The City of Buffalo owned Memorial Auditorium and ran the day-to-day operation of the venue in a way that doesn’t happen with Erie County and First Niagara Center. This included apparently, changing the oil on the Zamboni.
Buffalo News archives
So, as Sabres fever in Buffalo was hitting a high point in February of 1975 — as the Sabres where destined for the Stanley Cup Finals that year — Jim Lombardo took the Zamboni in for “routine maintenance.”
Buffalo News archives
Whatever exactly that meant, it involved driving the Zamboni from Memorial Auditorium up Main Street to a city garage for repairs. The maximum speed for this vehicle — which is cruising the 600 block of Main in these photos — was 8 mph.
Likely the heads of a few lunch patrons at the Swiss Chalet’s original location (across Main from Shea’s) were turned, as The Aud’s ice resurfacer incongruously schlepped its way past the window.
The repairs must have worked. The ice was so great at The Aud the following night that the Sabres and Flyers combined for 12 goals in a 6-6 tie.
With the world’s finest 18-year-old hockey players descending on Buffalo last month for the NHL Entry Draft at First Niagara Center, hockey fans here remain excited about the potential of the players drafted by the Sabres.
Buffalo News archives
If the Sabres top picks of 2016 turn into the level of players drafted by the Sabres in 1972, fans will be plenty happy. The August, 1972 photo shows defensemen Larry Carriere and Jim Schoenfeld—the Sabres top two draft picks—in Buffalo to sign their contracts.
Schony was a 200-pound lefty who played junior hockey for the Niagara Falls Flyers with 20 goals and 29 assists. He was the fifth pick overall in the 1972 draft.
Larry Carriere was the 25th overall pick, and started the season with Buffalo’s AHL farm club, the Cincinnati Swords. His NHL break came when fellow defensemen Schoenfeld and Mike Robitaille went down with injuries and he was called up to the big club.
He was with the Sabres through the 1975 Stanley Cup season, but Carriere was traded to the Atlanta Flames. He returned to the Sabres for seven games in 1978, but after a two-game stint with the Leafs in 1980, his playing days were over.
Carriere returned to the Sabres again, this time in the front office. He started as a scout, and worked his way up to Assistant General Manager under Darcy Regier. Though he still lives in Buffalo, he holds that same Assistant GM title in Montreal with the Canadiens.
Rob Ray’s story in Buffalo began with scoring his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot, after being called up from the Amerks in 1989. As a hockey player, man and volunteer in the community, tavern owner, and broadcaster — Rob Ray has been a Buffalo favorite for parts of four decades now.
Rob Ray, 1991. (Buffalo News archives)
With knowing what he has meant to the Sabres and the community over the last 27 years, it’s difficult to remember the young player headed into his second full season with the Sabres — which he was when News Photographer Ron Moscati took these photos of Ray working out at Sabreland, the Sabres’ old practice facility in Wheatfield.
Rick Dudley is one of the Sabres’ all-time tough guys. He was the Sabres’ head coach when these photos were taken. “I think he’s the hardest guy in the NHL to play against,” Dudley told News reporter Milt Northrup about the then-23-year-old winger. “Robbie’s whole function is to be a pain in the butt and he does it very well.”
The previous season, Ray shattered the Sabres’ previous all-time penalty minute tally. He also led the NHL with 348 penalty minutes — 59 two-minute minors, 26 five-minute majors, eight 10-minute misconducts and two game misconducts.
“You can hit a guy hard. Sometimes when the ref’s not looking you give him a jab,” Ray told Northrup describing his game in 1991. “You’re saying something to him, you’re doing something dirty to him that you’re not going to get caught, and this guys’s ticked off because the ref’s not calling it or he’s mad at you because he knows what you’re like and it eventually works on him. You’ve just got to hope when he takes a shot, the ref’s looking.”
Both Dudley and Ray talked about work ethic. It came naturally for Ray, who watched his dad run his own farm machinery dealership in Stirling, Ontario. “He’s there every day and he’s working on the machines, he’s fixing tractors. He’s not a guy that stands around and tells everybody what to do,” said the younger Ray.
He was already a fan favorite after only 92 games, possibly, wrote Northrup, the most popular player on the team. Perhaps it was because he knew his role that year and for the next decade.
“I don’t think there’s as much pressure on me doing what I have to do as there is on a guy like Pierre (Turgeon) going out there and having to score goals every night. If he doesn’t score a goal, he’s not doing his job.
“I might not get a goal or a point but if I make a big hit, I’ve done my job.”
Long before the Buffalo Sabres were known for not making the playoffs, the club was known for first round exits. During the 1991-92 season, Head Coach Rick Dudley was fired and John Muckler was brought in. Despite a losing record, he led the Sabres to a first round playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
After his team lost Game 7 of the opening round of the Adams Division playoffs, Sabres Head Coach John Muckler leaves the United Terminal of the Buffalo International Airport. (Buffalo News archives)
The team showed grit in making the playoffs, and again in that series with the Bruins. Down 3-1, the Sabres fought back to even the series at three before losing Game 7 at Boston Garden.
Christian Ruuttu breezes past the microphones of Chuck Howard, Wes Goforth, Bob Dingwall, and Rick Maloney. (Buffalo News archives)
When the team returned home the next day, players and coaches were met by the media right inside the terminal of the old Buffalo Airport, before the days of heightened airport security and the wide open spaces that make up the current terminal, opened in 1997.
Alexander Mogilny had no goals in two games against the Bruins. He flew home with the team despite his long publicized fear of flying. The following season, Mogilny scored 76 goals, tying Teemu Selanne for the league lead.
His colorful way and hockey know-how helped solidify the young Buffalo Sabres as an institution in Western New York. But even among non-hockey fans, Punch Imlach’s legacy has crept into the morning routines of tens of thousands of Buffalonians.
When Stafford Smythe fired George “Punch” Imlach as the head coach and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1969, Imlach said that someday he’d “shove those words down (Smythe’s) throat.”
It came to pass when Imlach was hired to manage and coach the Sabres two years later, he took out full page ads in the Toronto Telegram with the words, “Remember Me? I am in Buffalo now. Come over and see me!” next to a photo of the unmistakable hockey legend with his trademark white Canadian beaver hat.
Buffalo News archives
Imlach was the first coach of the Sabres, pictured here behind the bench with a young Richard Martin looking on. Punch was also the Sabres’ first general manager, and when health concerns forced him to give up coaching, he and his hat moved up to the Aud’s prime seats in the golds next to his wife Dodo.
Buffalo News archives
It was Imlach’s tenacity and temerity that brought Gilbert Perreault to the Sabres. After it was announced that Vancouver had won the first pick of the 1970 NHL Draft, Punch stopped NHL Commissioner Clarence Campbell dead in his tracks as asked him to check the giant roulette wheel again — the Sabres had actually won.
He was a tough, old-school coach, which many of his tough, old-school players loved. When the Leafs fired Imlach, one of his star players — a 20-year veteran defenseman — vowed he’d follow Punch.
It took a few years, but Tim Horton — who was still known for his solid play on the blue line more than his solid cup of coffee — came to play for his beloved Imlach in Buffalo in 1972. Horton died in a one-car crash, speeding back to Buffalo after playing in Toronto in 1974. Horton’s time playing in Buffalo was brief — but likely wouldn’t have happened at all without Imlach.
At the time of his death, Horton co-owned 40 doughnut shops across Canada. There’s little doubt that Horton’s popularity as a player here led to the first U.S. Tim Horton’s store to be built at the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Ridge Lea Road just south of I-290, a decade after his death in 1984.
It was Punch who brought Horton, and Buffalo’s love of the defenseman — which was the kindling in the raging inferno of love Buffalo has for double-doubles, ice caps and crullers.
Spine-tingling. Quirky. Explosive. Imaginative. These are all words that have been printed in The News over the last 45 years to describe Rick Jeanneret’s colorful Buffalo Sabres play-by-play style. Rick, in comparing himself to another wild and exciting play-by-play man said, “I don’t think he’s quite as nuts as I am.”
Buffalo News archives, 1989
Like most of us who have grown up with Jeanneret as an inseparable part of what the Sabres are to us, it was easy to take his style and personality for granted. “This is how hockey—how Sabres hockey—sounds, right?”
The new announcers who have taken some of the load off Rick’s schedule over the last few years do the job well. They describe the play in a knowledgeable, exciting, fun, and professional manner. But Rick is, well, in his word, “nuts.” There’s nothing forced about him talking about how tough a “lady is for taking a puck off the coconut” and “not even spilling her beer.”
Rick Jeanneret and the late Voice of the Bills Van Miller are different in almost every conceivable way, but the one way they were exactly the same is the same way they honest-to-goodness lose their minds when their team—our team—does the extraordinary. There’s nothing fake in the shouting. Rick’s goal calls mix perfectly with the explosion of screaming at taverns and gin mills and in living rooms and in cars all over the place—because it’s the same excitement.
We all remember “May Day” and “LalalalalalaFontaine” and “Hasek robbed him blind!,” but there was also, “whooooa, he really PUNCHED him,” and “HERE COMES SHIELDS,” as goalie Steve Shields skated the length of the ice to make sure his teammates weren’t outnumbered in a fight. There was also the infamous question for a Quebec Nordiques goalie shouted in the course of impassioned play-by-play, “Richard Sevingy– Where’s your jockstrap!?!?”
Our guy RJ, inseparable from our love for Sabres hockey, watches the game and says the things we wish we were smart and cool enough to say. If he were only one of us, he’d be the funniest, most excitable, best-informed guy watching the game with us at the tavern. Instead, for 45 years, he’s been the funniest, most excitable, best-informed guy in every tavern in Western New York.
When News reporter Lee Coppola visited Jeanneret in the Memorial Auditorium press box in 1979, he wrote that when watching Rick work behind the mic high above the Aud ice, “it’s his feet that catch the eye … a cup of beer to his right and a filter cigarette in the ashtray to his left.”
Buffalo News archives, 1979
His feet never stopped tapping while he was telling us what he saw on the ice, but he says he limited himself to one beer per period to “help loosen his tonsils” while calling the game the way he’d want to hear it. By 1989, the beer drinking during the games had dried up—mostly because, Jeanneret told The News in 1992, new arenas were being built without thinking of a play-by-play man’s washroom needs.
It all started one day in 1963, when Jeanneret was a disc jockey at CJRN Radio in Niagara Falls. He went to a junior game as a fan. Despite the fact that he’d never done hockey play-by-play before, folks from the station came to find him when the guy who was supposed to announce the game on the radio called in sick. He’s been a hockey announcer ever since, including for some time with the American Hockey League Buffalo Bisons, and living inside our radios and TVs as one of the voices of Sabres hockey since 1971.
“I’ve got a better job than Wayne Gretzky,” RJ told The News in 1992. “I just don’t make as much money.”
The Buffalo Sabres were a new franchise in 1970. When training camp opened in September 1970, fans were getting the first good “action shots” of their team in the uniforms Sabres players would wear, mostly unchanged, until 1997.
Buffalo News archive
Can you name these Sabres?
On the left, No. 7 is Cliff Schmautz. He played 26 games with the Sabres in 1970-71 before being traded to the Flyers. He also played for the AHL Buffalo Bisons from 1961 to 1964, where he scored 41 goals over parts of three seasons.
Phil Goyette, No. 10, was a member of four straight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup-winning teams in the ’50s and ’60s. When the New York Rangers left the past Lady Byng Award winner exposed in the expansion draft, he became an original Sabre. He played most of the Sabres’ first two seasons here before being traded back to the Rangers.
The third guy, No. 18, is a bit more of a mystery.
It’s not Kevin O’Shea, who wore that number for the Sabres during the regular season in 1970-71. Nor is it Brian Perry, another member of the 1970-71 Sabres, whose name is stamped on the stick.
As hockey season gets underway in Buffalo, inevitably someone will wax poetic about the great old days of watching the Sabres at Memorial Auditorium.
While the memories might be sweet, the modern hockey fan might not last even one period without complaint.
This 1973 photo shows the extreme pitch of seats in the Orange section of the Aud as compared to the grade in the Upper Blue section just below. Even the most thrilling fights on the ice were often outmatched by the hundreds of people fighting vertigo after standing up too quickly from their perch in the Orange section after a beer or three.
The photo also shows one of The Aud’s features which even the most nostalgic fan has a hard time recalling with warmth. Look at the legs underneath the lighted sign, and remember the obstructed Upper Blue seats, from which fans watched a good portion of the hockey action on ancient television sets dangling from the underside of the Oranges.
The plastic-backed orange seats date to the 1971 expansion of The Aud, when the roof was raised to make room for the upper level.
The wooden blue seats—which before the expansion were gray—dated back to the original construction of Memorial Auditorium in 1940.
The Aud closed in 1996 as the Sabres (as well as the Bandits and Blizzard) moved into Marine Midland Arena (now First Niagara Center.)
Memorial Auditorium was slowly dismantled in 2009, and the site is now covered with canals replicating the original Erie Canal. The canals are open for paddle boats in warmer weather, and ice skating when frozen. A marker in the canal points to where The Aud’s center ice faceoff dot once was.
In the dark back room at a Radio Station in Buffalo, New York, Steve Cichon, the producer of the Mike Schopp Show, found a dusty box of tapes labeled “Dom–Karaoke.” After viewing a few tapes, it was obvious that these tapes were, indeed, of Dom doing karaoke. As the “curator” of the Haseoke Archive, Steve chose a tape to play each day on Mike’s show.
Buffalo, NY – Today is a day about legacy.
Dominik Hasek, arguably (should read CLEARLY) the most talented man ever to don a Sabres sweater, will see his number -39- hoisted into the rafters of the First Niagara Center this evening. (Most Talented Sabre and Greatest Sabre are two different ideas, but I’ll save that for another day.)
Hasek’s career in Buffalo and my career in radio started at about the same time. As a teenaged radio producer, I was at Sabres morning skates when John Muckler was being asked about Grant Fuhr or Hasek starting.
By the end of the ’90s, when the Sabres were making deep playoff runs, I was a semi-regular at game day skates and in the post-game dressing room first for WBEN, then for Channel 4.
It could get pretty emotional after a big game. When the Sabres lost the 1998 Eastern conference Finals in Game 6 to the Washington Capitals, I walked into the room just as Rob Ray punched out the glass door of a convenience-store-style drink cooler/fridge. Donald Audette sat in his locker stall, jersey off, pads on, sobbing uncontrollably.
One of the great things about that team was their emotional investment. It takes magic to win in sports, and that Sabres team had it. They had that intangible something– everyone feeding off of one another, all on the same page with the same goals.
Creating and fostering that magic is the fleeting task that every coach and front office tries to accomplish in athletics. It’s that rare and impossible-to-predict atmosphere that is the most difficult part in creating a successful team. Finding talented players is the relatively easy part.
That Sabres group was made up of a lot of guys touched with that rare magic but most had little talent. Domink Hasek, of course, was the talent, and it was from him that the magic flowed. But just as he was a like a brick wall in the net, he was like a brick wall in the feng shui of the spirit of that team.
Watching it up close, there were little signs. Literally. Like the one in Hasek’s dressing room stall which read like something a third grader would post on his bedroom door. “DO NOT TOUCH EVER” said the sticker above a pair of nail clippers hanging on the wall near Dom’s pads. It’s unclear whether actual tomfoolery or just the active prevention of tomfoolery precipitated the sign, but it wasn’t really in line with the aura of boyish fun surrounding that team.
By 1999, I was a TV sports producer on the Stanley Cup beat. My job was to watch morning practice, and get in the lockerroom and ask the questions that sports reporters ask. Hasek was one of the “must talk to” players. His “treatments” right after practice usually meant he wouldn’t speak in a press conference, which meant 20-30 reporters, producers, and cameramen surrounding Hasek’s stall waiting for him to come out. His “20 minute treatments” would sometimes take more than an hour, but the whole gaggle had to be ready. Dom wouldn’t wait for people to get into position. Sometimes, he wouldn’t speak for more that a minute or two. If you weren’t ready, you missed it.
I have always done impressions. By this point, you could have heard me on the radio doing “Johnnie the old tyme hockey guy” (who suspiciously sounded like John Muckler), Gary Bettman, and John Butler.
Sometimes spending a half hour on one knee waiting for Hasek to come out, I can clearly remember doing quiet Hasek impressions– lips pressed close to the microphone I was holding ready for Hasek. I was just loud enough so that the videographers I was working with, usually Jeff Helmick or Scott Swenson, could hear it in their earpieces but no one else could.
Those impressions continued in the car and back at the station, and often involved a liberal sprinkling of classic Hasek terms like “groin”, “butterfly” (the sprawling move which he had a hard time doing because of his groin injury), and “I nono”, which is how it sounded when he started most sentences with a negative headshake and the words “I don’t know.”
A few years later, impression refined, I was working at WNSA Radio and The Empire Sports Network producing the Mike Schopp Show. Our stations were owned by Rigas Family, who also owned the Sabres. Once, we were supposed to have a St. Louis Cardinals beat writer on, and he stiffed. On the air, Mike asked if Dom could come on and talk about the Cardinals, so only identified as “Dom,” I did the interview with Mike. I knew very little about the Cardinals, which made it even better.
Hasek was still a Sabre at this point, and Mike and I were told to never have “Dom” on the show again. But as luck would have it, he was soon traded, and the ban was lifted. Mike had the lyrics of “Lady Marmalade,” the LaBelle classic which was enjoying a resurgence with a Christina Aguilera cover on the charts.
“What would it sound like if ‘Dom’ was doing karaoke and sang ‘Lady Marmalade,'” asked Schopp. “That would be like ‘Haseoke,'” said program drector and sports update guy Chris Atkins. Haseoke was born.
I’d produce a “Haseoke” clip for Sabres game days, first with Schopp, then Howard Simon. As “the curator of the Haseoke archive,” I would help introduce whichever clip I had “found” that day. When I left WNSA and moved over to Entercom, Haseoke appeared again regularly with Schopp and The Bulldog on WGR. In the beginning, they were mostly just “Dom” trying to sing and doing a poor job of it. As it evolved, “Dom” started to fill his songs with hate for the Sabres, and would often sing a song where the lyrics could be bent into cheering for whoever the Sabres were playing against.
Once Hasek retired, new Haseoke songs would only pop up when Hasek was in the news for something.
In truth, Haseoke was born of my frustration and dislike for Hasek as a guy. He might have played up an injury because he hated the coach. He roughed up my good pal, the late hockey writing legend Jim Kelley. He was arrogant. He made me wait on one arthritic knee just because he could and he wanted to eff with reporters.
I know I wasn’t alone in my feelings. I once had a brief, smiling conversation with Darcy Regier about Haseoke. He started it, and he )was smiling. While Marty Biron was the Sabres starting goalie, I talked as Dom with Biron– LIVE on the air– and told him how terrible he was and the Sabres were. Marty loved it.
That was then. I’m far more removed now, but I’m glad to see that Hasek appears to be a bit more level-headed and even likable these days. Even if they were both faking it, was nice to see Hasek and Ted Nolan enjoying a conversation together earlier this hockey season. Hasek of 15 years ago couldn’t have been bothered to fake such a thing.
The fact he seems a bit more humble and likeable has let the steam out of my desire to “curate” any new Haseoke tapes. But as I wrote to open this piece, today is about legacy.
As Hasek is justly being remembered as worthy of having his number retired, I might be remembered for this. I know for many Buffalo sports talk show fans, I’ll forever be linked with Dom. In fact, over a 20 year broadcasting career, despite covering Hurricane Katrina and plane crashes and big trials and big snow & ice storms and winning awards for reporting and journalism, Haseoke might be the only thing I’m remembered for, if anything at all.
If my legacy is making people smile…. I no-no… I’m happy for it.
BUFFALO, NY- As the Buffalo Sabres celebrate the team’s 40th Anniversary season, staffannouncer.com celebrates the voices that have brought us Sabres hockey for those four decades, over televisions connected to an antenna, TVs connected to a satellite dish, or from a transistor radio under the pillow for a late night West Coast swing in Winnipeg or with the Golden Seals.
On this page, we bring you the Voice of the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Darling, as he narrates the story of the 1975 Sabres Stanley Cup Season, featuring his own play-by-play calls and those of his broadcast partner Rick Jeanneret.
Ted Darling’s smooth voice and exciting yet still authoritative call of Sabres Hockey was heard on radio and TV from the team’s inception in 1970, through 1991, when illness forced him from the booth. Rick Jeanneret, who for generations of Sabres fans is the voice most associated with the excitement of Sabres Hockey, will to this day demur when called the ‘Voice of the Sabres,’ explaining that title belongs only to Ted Darling.
Prior to becoming the Sabres first play-by-play man in 1970, Darling was the studio host for the English-language Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts of the Montreal Canadiens games. His genuine excitement for what he was seeing on the ice, and the stunning pace with which he delivered the play-by-play certainly added to the buzz and excitement of NHL hockey as it was played in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. This was true especially in an era when a play-by-play man’s description was vital: only a handful of games were televised, and the opening day capacity of the Aud before for the oranges were added was in the 10,000 range.
Like only few other voices, Darling’s is one that uniquely brings Buffalonians back to a different time. Just like hearing Irv, Rick or Tom… Or Van Miller… Or Danny Neaverth… there’s that feeling like home when you hear Ted Darling. His voice is like the gentle whirr of the AM&A’s escalator, or the taste of a Crystal Beach loganberry. If you close your eyes, it’s one of those things that can actually take you back through time for a few moments…
Ted was an original. Ted was a good man and a good friend. Though some in the press reprehensibly said that he was forced from the broadcast booth by alcoholism, it was actually Pick’s Disease, a rare form of dementia which manifests itself similarly to Alzheimer’s Disease, which lead Ted to leave broadcasting. He died from the disease in 1996. Those who knew him, love him. Those who listened to him, loved him. Buffalo loves him still.
Close your eyes now, for a moment, and remember Sabres hockey the way it was…..
Listen to Ted Darling!
Narrated by Ted Darling, these two tracks are Side One and Side Two of an album put out by the Sabres and WGR Radio celebrating the Sabres 1975 season.
Side One is a recap of the regular season. Side Two is a recap of the 1975 playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Finals vs The Flyers.