In celebration of the Buffalo Sabres’ 40th season in the National Hockey League, the Queen City’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery is hosting “Forty: The Sabres in the NHL,” a multimedia exhibit highlighting the franchise’s rich (if not always winning) history. If you can’t make it up there, here are 10 need-to-know nuggets of Sabres hockey:
1) The name “Sabres” was chosen by founding co-owner Seymour Knox from a fan contest.
2) The Sabres are one of 13 NHL franchises yet to win a championship. Buffalo is tied with Vancouver for the fourth-longest title drought in the NHL, behind Toronto, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
3) The city of Buffalo hasn’t celebrated a championship since the Bills won the 1965 AFL Championship. Among cities with multiple sports franchises, only San Diego and (of course) Cleveland have endured longer title droughts. (Ironically, the Chargers, Browns and Bills won AFL titles in 1963, 1964, and 1965.)
4) The Sabres won the first pick in the 1970 NHL Draft over their fellow expansion team, the Canucks, based on a spin of a roulette wheel. Vancouver was assigned wheel Nos. 1-6 and Buffalo got Nos. 7-12. The Canucks mistakenly thought they had won when the ball landed on 11, as it looked like Roman numeral II. With the pick, Buffalo selected future Hall of Fame center Gilbert Perreault, who fittingly wore No. 11.
5) One season later, Perreault teamed with Richard Martin and Rene Robert to form “The French Connection,” one of the top-scoring lines in the league for much of the 1970s.
6) Perreault is one of seven former Sabres in the NHL Hall of Fame. He’s joined by Tim Horton, Dale Hawerchuk, Clark Gillies, Grant Fuhr, Pat LaFontaine and Dick Duff.
7) Perreault is the Sabres’ leader in most offensive categories, but current Thrashers’ head coach Craig Ramsay is Buffalo’s all-time leader in plus/minus, at plus-328.
8) Legendary coach Scotty Bowman led the Sabres for parts of seven seasons, but he never got them to the Stanley Cup Finals. Bowman, who won a total of nine Cups with the Canadiens, Penguins and Red Wings, was 210-134-60 as head coach in Buffalo.
9) In 1997, Dominik Hasek became the second goaltender (and first in 35 years) to win both the Hart and Vezina trophies in the same season. He repeated the achievement the following season, and he remains the only goalie to win back-to-back Hart Trophies. (A pair of Canadiens, Jacques Plante and Jose Theodore, are the only other netminders to win the Hart and Vezina in the same season.)
10) The Sabres won perhaps the most unusual game in Stanley Cup Finals history in 1975. In Game 3 of their series with the Flyers, Rene Robert’s overtime goal lifted Buffalo to a 5-4 win -- its first ever in the Finals. But the game is remembered more for its, shall we say, atmosphere. Early in the contest, a bat that was flying low over the ice at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (better known as “The Aud”) was killed by the Sabres’ Jim Lorentz.
We believe this was the only time an animal has been killed on the ice during an NHL game. (We’re assuming all the octopi in Detroit were dead when they entered the arena.) As if to lend that moment more significance, The Aud was enveloped in heavy fog later in the game, making it difficult for fans, coaches and even the players to see the puck. Some believe Lorentz cursed the Sabres when he killed the bat. Philadelphia won the series in six.