When the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on Fri. Oct. 8th in Ottawa, the Sabres will begin their 40th season in the NHL! The Buffalo Sabres were one of two expansion teams allowed to join the League in 1970. The Vancouver Canucks were the other team. A contest was held to name Buffalo’s new team. Sabres management chose the winning name from 1,047 entries.
The NHL draft was held on June 11, 1970. The Sabres’ first coach, George “Punch” Imlach, had a lucky spin of the wheel to give the Sabres the number one overall draft pick. Top Junior Gilbert Perreault was chosen. Perreault went on to become part of the “French Connection” line with Rene Robert and Richard Martin. The trio dominated the ice from 1972-1979.
The Sabres played their first NHL game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on October 10, 1970. They won 2-1 with Perreault scoring one of the winning goals, his first in the NHL.
The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium was the Sabres’ first home from the 1970/71-1995-96 season. For the last game, Sabres greats skated in a post game tribute to the Aud. Sabres captain Pat LaFontaine with the “Sabre Dance” playing in the background made the final goal. The team moved to the new Marine Midland Arena the following season. It’s now called the HSBC Arena.
Buffalo was a hockey town long before the Sabres’ debut. In 1928, the Buffalo Bisons played their first season in the Canadian Professional League (later the International Hockey League). Games were played in the Peace Bridge arena in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. By 1936 due to a loss of an arena (it collapsed following a major snow storm), poor economic circumstances and low attendance, the Bisons were forced to withdraw from the International League. It would be four more years before Buffalo saw professional hockey. The Buffalo Bisons played from 1940-1969 in the Aud. They won the Calder Cup in 1969.
The Sabres have made it to the Stanley Cup play off finals twice and have won numerous awards as a team and individually. Maybe the 40th anniversary is the trick…Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!