Farewell To A Friend

By Steve Carp

 It’s been a couple of days now and I’m still processing the loss of my friend Brian Blessing.

 We’ve been friends for years and shared common interests — hockey, horse racing, golf and sports betting — and I was always impressed by his vast knowledge of all of them.

 But I knew something was wrong when he didn’t write his Kenny White Sports Insider Newsletter column last week. He always has keen insights and strong opinions about the NFL so when it didn’t show up (He was always the first contributor to file), I had a bad feeling.

 Sure enough, his health had become an issue. And while driving to Los Angeles Sunday to be with my brother who is in the hospital with his own health issues, my phone started ringing and pinging.

 Calls. Text messages. Twitter director messages. All wondering if it was true, that Brian had died.

 And as I pulled into the parking lot at West Hills Medical Center, I was able to ascertain what was going on. I called Kenny White and he confirmed the news that Brian had passed away early Sunday. To make matters worse, his wife Marie was hospitalized with COVID-19 and was in the ICU. 

 Brian is the second friend I’ve lost in the last month. Some of you may recall Frank Harnish lost his battle with cancer last month. Throw in my brother’s health issues and my emotional account is being drained.

 Several things stand out when I think about Brian. One was his passion for everything. He loved talking sports. He loved his Buffalo teams. He loved hockey, not just the Sabres, and he loved horse racing (He worked at Fort Erie Racetrack while living in Western New York). He would call me during an NHL game when some weird thing happened and would say, “Can you believe this?” Or he would have come up with an angle on a horse to bet and he would reach out to me and get my thoughts.

 Another thing about Brian was he was a no nonsense guy. What he was on the air was what he was off the air. He loved being on the radio, getting paid for something he would’ve gladly done for free. He treated his guests and callers like they were special, which in his mind, they were. He wasn’t wrong often, but on the rare occasion he was, he’d admit it and own up to it.

 But maybe the most important thing we should remember about Brian was his love of family and friends. Marie was the love of his life and his granddaughter Gracie, who lived with her grandparents, was the apple of his eye. I can’t imagine how Gracie will deal with the loss of her “Papa” but she’s a strong young woman and she’ll find the strength.

 As one of Brian’s close friends, he looked out for me. When Gaming Today folded last February and my job as Senior Editor was eliminated, Brian was supportive and told me something would turn up. He’s the reason I joined Kenny White Sports, assuring me this would be a venture worth getting involved with.

 When my brother suffered a heart attack last August and our family thought we were going to lose him, Brian called me a couple of times a day to make sure I was OK and to ask about how my brother was a doing. 

 And I remember when friends like Tony Miller of the Golden Nugget took ill or when Tony’s wife was battling cancer, Brian was calling daily to check in on them. That’s what true friends do.

 There’s so much I’m going to miss about Brian. I’ll miss the two daily radio shows — Vegas Sportsbook Radio and Vegas Hockey Hotline — the first of which airs nationally on Sirius/XM Radio and helped elevate Brian into the national spotlight when it came to sports betting. I’ll miss his back and forth with Stevie Slapshot and all the great guests who would come on the show.

 I’ll miss the catchphrases he’d use on the air. “A dog’s breakfast,” “One foot on the banana peel, the other in the grave,” “I’m just a knuckle-dragging neanderthal” and others he’d sprinkle in during the show. He was always entertaining and knowledgeable.

 For months, he was leading the charge for the Golden Knights to acquire Jack Eichel and one of the sad things about Brian’s passing is he won’t get to see Eichel play for Vegas. He also won’t live to see his beloved Bills win a Super Bowl. It would be the cruelest of ironies if the Bills win it all next month.

  But most of all, I’ll miss Brian’s presence in my life. Whether it was playing the horses together, grabbing a bite to eat, sitting with him in the press box at T-Mobile Arena, we had a wonderful relationship. And getting to work with him was something I’ll always cherish.

 To Marie and Gracie, get well soon and may you have the strength to deal with your terrible loss. To Brian’s friends, co-workers and those who knew him, think of the good times you spent with him and what a good person he was.

 As for Brian, I’m sorry we didn’t get to say goodbye to each other the right way. But rest well my friend.