Buffalo in the ’70s: Blame Punch Imlach for your coffee cravings

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.

 

b-kwik, Tim Hortons, & And With Your Spirit: My brain is a mess.

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Unlike many people, I don’t fear change. I thrive on it. It’s sad, of course, when something good changes, but you never know what good thing is going to come of it. Then you have two good things, the old one you remember, and the present one you can enjoy.

I don’t know what i would do if everything just always remained the same. And while I sometimes wonder why some people are just universally opposed to anything different; in many respects I get it.

Does our brain “harden” as we get older?  Am I ever going to be able to relearn things apparently more firmly implanted in my mind than I could have ever thought?

We all like to think we’re so smart, but I for one know I’m a mess. My mind is like the back room of some old office, with rusty file cabinets with papers hanging out and drawers that don’t close all the way.

It’s amazing to me how many things are hard-wired into who I am, and its only, apparently, conscious effort that allows me to do something different.

It’s never been more apparent to me than at mass. The new Catholic mass. Back in November, they changed the words around ever so slightly, to the prayers and responses I have been saying my entire life. Now I know all the new responses. I can say them to you right now. But if I don’t shut down all other programs in my brain, and am concentrating at any less than 90%, forget it. All the sudden, I’m the one guy dropping a “it is right and just to give him praise.”  (An old response that has been replaced with ‘It is right and just’ for you non-Catholics.)

I realize this is new, and it’s only been 4 months after 35 years the other way. But I can guarantee that should I still be counted among the living in 2030s, at least 5 times in that decade I will offer the wrong response at mass, and be angry with myself.

There’s a lot that is hardwired for me, and it frankly scares me. I drink a lot of coffee. Love Tim Hortons coffee, and I order lots of it. I’m fine to order my usual medium black coffee, and will get exactly what I want. The problem comes when I want something different, usually a size smaller.

Now about 15 years ago, US Tim Horton stores made the size shift that Canadian Tim Hortons stores made over the last few months. The smallest cup was discontinued, the medium became small, the large became medium and the extra large became large.

tim hortons sizes

When the picture of the cup that has been a small here for over 15 years pops in my head, I think of it as a medium. If there is time for me to have this rational discussion in my head, all is well. If I’m not paying attention, or am rushed, or change my mind quickly, I often get something different from what I ordered, and drop a “SONAVAB-” on myself.

Similarly at Mighty Taco, there was an order I used to make all the time, but can’t anymore. Every day, on my way home from work, I would stop at the Mighty Taco at Elmwood and Forest, (long gone!!) and order two super mightys, medium, no cheese. It cost $4.16. This was a ritual for maybe three years or so in the early 90s.

Fast forward to today, and I have been on a gluten free diet for 6 years, and eating a flour tortilla could potentially put me in the hospital. Still, if rushed or distracted, I will order two super mightys, medium no cheese, and  not even realize I’ve done wrong. My wife has stopped this from happening at least 4 or 5 times. I don’t think I’ve ever actually received that order, but i know I’d throw it out, disgusted with myself, and figure that at this point i just deserve to starve.

Is it really that hopeless to try to learn something new? I mean really learn it, make it the brain’s new default position? And is it a matter of a hardening brain, or it is that the brain is full and needs somehow to be defragged?

When I first learned how to read, I remember was reading everything and memorizing it. I knew the names of the side streets off McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo, because I’d read the signs and memorize them because I could. I can still go Como, Kenefick, Hubbell…. But I now have to think 3 or 4 seconds about the name of the street one block away from my house, which I have been able to see out my kitchen window for the last 12 years.

I have a hard time grocery shopping, because with maybe 70% of my attention, I’m looking for a box of something. After a minute or two, I’ll often realize that I’m looking right at it, and the box was changed in 1994.

With pretty good regularity, I go for the clutch when driving, even though I’ve had an automatic for 7 years.

bkwik logoWhile my specific examples might be unique, I know I’m not alone. I was in line at Dash’s not too long ago, when the woman blathering on her cell phone said, “I’ll call ya right back, I’m in line at b-Kwik.” After the woman left, I asked the young cashier  if she even remembered b-Kwik. “Yeah, from when I was in like second grade,” she said. Like a decade ago.

It’s also apparent in people’s voices. I spoke to Rick Azar at great length while researching my book on him, Tom Jolls, and Irv Weinstein. It was great to hear his voice get a taste of Spanish accent to it as he reminisced. 50 or 60 years of broadcasting with perfect diction can’t take away that beautiful espanol sound engrained in you as a kid.

I just marvel at the brain, and would love to know the mysteries of how and why it does what it does to each of us. I just wish it wouldn’t do whatever it is to me when I’m trying to order in the drive thru.

Ted Darling and The 1975 Sabres

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.

The 1980s Sabres Broadcast Team:Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling, Mike Robitaille, and Jim Lorentz. (Buffalo Stories archives)

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.

Tim Horton, perhaps now better known for coffee, was a veteran defenceman for the Buffalo Sabres when he died in February, 1974, after a traffic accident on the QEW driving back to Buffalo from Toronto, following a game with the Leafs. Horton was a mentor for many of the young defencemen on the Sabres, including Mike Robitaille and Jim Schoenfeld. The year after Horton’s death, the Sabres made the Stanley Cup Finals. (Buffalo Stories archives)

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.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com