Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Buffalo Sabres from A to Z

Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Buffalo Sabres from A to Z

(Ed. Note: August is known to be a very quiet month in the hockey world. As we wait for September to arrive and training camps to begin, let’s learn a little history about all 30 teams. Behold, our summer A-Z series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to drop some knowledge on us! Add your own choices in the comments!)

By: Stephanie Delio, contributor for Die By The Blade

A. [The] “Aud”

The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium opened in 1940 and would become home to the expansion Buffalo Sabres on October 15, 1970.

Home to many firsts and lasts, the Aud would see the most infamous “only” in NHL history when Jim Lorentz became the only NHL player to kill a live animal (a bat) during a faceoff in the 1975 Stanley Cup Final, vs. Philadelphia. The Aud was well-known for its fog during warm-weather games, which likely made some quite painful games more tolerable and would’ve been a welcome addition to the 2014-15 season.

The Sabres left the Aud and the fog behind when they moved to what is now the First Niagara Center in 1996.

B. Butt-goal

Need I say more, really?

Over the last two seasons, the Sabres haven’t been good. But watching Arizona Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith score the craziest own-goal possibly in the history of the game helped to smooth the ride. I mean, watching the puck fall into the shorts of the goaltender, who then backs over the goal line is pretty phenomenal.

Unless you hate fun.

C. Carotid Artery

Of all the infamous information that you can gather on the internet, it’s safe to say that Clint Malarchuk and Richard Zednik would gladly not ever have anything in common aside from being hockey players.

On Buffalo ice, nearly 20 years apart, each suffered a skate to the carotid artery (on the neck). Thanks to quick-acting trainers and medical staff, both thankfully survived an incident that they, undoubtedly, would gladly erase from their histories. Although the incident left its mark, both physically and mentally, both players were able to return to their hockey playing ways. 

D. [The] Dominator

It’s hard to determine if Dominik Hasek was more well-known for his unique goaltending style, his well-documented disagreements with coaching staff, or his ego.

Any way you put it, however, there is no doubt that Hasek is one of the best goaltenders to grace Buffalo’s dressing room. Hasek led to Czech National team to Olympic gold in 1998 and the Sabres to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1999. Despite nagging, and sometimes questionable, injuries, Hasek would lead an illustrious career on ice, including two Stanley Cups with Detroit.

Hasek would return to Buffalo to see his jersey number retired, and take the greatest photo ever with Cody Hodgson, during the 2014-15 season.

E. Eichel, Jack

If Jack Eichel doesn’t win Buffalo a Stanley Cup in the 2015-16 season, I will be genuinely concerned for his safety. We have been promised a savior, so he best get to saving. Or scoring, as the case may be.

F. French Connection

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Getty Images

 Arguably the three most well-known players in Sabres history, Gilbert Perrault, Rick Martin, and Rene Robert were a force to be reckoned with for seven seasons in Buffalo. Amassing well over 1000 total points, the three are forever enshrined both in the rafters of the FNC and in a (semi creepy, because that’s the only way bronze ever looks) bronze statue outside of the arena.

The trio last appeared together in February 2011, to welcome owner Terry Pegula, prior to Martin’s untimely death in March.

G. Goaltenders

Sabres fans live and die by their goaltenders, make heroes of and vilify them.

Buffalo has been home to a list of personalities between the pipes, including the aforementioned Dominik Hasek and Clint Malarchuk. Ryan Miller, loved by fans and famous for his “Ryan Miller Shutout” (consider yourself warned, Vancouver – he likes to let that one goal, late in the game, just slip in), was dealt to St Louis with another fan-favorite, Steve Ott, and would eventually sign with the Canucks.

The chatterbox Martin Biron, for whom the “Martin Biron” rule was created and was the last NHL player to wear 00 on his sweater. Tom Barrasso was drafted by the Sabres in 1983, and is the youngest goaltender to ever play and win a game in the NHL. Darcy Wakaluk played a handful of games with the Sabres before becoming the first AHL goaltender to score a goal. 

H. Horton, Tim

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Getty Images

Not just a name connected to crummy coffee (back off, northern US and Canada), Horton came to Buffalo in 1972 and helped the Sabres reach the playoffs that year. Horton was killed in an alcohol-related car accident on February 21, 1974, while driving from Toronto to Buffalo while intoxicated.

Additionally, newly-signed Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly was recently charged with driving his vehicle into a Tim Horton's while intoxicated. Because if you’re going to have a connection somewhere, it may as well be legally and with alcohol involved, I guess.

I. Intense Rivalries

Buffalo Sabres fans are passionate, there is no doubt about that. From their response to the routine invasion of Toronto Maple Leafs fans to their thoughts on the Boston Bruins, you’ll never be left guessing where fans stand on these two rivalries.

It’s a safe bet that, following his run on goalie Ryan Miller, professional dirtbag Milan Lucic solidified the hatred between Buffalo and Boston. This has only been intensified by Boston being a great team that cannot seem to win against the “lowly” Sabres the last several seasons.

J. Jeanneret, Rick

Our beloved RJ! One of the most recognized voices in the game, Rick Jeanneret is the longest tenured play by play man in the NHL. Giving fans “one more season” for several seasons now, RJ announced in 2014 that he would miss part of the 2014-15 season due to a diagnosis of throat cancer.

While there is no doubt that his signature call is that of “Top shelf, where Momma hides the cookies!,” his most famous call might be the one mentioned later in this list.

K. Knox III, Seymour H. & Knox, Northrup

The Knox brothers, along with Robert Swados and George Strawbridge, JR, brought the expansion Buffalo Sabres to Western NY in the 1970 expansion, which also introduced the Vancouver Canucks into the league. 

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Getty Images

Seymour (above) would be named Hockey Executive of the Year in 1975, when the team would face the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final. Seymour was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993 and was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1997, following his death in May 1996.

L. Lindy Ruff

The current Dallas Stars coach has a storied history with the Sabres, as both a player and a coach.

As a player, he collected 300 (105+195) points over his career 691 NHL games. Ruff is the NHL leader for most wins as a coach with a single club (571) and he is one of only four coaches in NHL history to coach at least 1000 games with a single club. Despite several successful seasons with the Buffalo team, Ruff was relieved of his coaching duties after starting the 2013-14 season with a 6-10-0-1 record.

M. “May Day! May Day! May Day!”

One of the most iconic calls in Buffalo Sabres history, Rick Jeanneret left his indelible mark on Brad May’s overtime upset of the Boston Bruins during the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is also, arguably, one of the best things Brad May ever did in his hockey career.

N. Nineteen Ninety-Nine (AKA “No Goal”)

It’s not every day that the NHL changes the rules to award the Dallas Stars a Stanley Cup in triple overtime of Game 6. But when it does happen, it happens to the Buffalo Sabres.

O. Obsessive Fans 

Whether rooting for them to win or lose (which was actually a thing in the 2014-15 season for some fans), Buffalo is home to some of the most passionate fans in all of sports. Whether hanging signs counting the population of Pominville or going insane during a 4-3 OT loss to the Coyotes that contributed to the tank, there is little doubt that Buffalo fans love their team and want the best to happen for them.

P. Pegula Era

Terry Pegula took ownership of the Sabres in February 2011, promising long-jaded fans that the Sabres sole reason for existing would be to win a Stanley Cup. (I hope that no one is still holding their breath on that.)

Buffalo Sabres' owner Terry Pegula, gestures toward the First Niagara Center and explains development plans during groundbreaking ceremonies before an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, April 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
Buffalo Sabres' owner Terry Pegula, gestures toward the First Niagara Center and explains development plans during groundbreaking ceremonies before an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, April 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

Pegula’s time in Buffalo so far has been mixed. He provided the team with seemingly endless amounts of money, for staffing, players, and arena improvements, but he seems to run the team with a fan’s mentality – a dangerous combination. After two disastrous seasons that culminated in a Jack Eichel draft pick, it certainly can’t get any worse. Then again, this IS Buffalo …

Q. Quinn, Larry

Quinn joined the Sabres in the 1996 and was responsible for the hiring of both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff. He also helped the Knox brothers with securing the land and financing for the current home of the Sabres, First Niagara Center. When John Rigas took over the team in 1998, Quinn was let go.

However, as Rigas became embroiled with the Adelphia Communications scandal, and the team was taken over by the league, Quinn once again became a leader. He served as a consultant to eventual owner Tom Golisano, and returned as CEO and managing partner in 2004. Quinn resigned in February 2011, when Terry Pegula was announced as the new owner of the Sabres.

R. Rochester Americans

Known locally as the Amerks, Rochester’s AHL club is the second-oldest AHL team in the league. Ownership of the Amerks was assumed by the Knox brothers in 1979 until their deaths. The Buffalo-Rochester partnership would become the longest NHL-AHL affiliation, prior to a “break” from 2007 to 2011, when Terry Pegula purchased the team and renewed the affiliation.

The Amerks have won the AHL’s highest trophy, the Calder Cup, six times, most recently in 1996. The Amerks have been home base to several notable NHL players and coaches, including: Don Cherry, Martin Biron, Thomas Vanek, John Tortorella, Jason Pominville, Scott Nichol, Paul Gaustad, Olaf Kolzig, Ted Nolan, Lindy Ruff, and current Sabres, coach Dan Bylsma.   

S. Sweaters

The “Angry Goat.”

The “Buffaslug.”

Buffalo has done some very foul things with their jerseys, but they’ve done some stuff right, too. Their retired thirds, introduced in the 2010 season, were some of the best looking sweaters they’ve ever worn, in this writer’s opinion. Those horrific yellow thirds they had, though. Woof (more on that later).

T. Tim Murray

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Getty Images

If I only had his perma-scowl to judge by, I would presume that TMGM is not someone that I would want to meet in a dark alley.

I’ve heard that he smiles. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it.

What I do know is that he wasted no time in attempting to clean up the mess that Darcy Regier left behind when he was let go from Buffalo. I also know that TMGM didn’t screw around with this year’s #2 overall draft pick – there was no pomp and circumstance, he just got down to business. I can appreciate that.

U. Uwe Krupp

Famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) for scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, Krupp was drafted in 1983 by the Sabres. He would go on to win a Calder Cup with the AHL Rochester Americans in 1986. Krupp played a total of 729 NHL games between Buffalo, Colorado, NY Islanders, Quebec, Detroit, and Atlanta before retiring due to injuries.

V. Vanek, Thomas

It usually takes a lot to fall out of the good graces of Sabres fans. Sometimes, all it takes is the sniff of controversy.

Thomas Vanek was always a fan-favorite, and it was a sad day in Buffalo when he was traded to the NY Islanders for a package that included Matt Moulson and two draft picks. He quickly fell out of the “players that we miss” category in 2014, when it was revealed that Vanek was in the middle of an FBI investigation tied to a gambling ring in Rochester, NY. Although no claims were made that Vanek bet on or against hockey games, unanswered questions swirled around the player for his loyal fans.

What I prefer to remember Vanek for is having the number of a great many goaltenders around the league and a slapshot that might leave you pregnant. Oh, and this nasty deke on Tuukka Rask for a hat trick against the Bruins.

W. Winter Classic

In 2008, Ralph Wilson Stadium, home to the Buffalo Bills, hosted the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins in what would become an NHL winter tradition. The Penguins would win the game in a shootout, with captain Sidney Crosby credited with the winning goal. 

After the game, Gary Bettman spoke of how special he wanted the Winter Classic to be and, specifically, how too many outdoor games would spoil that. Clearly, he wasn’t counting the Winter Classics or Stadium Series games that would come in following years. I would imagine that it’s tough to outweigh “money maker” with “special,” though.

X. eXcited

I don’t know that any other fan base is more excited for the 2015-16 season to start than Sabres fans. (Well, maybe Edmonton, but they’ll Edmonton all over that and ruin it somehow.)

A new coaching staff, new players (who want to be here whaaaaat?!), a crazy-good prospect pool. The Sabres really have it all going into the new season. Now, let’s just hope that they don’t Buffalo all over that (it’s similar to Edmontoning, trust your girl) and mess it up somehow.

Y. Yellow

Yellow. Third. Jerseys.

If you’re like myself and you follow all of the NHL (and AHL) teams via social media, you start to pick up on what teams do “right” and what they just get really, really wrong. One of those wrongs was just about everything surrounding the Sabres and these hideous yellow third jerseys.

From the days-long “leak” of color swatches to the actual reveal, which involved Steve Ott standing in front of a snazzy brick wall, everything surrounding these sweaters was a gigantic fail. I think that the Sabres failed to realize that they are not a yellow team. They are a blue team, with gold accents. NOT a yellow team.

Luckily, these monstrosities will go the way of many failed jerseys before them. In March 2015, then-team president Ted Black announced that the team would not carry the “turd burger” jerseys into another season. Further, he suggested that they may wait until the team’s 50th anniversary season in 2020 to bring another third jersey into the mix.

Z. Zemgus Girgensons

Nicknamed the “Latvian Locomotive,” Gus was drafted 14th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2012 draft, making him the highest drafted Latvian player ever in the NHL. Although his career, much like the aforementioned locomotive, got off to a relatively slow star in the AHL, Girgensons transitioned nicely to an NHL player.

He was the run-away fan favorite in votes for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, with nearly 345,000 more votes than runner-up Patrick Kane. This was largely in part to a heavy Latvian campaign and an AMAZING Latvian rap, that I will leave you with.

Meet the author: Stephanie Delio is a contributor for Die By The Blade, where she focuses on the AHL and Buffalo Sabres prospects. A Sabres apologist raised in a minor league city by a die-hard Boston Bruins fan, she has a fondness for all things hockey (as well as sports, in general) and teams that make astonishingly poor life choices. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieZD.

Previous A to Z Guides: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston