from Hungary to New York, before starting his own tailor shop at age 17, according to “A Temple of Fine Tailoring.”

Hickey Freeman executives over the years – from “A Temple of Fine Tailoring”

As it grew, Hickey Freeman saw that domestic tailoring skills were lacking, and the company began looking outside the borders to recruit skilled workers.

Hickey Freeman looked to hire Greek, Italian, Turkish and Lebanese workers. Recruiters traveled abroad to find labor, and non-English pamphlets were distributed around Rochester with information about employment opportunities.

In the 1960s, the U.S. government passed legislation that reduced restrictions on immigration. In 1962, Hickey Freeman began a program that recruited Cuban refugees with sewing skills. 20 Cuban women were hired by the company. 

According to “A Temple of Fine Tailoring,” in 1967, employees from 34 countries collaborated on Hickey Freeman’s production process. 

In 1973, 64 citizens were sworn in at the factory. 

For immigrant workers, the opportunity to work in the United States allowed for economic advancement and a new life. 

In Irondequoit, New York a tailor named Hasan Togay operates his own business, called Cakir’s Tailor, on East Ridge Road. Togay came to Rochester from Istanbul, Turkey in the 1990s and worked as a Hickey Freeman group leader for five years.

Cakir’s Tailor in Irondequoit, New York

Togay supervised a section of workers at the factory to ensure that quality expectations were met. He was one of many employees that Hickey Freeman used to manage their production and maintain high standards.

Togay’s knowledge of the suit-making process allowed him to earn the trust of local clientele. Many customers take their handmade suits straight from the factory to a tailor that once made them himself.

Togay contrasted Hickey Freeman’s process with the more popular business practice of mass production.

“It’s all junk,” Togay said of fast fashion. However, he added that it’s much more difficult for a handmade business to make money in such a competitive atmosphere.

“I can’t sell suits; I can only fix them” Togay added. He alluded to the fact that brands without an established image will fail because they cannot achieve the same profit margins as
 manufacturers that outsource production.

Still, Togay said coming to the U.S., and working for Hickey Freeman, allowed him a new life and control of his own destiny. The lack of skilled American tailors created opportunities for immigrants to come and carve out their own niche. His work over two decades allowed him to save for his sons’ college tuition.

Hickey Freeman Today

Like for many of Rochester’s industrial titans – Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb – economic growth has been difficult to acquire in a city with a poverty rate over 30%. 

Hickey Freeman is one of few remaining garment companies in Rochester, a city that once dominated the industry.

Many Hickey Freeman employees have seen the decline firsthand. Ray Benson has worked in the factory for nearly 40 years. He said that the company survived because it “did things right and got lucky.”

Benson, however, said that clothing manufacturing has recently been dominated by European countries like Italy. He said that suits are more popular in Europe and manufacturing has largely left the U.S. 

But, “once upon a time it was Rochester.” 

Pictures and catalogs in the factory office

In the 21st Century, Hickey Freeman relies on local, loyal clients, corporate partnerships, and government assistance to stay afloat.

In 2013, Grano Retail Holdings purchased Hickey Freeman for over $10 million. The company, which owns competing manufacturer Samuelsohn, acquired Hickey Freeman and its factory from W Diamond Group. 

Hickey Freeman’s flagship Manhattan store, which opened in 2001, remained under control of W Diamond founder Doug Williams at the time of the deal.

The purchase came as Hickey Freeman continued to struggle economically. 

“Samuelsohn has benefited from Hickey’s weakness the last few years. We’ve seen that firsthand,” said Grano CEO Stephen Granovsky.

The deal appeared to benefit Hickey Freeman. In 2014, Hickey Freeman officials joined Senator Chuck Schumer to announce a $1 million deal with Ralph Lauren to manufacture the company’s “Blue Line” of suits and jackets. The partnership again bore fruit in 2016 and 2021. Hickey Freeman manufactured Ralph Lauren’s U.S. Olympic jackets and Biden’s inauguration garments.

During Covid-19, Hickey Freeman adapted its operation to survive the pandemic. It diverted part of its operation to creating masks and PPE for local hospitals.

In 2021, while wearing a Hickey Freeman suit, Schumer announced the ‘Make PPE in America Act,’ which created government contracts for U.S. companies to produce PPE. Hickey Freeman subsequently announced the addition of 100 employees, thanks to the government support.

“Hickey Freeman is a Rochester icon, and today I couldn’t be more excited to stand alongside its world-class workers to launch my ‘Marshall Plan’ to make American-made PPE the domestic standard,” Schumer said. “Companies like Hickey Freeman stepped up to help their communities in the darkest hour, and their contributions to beating back the tide of COVID will never be forgotten.”

In August 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced $70 million of funding for renovations to the Hickey Freeman factory. The money will fund the construction of 134 apartments in the building, while still preserving 77,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

My Visit to the Factory

Hickey Freeman factory as seen from Avenue D

While researching the company and talking to some of its employees, I had the opportunity to tour the historic factory on Avenue D and North Clinton.

After pulling into the gated parking lot, I descended the stairs into the factory’s outlet store. After I chatted with Benson and McAdams, the men provided me with research material including their employee manuals and the “Temple of Fine Tailoring” book. The book was created in 1999 to honor the 100-year anniversary of the company, and Benson told me it was the only copy he had. I ensured him that I would return it intact.

After a 45-minute chat in the store, McAdams offered to bring me upstairs to some of the production rooms and a walk through the front office. I couldn’t refuse.

The store’s back door led to an abandoned cafeteria, a sign of the company’s hard times. We made our way up the stairs and entered a room full of coat racks, half-finished suits, sewing machines and miles of thread.

Dozens of workers buried their heads in their precise work, threading needles in exact locations.

A sign on the factory floor

Signs, catalogs, and physical garments displayed the company’s history and encouraged the current staff to continue the Hickey Freeman legacy of quality and craftsmanship. 

In the office, gorgeous wood offices remained intact from the factory’s original design. Ancient catalogs sat behind glass. McAdams commented that he thought they belonged on display for the public, not just employees in the office.

As we continued the tour, McAdams’ enthusiasm was obvious. He lamented the lack of awareness of the work that goes on inside the factory. “People think this building is abandoned,” he said.

McAdams, however, will find any reason to wander the factory floors. When he commissions a personal suit, he follows it through every step of production. 

Before we returned to the ground floor, we paused to admire the golden words that arched across the office wall. Words that continue to guide the company over 100 years after its founding.

“Keep the quality up.”

Opinion: The Perfect Starting Nine

Baseball has the oldest and richest pro sports history in the United States. The National League was founded in 1876, giving us nearly 150 years of MLB lore.The longevity and richness of MLB makes the following task nearly impossible: building the best all-time MLB starting lineup. *This is not necessarily a ranking of the best players at each position, but rather the best one-through-nine hitting order that can possibly be created

  • CF, Rickey Henderson

Henderson is the perfect leadoff hitter for this stacked lineup. His 3,055 career hits are reason enough for the top spot. However, his speed is the real deciding factor. The MLB’s greatest bag swiper, with 1,406 stolen bases, gives the heavy hitters behind him an even easier job (like they need any help).

  • 3B, Pete Rose

In the two hole, this lineup needs a reliable contact hitter. Rose is the MLB’s all-time hits leader. He slots nicely between the leadoff speed and the power in the middle of the lineup. If Henderson fails to get on base, the lineup has security in Rose’s .375 on-base-percentage. If Henderson does get on, Rose can easily put the ball in play and advance Henderson around the bases.

  • LF, Barry Bonds

The third spot in most MLB lineups is reserved for power. Nobody had more power than Barry Bonds. His MLB-record 762 career home runs makes him a shoe-in.

  • DH/SP, Babe Ruth

Do I really need to explain this one? Ruth gives this offense gravitas, power, and versatility. People forget that Ruth pitched and hit, laying the foundation for today’s two-way players like Shohei Ohtani. No all-time MLB lineup would be complete without the Great Bambino.

  • 1B, Stan Musial

Musial gives Ruth and Bonds great protection. In a lineup this deep, the middle hitters need to be balanced. Musial, with the MLB’s 25th-best career batting average and 476 career home runs, he slots nicely in the middle of the lineup. Musial’s .417 on-base percentage provides great opportunities for the hitters behind him.

  • RF, Hank Aaron

Aaron was one of the game’s greatest power hitters. His 755 home runs are second-all time. Aaron, hitting behind players who consistently get on base and hit for power, will anchor the center of the lineup. He will get numerous at-bats with opportunities to knock in runs. He’s one of only five players with at least 2,000 RBI.

  • SS, Alex Rodriquez

A-Rod is another player with 2,000 runs-batted-in. His power at shortstop is incredibly valuable. His 3,115 hits and .380 OBP give opportunities to the bottom hitters.

  •  2B, Joe Morgan 

Morgan sures up the middle infield while bringing contact and power to the eight spot. His .392 OBP, .271 BA and 1,133 RBI are hard to top at second base.

  •  C, Johnny Bench

Behind the plate, the lineup needs a stable presence. Bench rounds out this squad with 389 career home runs, a .267 BA, and legendary defense. The ten-time gold glover could get it done on both sides of the ball.

From Courier to Curator: Ellen Przepasniak’s Journey with the Buffalo News

Ellen Przepasniack always dreamed of writing for the Buffalo News.

“All this time, I knew I wanted to be at the Buffalo News. It’s my hometown paper,” Przepasniack said. 

Przepasniack, 39, attended Fredonia University. She wrote for various publications, starting with her college newspaper. She was an editor in college and said, “[it was] where I got the passion for journalism as I have it today.”

After college, Przepasniack worked for a Jamestown newspaper. She served as features editor for two years before attending Boston University for her master’s degree in journalism.

She earned her second degree and returned to her roots. After applying to the Buffalo News “for probably 15 years,” Przepasniack looked to achieve her dream of writing in Buffalo.

Przepasniack said she applied for various jobs and internships at the Buffalo News, but kept getting rejected. However, she stayed on their radar with persistent effort. 

“Finally, when I was hired, it was the right job at the right time,” Przepasniack said.

Przepasniack served as digital editor for the Buffalo News, curating online content to best engage audiences across social media platforms. She said her work included tweaking story formats and wording for digital publication. She spoke heavily about her involvement with the paper’s audience, as an “audience editor.”

“We consider ourselves the experts on our audience. We have to think, this story is about ‘x’, how does our audience want to see it if they’re on Facebook? If our Facebook audience is not interested in that topic, then we might not even post the story to Facebook,” said Przepasniack. 

Przepasniack said the best stories come from understanding your audience, “If you understand what your audience wants to read – and at what time, and in what format – then there should technically be no topic that is not of interest.”

Within the last year, Przepasniack used her work at the Buffalo News to springboard to a job at a larger newspaper: the Chicago Tribune. She now serves as senior audience editor, overseeing a team of six people. The new role built on her previous experience.

“I’m doing similar work but more advanced at the Chicago paper, and obviously there’s a bigger circulation there,” Przepasniack said. “I always tell people: I don’t ever have a day where I’m not busy. I’m either busy or super busy.”

She said her job changes “every six months,” and she analyzes trends to ensure that the Chicago Tribune reaches digital audiences as effectively as possible.

Although Przepasniack works in a bigger market, she stayed grounded in Buffalo. She works remotely, allowing her to advance her career without severing ties with her beloved hometown.

Even after moving to greener pastures, the Buffalo News’ mark remains on Ellen Przepasniack. The paper shaped her life and career.

“It’s hard to leave… [I] grew up in Western New York. It’s your hometown paper,” she said. “My first job was delivering the Buffalo News when I was 11.”


When UB Hockey arrived at their weekend home, a Super8 hotel in Moon Township, PA., players and coaches audibly groaned.

The hallways reeked of cigarette smoke. Players joked that the sheets were stained “by blood or chocolate.” Each room had three or four players, forcing them to share twin beds with each other in the dingy lodge.

Head Coach Morgan vonHedemann directed his team to take pictures of their rooms, mounting evidence for a complaint.

“We had spiders on our end table,” said UB Captain Anthony Coty. “There were dead bugs and nasty old nail clippings. We didn’t even shower… we showered at the rink because it was so gross.”

Facing Robert Morris University, outside of Pittsburgh, the hotel was not the Bulls’ first choice. The team submitted a “hotel form” to the UB Student Association with quotes for hotel options. As a club team, UB Hockey must answer to the SA if they want to spend money on accommodations or equipment.

UB Hockey planned to stay at an America’s Best Value Inn. They submitted their hotel request to SA. Procurement Coordinator Mike Grela was tasked with making the reservations.

Two days before the trip, UB Hockey President Anthony Trigilio was shocked to find out Grela was “let go from that department” and never made the arrangements. UB Hockey had nowhere to stay. They ended up at the 2.9-star Super8.

Trigilio expressed his frustration with SA. “We had done everything by the book, meaning we received an invoice from the hotel, and we submitted it through the SAFE system like they tell us to. And we still had problems with it.”

Grela and SA have not commented on the incident.

“Welcome to my life,” said Bulls’ Head Coach Morgan vonHedemann. “Welcome to UB.”

A former player, club executive, and current coach, vonHedemann has been with UB Hockey for the better part of the last decade. He’s used to butting heads with SA, but he embraces the “bad news bears mentality.”

The Bulls are seen as a top program despite difficulties with funding and school support. The Bulls trotted out 17 new players on Friday night and kept pace with Robert Morris, a private school with an NCAA hockey program. Mike Joseph, RMU’s Head Coach, joked that he wanted the growing UB program off their schedule next year.

via Tantalo Takes on YouTube – Commentary by Ryan Tantalo

The players returned to the hotel after the game Friday night, but subpar conditions allowed little comfort. On Saturday morning, sleepless players commiserated over breakfast at a local diner. 

Coty said, “The bed was hard as rocks… it was by far the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed at.”

Most players slept fully clothed, on top of their comforters. vonHedemann used towels as blankets.

“I might just burn my [clothes],” said UB Assistant Coach Will Stryker. 

The UB Hockey club is composed of three teams, Men’s ACHA, Men’s CHF, and Women’s ACHA. They all answer to SA, instead of the school’s athletic department. 

Players contribute their own money to fund the teams, but SA must approve transactions.

This process can take weeks to complete, delaying things like uniform orders. The team is still waiting to receive their full shipment for the 2022 season. As documented above, SA’s policy also complicates the hotel booking process.

For a team competing for national club hockey rankings, the SA regulations place several additional challenges on volunteer coaches and student club executives. UB Hockey lobbied the university numerous times for relegation to athletic department or recreation oversight. For now, they play the cards they’ve been dealt. 

After breakfast, the team boarded their bus to the rink. vonHedemann hummed the Willie Nelson classic “on the road again,” while resting his head against the seat in front of him. It would be another 10 hours until the team returned to Buffalo.

$2,000,000 Catch (Best thing I read this week 10/6)

Thousands of fans came to Globe Life Field on Tuesday to witness history. One lucky man got to hold it in his hand.


This Guardian article contextualized one of the greatest moments in sports history, and its aftermath. Aaron Judge hit his AL-record 62nd home run against the Texas Rangers. A fan named Cory Youmans caught the ball and, along with it, an opportunity to make millions.

The article took the baseball home race, and attached it to the raging sports memorabilia market. In August, 2022 a Mickey Mantle rookie card sold for over $12m. Judge’s ball was sure to skyrocket in the collector market.

Within hours, Youmans received multiple eye-popping offers, according to the Guardian.

One bidder, JP Cohen, offered $2m for the ball and said he’d loan it to Yankee stadium for display.

The article wrapped up with stories from other fans who traveled in hopes of witnessing, or even catching, history. It was a heartwarming conclusion and drove home the human significance surrounding one of greatest moments in sports history.

UB Hockey Dominates in Home Opener

The University at Buffalo CHF Club Hockey Team defeated Penn State Behrend 15-5 on Friday, September 30.

Buffalo Hockey came into their home opener Friday night with momentum and confidence. A week earlier, they defeated Buffalo State on the road, and snapped a four-game losing streak against the Bengals. The win allowed UB to avenge their loss to Buffalo State in last year’s UNYCHL playoffs.

“Last week was a great win… Buff State’s a great team… we kind of have a vibe in the locker room that this is a year we’re going to compete for nationals,” said Ryan O’Donnell, UB’s starting goaltender and assistant captain.

Riding a 1-0 start, the Bulls took the ice against Penn State Behind for their first home game. After falling behind early, the UB offense caught fire. They finished the first period leading 6-1, and outshot Behrend 30-2.

Six different Bulls scored in the first period. Captain Matt Tullo continued his impressive UB career with his second goal of the season. The Bulls’s top forward scored 41 points in 22 games last season.

Forwards Cam Bass, Tommy Mccarren, Tucker Velepec, Matthew Mcculloch, and defenseman Bryan Hummel each scored in the first.

In the second period, Behrend replaced starting goaltender Colin Bistarkey with Zane Ryan Lewis. This did little to stop the UB attack, as they piled on five more goals, and ballooned their shot advantage to 53-15.

Dylan Foresta scored his second of the campaign. Jack Evert, Matt Cohen, Tyler Vanputte, and Hector Vargas all picked up their first goals of the season. The officials gave out so many “first goal” pucks that they had to resupply during intermission.

Forward Matthew Mcculloch also scored in the second period, his second goal of the game.

“Pucks on net and rebounds all game is really what it was,” said Mcculloch. “Good teamwork all the way around… we had four game pucks given out for first goals… so we got better from last year and we’re going to be a force to reckon with.

In the third period, Behrend made another change in net. Daniel Kowatch stepped in to try to stop the bleeding. Two minutes into the period, however, Tommy Mccarren picked up his second of the game.

Cohen and Hummel scored again, and Andrew Daddario picked up his first goal of the season.

Despite the one-sided score, excitement still carried late into the third period. UB’s Dylan Foresta tangled up with Behrend’s Nikolai Osborne. After Foresta slammed him to the ground, Osborne swung his stick back into Foresta’s helmet and drew a slashing penalty. The officials sent both players to the box for the remaining few minutes of play.

At the final buzzer, UB walked away with their second win of the season, 15-5. They outshot Penn State Behrend 68-22 in a commanding home victory. 12 different Bulls scored a goal.

Bulls’ Head Coach, Cody Felser, picked up the first home win of his career. Felser played for UB last year, and moved behind the bench for this season.

Felser spoke about his transition, “the biggest thing is getting that separation between the friend that I once was on the team, to more of that authority figure… we started implementing some new systems this year and it seemed to pay off.”

Felser also praised the depth of his team, “we’re a lot deeper than we were last year…where we relied heavily on that first line.”

The Bulls now sit at 2-0 in league play, and continue to chase their goal of playing for a CHF national championship.

“Our guys came ready to work,” said Felser.

Colombia Hockey Allows Players to Reconnect with their Heritage (Best Thing This Week 9/26)


William Douglas created the Color of Hockey Blog on NHL.com to highlight the underrepresented groups in the sport of Ice Hockey. On September 19, he published this piece about Tina Kampa, a forward on the Colombian Women’s Hockey Team.

Douglas began the article with a great quote from Kampa, who was raised in the United States after being born in Colombia. She explains how the team allowed her to connect with people she feels similar to, and she said it was a great experience to compete alongside her fellow Colombians.

Douglas follows that paragraph with a picture, showing Kampa in her Colombian uniform at the 2022 LATAM Cup. He then explains the LATAM Cup, which is an International Latin American Hockey Tournament. This provides context for the audience and also furthers Douglas’ goal of highlighting hockey in minority markets.

Finally, Douglas provides another great quote from Colombia Coach Sam Uisprapassorn. He explained the impact of having Kampa on the team. Kampa played NCAA Ice Hockey, and brought a new level of talent to the team. Previously, as the quote explains, the majority of players on team Colombia had a roller hockey background.

Douglas portrayed Tina Kampa as a leader and an influential piece in growing ice hockey in Colombia. He used quotes and background information to explain where the sport is coming from in Latin America, and where it’s headed. Douglas’ blog, Color of Hockey, continuously covers these under-the-radar stories to promote and expand the sport among people who previously weren’t represented.

Aaron Judge Chases the Triple Crown (Best thing I read this week 9/18)

Wagner’s New York Times article points out the historical nature of Aaron Judge’s incredible 2022 season. Many media outlets have touched on the fact Judge is chasing Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season, but I like that Wagner found a new angle and looked at Judge also chasing the batting title and triple crown.

In baseball, power hitters usually don’t have the best batting averages. Hitters that swing for the fence often strike out when they don’t hit home runs. Judge is a generational player that can not only hit for power, but for contact. To highlight this, Wagner included Judge’s monstrous stats in September, in which he recorded a base hit in nearly every other at bat.

Finally, Wagner nicely ties up the history of the triple crown in baseball (player leading the league in home runs, runs batted in, and batting average). He mentions the last triple crown winner, Miguel Cabrera. Judge had a nice connection to Cabrera, watching his 2012 highlights while playing in college. I appreciate Wagner’s ability to dig beyond the surface and find a unique connection between two players with significant places in the history of Major League Baseball.

Puerto Rico Hockey’s Rapid Rise

When Puerto Rico Ice Hockey debuted, they had 11 players. Four of them had the last name Vargas.

“It was me, my two brothers, and my father,” said Scott Vargas, founder of the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association (PRIHA). 

Scott Vargas and his team first played in Puerto Rican colors at the 2019 Amerigol LATAM Cup, an annual exhibition tournament for Latin American hockey teams. In May 2020, Scott Vargas officially organized Puerto Rico Ice Hockey under PRIHA, and began grassroots recruiting efforts. 

Just 27 months later, the association boasts over 200 players. Six Puerto Rican teams, and three Caribbean teams, will travel to the 2022 LATAM Cup. PRIHA will send over 130 players to represent their heritage on the ice, at the Florida Panther’s Ice Den in Coral Springs.

PRIHA’s mission is “to foster and promote the sport of hockey in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Latin America, and beyond.”

Following Puerto Rican National Olympic Committee guidelines, players eligible to compete for Puerto Rico Hockey fall into one of three categories: players born in Puerto Rico, players with Puerto Rican heritage, or players with full-time residency in Puerto Rico.

According to Scott Vargas, most PRIHA members have heritage, and live in the 50 United States. Nearly six million Puerto Ricans live in the continental U.S., with three million on the island of Puerto Rico. Cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia are hotbeds for Puerto Rican culture, and players in those areas want new ways to represent their national identity.

“Puerto Ricans are a prideful group of people, and they want new ways to tap into their background, their history, and their family,” said Scott Vargas.

In Buffalo, NY, a Puerto Rican Hockey player named Hector Vargas saw the association as an opportunity to represent his national pride. 

(Hector Vargas training in Buffalo)

Hector Vargas plays CHF hockey for the University at Buffalo. He found Puerto Rico Hockey through a suggested Instagram post. Six months later, he and his two brothers are traveling to South Florida to compete in the 2022 LATAM Cup. His parents and sister will be in the stands. 

With paternal grandparents born in Puerto Rico, Hector Vargas grew up with Hispanic culture, language, and food. The opportunity for him to play international hockey was special.

“The first time holding that jersey, with the flag on it, it was very humbling,” said Hector Vargas. “I see guys I admire, like Yadier Molina and Marcus Stroman… and we play for the same pride and it’s awesome.”

Hector Vargas first played in Puerto Rican colors in March 2022, at the inaugural Amerigol Spring Classic. The Dallas Stars opened their facilities to Latin American teams.  It was a welcome opportunity for players to showcase hockey for their countries.

Puerto Rico advanced to the championship game. They fell to a talented Argentina Team in the Finals.

(Hector Vargas receiving a silver medal in Dallas)

The Spring Classic became Amerigol’s second annual event, and it featured a second NHL partner. The Dallas Stars joined the Florida Panthers in supporting the growth of Latin American Hockey. They brightened the spotlight on players from Puerto Rico and other nations. 

Fans arrived in droves to wave their flags. Hector Vargas said the atmosphere in Dallas was “electric,” and the media attention was “surreal.” NHL.com and Bleacher Report published multiple reports of the events.

Alongside international tournaments, organizations like PRIHA often take matters into their own hands to recruit and develop players.

The Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association hosted its inaugural Serie de Primavera in May 2022. The Chicago event brought 105 Puerto Rican players together. It included 32 hours of on-ice activities, and eight exhibition games with local Chicago teams. The four-day camp attracted over 200 fans from the community.

(Scott Vargas [left] in Chicago)

“This really validated what we’ve done over the last two years. We knew we had the membership growth, but we finally got the engagement,” said Scott Vargas. 

Scott Vargas said events like the Serie de Primavera allow PRIHA to grow the game in a different way. It allowed them to tap into different demographics, many of which had limited exposure to hockey, especially Puerto Rican hockey.

PRIHA’s members almost universally share a story of desire to play hockey for their nation. Before founding the association, Scott Vargas searched for an avenue to play Puerto Rican hockey, but saw “no progress.” He saw a “clear energy but a lack of structure,” which inspired him to establish PRIHA in 2020.

Puerto Rico’s first appearance, at the 2019 LATAM Cup, allowed its original players to achieve their goal of playing international hockey. Growth and success came quickly, and PRIHA sent five teams to the 2021 Cup. The top men’s team won silver, and the women won gold.

In 2022, PRIHA continues to expand. They filled six teams for the 2022 LATAM Cup. For the first time, each team has a manager and coaching staff. PRIHA’s board of directors, committees, and advisory board allows President Scott Vargas to lighten his load. In 2021, he ran all five Puerto Rican teams while competing on the ice.

“I think Puerto Rico is the most prepared program, as far as youth, women’s, and men’s… every team has a full roster. I think we’re going to compete for a medal in every division,” said Hector Vargas.

To succeed, Scott Vargas’ philosophy revolves around “professionalism, accountability, and responsibility.” He said, “If we give 100%, the rest falls into place.”

Off the ice, Scott Vargas hopes to expand the association’s reach. He expressed a vision of one day hosting an event in Puerto Rico itself, fostering the next generation of Puerto Rican players. He’s proud to “be a part of history,” and build something bigger than himself. 

Despite the hours of dedication and labor to grow Puerto Rican hockey, the members are determined to reach their ultimate goal. They aim to join the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and compete on the “main international stage.”

Scott Vargas applauded the ambition of PRIHA’s members, “they want to keep climbing higher.” 

The 2022 Amerigol LATAM Cup takes place at the Florida Panther’s Ice Den, September 14-18. 

Free livestreams for every game are available on HockeyTV.com.

For more information about PRIHA, its mission, and its annual events, visit puertoricoicehockey.com

The Best Thing I Watched This Week (9/12/2022)

Bleacher Report’s coverage of the Amerigol 2021 LATAM CUP

Ice Hockey and Latin America are hardly ever associated in the minds of sports fans. The region’s warm climate and overall lack of ice hockey resources makes access difficult for Latin Americans.

The Amerigol LATAM Cup welcomes hockey players from Latin America and provides them an opportunity to play for their countries and showcase their talents.

In Bleacher Report’s coverage of the 2021 tournament, they did an excellent job highlighting the impact of the tournament, and the opportunity for Latin American hockey players to compete internationally.

Interviews from fans, players, and Al Montoya, the NHL’s first Cuban player, illustrated the national pride of the players and fans. They emphasized their desire to grow hockey within their communities.

Videos of the crowd singing and waving flags evoked images of a soccer atmosphere, demonstrating the enthusiasm and energy of the event.

Bleacher Report’s coverage allowed Latin American hockey their biggest platform yet. The 2022 edition of the LATAM Cup features nearly twice as many players as 2021, and gained NHL and NHL Player Association sponsorships.

Thanks to the mainstream, international attention, Latin American hockey is larger than ever and only continues to grow.

The 2022 LATAM Cup takes place September 14-18, 2022. The Florida Panthers will host the tournament at their facility for the fourth straight year.

One World Cafe: UB’s Best Building

One World Cafe, opened in 2022

On a campus full of repetitive brick buildings, UB’s One World Cafe is a breath of fresh air. The 53,300 square foot building catches eyes from every direction, and adds color and culture to the university.

One World features dining options from across the globe, and showcases the cultural diversity present at the University at Buffalo. Tikka Table, Pan Asia, and Noodle Pavilion provide a wide array of food choices. It allows some students to try new cuisine, while giving others a comfortable taste of home. 

The building’s windows are abundant and large. Natural light streams in from all over, providing a great atmosphere for relaxing, eating or studying. 

One World Cafe, next to Capen Hall

From below, the building looms invitingly. The bustling activity inside is bright and visible.

One World Cafe gives the University at Buffalo a new look and feel. The University’s “Front Door” is a centerpiece that advances their Heart of the Campus (HTOC) movement. It ties the surrounding campus together and welcomes students from the parking lots, bus loops, and sidewalks.


Written by Ryan Tantalo – @tantalotakes – TantaloTakes.com

            On Draft Night 2022, the Saints held two picks inside the top 20. New Orleans looked poised to add instant-impact players. In a bold move, the team traded up 5 spots, to 11. Sooner than anticipated, Roger Goodell took the stage. My heart was pounding.

            “With the 11th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State.”


After that pick, and some big offseason moves, the Saints are in position to make the playoffs. 

            In 2021, New Orleans got off to a hot start with Jameis Winston under center. The FSU QB led his team to a 5-2 record, with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Before he tore his ACL, Winston played the most efficient football of his career. He looked like the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year. He did it all without Saints’ top receiver Michael Thomas, who sat the whole season with an injury.

            Injuries decimated New Orleans last season. Against the Miami Dolphins, over 20 Saints hit the IR. Remarkably, the Saints remained in playoff contention until the final game of the season.

            In 2022, former Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas starts the season healthy. Opposite Thomas, the Saints added Olave. The pair of Ohio State products enrich the Saints receiving corps, and make Winston’s life much easier. 

            In his last full season, Thomas caught the ball an NFL-record 149 times, for 1,725 yards. At OSU, last season, Olave totaled 936 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 11 games. The addition of Olave, opposite Thomas, will give opposing secondaries nightmares.

The Saints also revamped their offensive line with the 19th pick in Thursday’s draft. After losing longtime Offensive Tackle Terron Armstead in free agency, they drafted Trevor Penning to replace him. A massive lineman, standing 6 feet, 7 inches, Penning dominated college football at the FCS level. He played well enough to earn a nomination for the Walter Payton Award, given to the best player offensive player in the NCAA.

Penning lines up opposite All-Pro Tackle Ryan Ramczyk. They stabilize an offensive line tasked with protecting Winston and allowing him to feed his new receivers. The whole unit benefits from playing alongside Running Back Alvin Kamara, who averages 5.8 yards-per-touch in his career. Kamara is a premier dual-threat player, making the Saints’ offense one of the most versatile in the league.

Kamara is awaiting a hearing in his battery case. A suspension is possible, but I believe he will play at least 10 games this season. In the meantime, New Orleans might hav to survive with a backup halfback. It hurts, but it’s not a backbreaker.

Their offense is still much stronger than last year.

While the Saints look to improve their scoring numbers, defense remains their biggest strength. Despite the dozens of injuries they suffered last season, elite defense carried them to a 9-8 record. By Week 17, Pro Football Focus ranked New Orleans’ D as the fourth best in the NFL.

The Saints’ defense allowed them to compete with every opponent they faced, even when their own offense was forced to play with backups and undrafted players. The unit stepped up when it counted, perhaps most notably in their second matchup with the defending champs, Tampa Bay. The Saints shut out Tom Brady and the Bucs, 9-0, and intercepted Brady late in the game to seal the deal.

            Defensively, the Saints can get after the passer, stuff the run, and force turnovers. They allowed less than 20 points per game last season. The team should continue that success, especially after their most recent acquisition: free agent Safety Tyrann Mathieu. They added a three-time All-Pro to an already stacked defense. The New Orleans native, and LSU standout, brings competitive fire, playoff experience, and leadership to the team.

            The Saints defensive backfield now comprises Marshon Lattimore, Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye, and C. J. Gardner-Johnson. It’s arguably the best secondary in the NFL.

Coaching is the Saints’ biggest question mark. They lost Super Bowl Champion Head Coach Sean Payton, and promoted Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen to fill his spot. Losing the offensive genius of Payton stings, but Allen deserved the promotion. He led the top-tier defense all last season, and commanded the team to their shutout over Tampa, when Payton missed the game due to COVID-19.

            New Orleans promoted Payton’s longtime assistant Pete Carmichael Jr. to Offensive Coordinator. Carmichael coached under Payton during Payton’s entire tenure with the Saints. According to Sports Illustrated, Carmichael ran the Saints offense in 2012. That season, they had the best passing offense in the NFL.

            Building off of a solid 2021 season, in which the team overcame injuries and setbacks, the Saints are poised to break out. They added new weapons, got healthy, and kept their leadership mostly intact.

Expect the team to add at least a couple of wins to last year’s total.

Football Loses an Icon – John Madden Dies at 85

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by Ryan Tantalo (@tantalotakes) 12/28/2021

(Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC/Walt Disney Television via Getty images) JOHN MADDEN

Ask any football fan to count down the greatest and most influential figures in the sport and John Madden’s name will fly right out. 

Some know John Madden for his Madden NFL video game, which has sold over 100 million copies since the first edition “John Madden Football” was released in 1988. Others know him for his illustrious tenure as an NFL color commentator on all 4 major TV Networks (ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS). And many more know him for his Hall of Fame NFL Head Coaching career. Regardless of how John Madden entered football fans’ lives, his impact on the game of pro football is undeniable.

During 10 seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Madden led the team to a  103-32-7 record, and a Super Bowl XI title over the Minnesota Vikings 32-14. His .759 winning percentage is second all time in NFL history.

As a TV analyst, Madden’s personality and knowledge of the game became must-watch entertainment for football fans across the world. He had an unmatched ability to explain the nuance of the game while still keeping things understandable and fun for fans of all interest levels. His iconic quotes throughout a career that included 16 Emmys are innumerable, but here are some of my favorites:

“Hey, the offensive linemen are the biggest men on the field, they’re bigger than everybody else, and that’s what makes them the biggest men on the field.”

– John Madden

“If the quarterback throws the ball in the end zone and the wide receiver catches it, it’s a touchdown.”

– John Madden

Bomani Jones summed up Madden’s impact as a commentator in his tweet following the legend’s passing:

Madden set the standard for football broadcasting and helped to inspire the next generations of commentators and analysts.

In all of Madden’s work, his passion for the game of football was evident. He had a natural ability to spread knowledge and joy for the game, and was an instrumental piece in growing football to America’s #1 sport. 

Even after his retirements from coaching and TV commentating, Madden’s fingerprints are all over the NFL. His Madden NFL football video game is one of the highest-selling game franchises of all time. Madden is directly responsible for thousands, if not millions, of young fans learning about the game of football and becoming invested in the league. His games harness all the great things about football; the excitement, the great talent of the players, and an emphasis on fun above all else. 

John Madden’s passing today will strike the hearts of football fans of all ages and backgrounds. He embodied the greatness of the NFL for multiple generations of fans and left a lasting impact on so many lives.

Fans around the world will mourn his loss.

He was 85 years old.

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Bills defeat Patriots 33-21, retake 1st place in AFC East

by Ryan Tantalo (@tantalotakes) , 12/26/2021

Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Following their week 13 thumping of the Bills on Monday Night Football, the New England Patriots looked like the clear AFC East frontrunner. On that windy night in Orchard Park, Buffalo’s run defense allowed 222 yards and the Bills were outgained in total yardage despite the fact that Pats’ QB Mac Jones only completed 1 pass attempt all game. Although Bills’ safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer adamantly denied being “embarrassed”, the Bills were thoroughly out-played and out-coached in that 14-10 loss.

Fast forward to today, a Week 16 rematch on the Patriots’ home turf. The 8-6 Bills, fresh off of a win against Carolina, were looking to get revenge against their division rival. New England (9-5) came in hoping to put the AFC East Division race to bed. The Bills knew the most important step towards achieving victory would be stopping the rush attack of Damien Harris and forcing rookie QB Mac Jones to throw the ball as many times as possible. Buffalo also needed to be more disciplined and aggressive on offense, as they only reached the end zone 1 time in the previous matchup.

Buffalo met the “aggressiveness” bill early; a gutsy 4th-and-goal touchdown conversion in the first quarter set the tone for this game and put Buffalo in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the contest. The Bills’ offense tacked on 10 more points before halftime, largely due to the breakout contribution of Isaiah McKenzie, who led the Bills with 125 receiving yards in the game, and Buffalo went to the locker room up 17-7.

Unlike the first matchup, New England was forced to play from behind in the second half, and couldn’t lean on their rushing attack as heavily. Damien Harris still had a stellar performance, with 103 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns, but the Patriots attack was stifled on 3rd down (1/10 conversion) and Mac Jones was pressured into a poor performance with 14/32 completions (44%) and 2 crucial interceptions. The conservative, methodical offense of Week 13 was not present today and the Pats’ lagged behind Buffalo’s speedy, high-powered unit.

Speaking of the Bills’ offense, this game was a showcase for Josh Allen and his array of weapons. The Wyoming product completed 30/47 passes for 314 yards and 3 tds. Even without receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, Allen found his usual target Stefon Diggs (7 rec, 85 yds, 1 td) and fed Isaiah McKenzie 11 times including crucial conversions on multiple scoring drives. The surprise star McKenzie had a career day with 125 yds and 1 touchdown.

The largest weakness today for the Bills was their running game, which has been a problem all season. Josh Allen was once again the leading Buffalo rusher with 64 yards, more than starting RB Devin Singletary’s total of 39 yards on the same number of carries (12). It’s hard to find many faults in the Bills’ offensive performance today, but the production out of their running backs is still cause for some moderate concern as playoff time approaches.

Today’s game was one of the biggest and most satisfying regular season wins in recent memory for the Bills. Beating your most hated rival is always sweet, but it’s even sweeter when you steal 1st place from them with just 2 games left in a tense and trying season.

Buffalo’s remaining games are both at home vs the 7-8 Falcons and 4-11 Jets.