Wrestling from Memorial Auditorium

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Starting in 1949, Friday night meant Ralph Hubbell, Chuck Healy, and TVs tuned to live wrestling from Memorial Auditorium—with the action and antics of folks like Gorgeous George, Ilio DiPaolo, Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, Coco Brazil, and the Gallagher Brothers and dozens of others.

During pre- and post-match interviews, the athletic Healy would often find himself somehow entangled with the wrestlers he was trying to interview— handling the headlocks from “bad guys” with the grace of a professional broadcaster.

There’s little question—especially in Buffalo, wrestling helped make TV and vice-versa in those early years.

In 1951, Ed Don George was promoting wresting in 30 cities, including Buffalo. “Let them try to besmirch the wrestling profession as much as they’d like,” said Ed Don, “But what other form of sporting entertainment gives as much to the fans as wrestling?”

He was proud of wrestling’s showmanship, which had blossomed since he had been the world’s heavyweight champ 20 years earlier. “Sure, there is showmanship in wrestling. We try to dress up our business just like the downtown merchant decorates his shop windows to attract customers.”

Wrestling with Ralph Hubbell & Chuck Healy

Wrestling, of course, goes way back in Buffalo. Crowds sold out Friday night matches through the 30s, 40s, and 50s; first at the old Broadway Auditorium (now “The Broadway Barns” and the home of Buffalo’s snowplows) and then Memorial Auditorium when it opened in 1940.

“This was a shirt and tie crowd,” said the late Buffalo News Sports Editor Larry Felser, who remembered when Wrestling at the Aud was one of the biggest events in Buffalo.

“Not that many people had TV sets back then,” remembered Felser in 2001. “People were crowding into Sears and appliance stores to try to see this thing on TV, because the place was sold out.”

And with all those big crowds, there was no wrestler who could draw them in like Gorgeous George.

Gorgeous George

“When Gorgeous George would wrestle, they’d pack the Auditorium for this guy,” said Felser.

“The Human Orchid,” as George was known, was the first modern wrestler, said retired Channel 7 sports director Rick Azar, saying he “changed the face of professional wrestling forever.”

As someone who called himself “Hollywood’s perfumed and marcelled wrestling orchid,” it’s clear that George knew how to make sure he set himself apart.

“He had an atomizer, and he’d walk around the ring with perfume, supposedly fumigating his opponent’s corners,” said Felser, who also remembered George’s flair for marketing outside the ring.

“His valet drove him around in an open convertible around Lafayette Square, and he’s got a wad of one-dollar bills, and he was throwing money to people. It was a show stopper. He landed on page one. TV was just in its infancy then, but they were all over it. It was like World War III. That’s how big a story it was.”

Gorgeous George is credited with ushering in the Bad Boy era of sports– and even inspired Muhammad Ali, who told a British interviewer, “he was telling people, ‘I am the prettiest wrestler, I am great. Look at my beautiful blond hair.’ I said, this is a good idea, and right away, I started saying, ‘I am the greatest!’”

Wrestling was cheap, flashy and easy to televise — and Gorgeous George was the performer that people loved to hate. It was said that in TV’s earliest years, Gorgeous George’s appearance on TV sold as many televisions as Milton Berle’s.

Another of TV’s favorite early sports was bowling. Chuck Healy was the host of “Beat the Champ” through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Nin Angelo and Allie Brandt would become among Buffalo’s most popular athletes because of their feats of bowling prowess on the show. All-American Bowler Vic Hermann’s family still proudly talks about the day Vic rolled the first 300 game in the history of the show.

Chuck Healy also hosted “Strikes, Spares, and Misses,” Buffalo’s show for lady bowlers. Phyllis Notaro was just as popular as any of her male counterparts as one of the program’s great champions. Her family ran Angola’s Main Bowling Academy, and from there, she became one of the country’s top amateur bowlers and a US Open champ in 1961.

The WBEN sports team included Chuck Healy, Dick Rifenburg, Ralph Hubbell, and Don Cunningham.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

WBEN-TV signs-on, 1948

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


For the few thousand with TV sets that could pull in the new station, the wait was excruciating.

On February 27, 1948, WBEN-TV started telecasting daily—but only a test pattern for several hours a day.

Eleven weeks later, on May 14, 1948, Buffalo entered the television era with the sign-on of Ch.4, WBEN-TV. The station was among the first 25 to sign on in the country.

“Edward H. Butler, editor and publisher of The Buffalo Evening News, stepped before a WBEN-TV camera at Memorial Auditorium on May 14, 1948—and a new era in mass communications and home entertainment began on the Niagara Frontier,” read an announcement from the station.

The station’s first-day, four-hour lineup offered a taste of what television would be like over the next couple of years in Buffalo—a little bit of everything.

After the somber address by Mayor Dowd and Mr. Butler, there was a Town Casino Variety Show, including the Town Casino chorus, acrobatic dancer Dorothy Deering, and network singing star and emcee Mary Jane Dobb.

The Town Casino chorus—“The Adorables,” entertained on Ch.4’s first night of broadcasting. The high-kicking ladies were Barbara Stafford, Alice Noonan, Jerry MacPhee, Gini Ruth, Melhi Jestrab, and Lee Borger.

And the show that would be the station’s most popular for the next decade was also on Ch.4 that first night —There was wrestling live from Memorial Auditorium.

WBEN-TV cameras in Memorial Auditorium.

“The marceled master of mayhem, Gorgeous George, will take over the spotlight when the tele-cameras shift to the auditorium’s wrestling ring at 9:30,” read Buffalo’s first TV program guide.

Just as radio had been a truly pioneering experience 25 years earlier– with no one exactly sure what to do because no one had ever done it before, the first few years of programming at Ch.4 were an exciting and sometimes weird hodge-podge of adapting things that worked on radio for television mixed with completely new ideas for the completely new medium.

South Buffalo’s Fred Keller, who first joined WBEN as an announcer in 1942, was the creative spirit behind many of the shows on Ch.4.

Mary Jane Dobb was the emcee and Dorothy Deering performed acrobatic dancing on a Town Casino Variety Show on Ch.4’s first night on the air. Behind the camera is Program Director Fred Keller, who was also a writer and announcer that evening. “Radio Mirror” called him “one of the top television idea-men in the East.” Among his credits was the creation of Ch.4’s beloved Santa Claus show.
Because sponsors meant more than format, Chuck Healy’s “Iroquois Sports Spotlight” show hosted Buffalo Zoo Director Joseph Abgott and his monkey friend “Mike” visited when the zoo opened the Iroquois Monkey Island.

Remembered as a sportscaster from the day WBEN-TV signed on in 1948 through 1977, Chuck Healy was also Buffalo’s most watched TV news anchor on Ch.4 through the ’60s.

The versatile announcer was also a versatile athlete as a boxing and football star at Syracuse University.

“Clowns and tigers” sounds more like a bad dream than a TV show. There was no caption attached to this photo, but based on the cameras without WBEN-TV stenciling, it was probably taken in early 1948, well-before the station signed on with a regular schedule.
At 9:30 on Wednesday mornings, the Czurles family hosted “Woodland Crafts, as a part of the “Live and Learn” summer series on Ch.4. Dr. Stanley Czurles was the Director of Art education at Buffalo State Teachers College.
Another of Ch.4’s most popular early shows The TV Barn Dance, sponsored by Hal Casey’s South Park Chevrolet. At various times, the show featured country musicians who were also known as around Buffalo as disc jockeys– Art Young, who was heard on WXRA and WKBW, performed with his group the Borderliners. Lee Forster, who hosted shows on WEBR, WKBW and WWOL, performed on the program—and also met his wife on the Ch.4 sound stage.
Ailing veterans gather around a brand-new television set in the recreation lounge of the VA Hospital in Batavia in 1949.
Ed Reimers interviews singer and bandleader Vaughn Monroe on Ch.4, early in 1948, while the station was still experimenting and not yet broadcasting a full schedule.
Ch.4 live truck downtown.
“Studio D,” on the Statler’s 18th floor as Ch.4 presents “The Clue,” perhaps the best remembered of Ch.4’s live, locally produced dramas.

Television’s first ever cop drama, “The Clue” was written and directed by Buffalo theater icon Fred A. Keller, and starred Evening News Radio-TV columnist Jim Trantor as Private Eye Steve Malice. It was as an actor on “The Clue” that Canadian radio announcer Lorne Greene—later famous as Ben Cartwright on Bonanza—made his first television appearance.

Stuart Roth and Jim Mohr recreate a scene in Ch.4’s “The Law & You.”
Brothers Jim (above) and Don Trantor lit up 1920s Buffalo radio with their piano act “the 20 Fingers of Melody.” Don was later the TV and Radio critic for the Courier-Express, while Jim was the promotions director for the WBEN stations. As shown above, he also played “Steve Malice, Private Eye,” starring in Ch.4’s “The Clue.”
It took a cast and crew of 22 to put on a 15-minute episode of “The Clue,” including Director Keller, Writer Wander, Ass’t Director Baldwin and announcer Bob Nelson. Actress Nadine Fitzpatrick is flanked by Trantor, Conrad Schuck, Charles Dempsey and Keith Hopkins. The technicians include Neil O’Donnell, Frank Holliday, Arthur Graff, John Knoerl, Gordon Pels, Gee Klumpp, Chet Pardee, Doug McLarty, James Kane, John Hagmman, Donald Stilwell, and William Noble.
Jim Trantor was also one of Ch.4’s early news men. He was the host of the weekly Iroquois Illustrated Press, which took a longer look at the week’s top news stories.
Harry Webb (above) and Ed Dinsmore (below) were Ch.4’s most seen news anchors during the station’s first decade on the air.
Celebrating Ch.4’s fourth anniversary in 1952 were Harry Webb, Bill Peters (who played Santa Claus from 1954-72 as well as “Norman Oklahoma”), and “Uncle” Jerry Brick, who was a Ch.4 floor director when he wasn’t hosting a kid’s variety show.
Chuck Healy’s easy and professional manner was a Ch.4 mainstay from the day the station signed on until 1977. Strictly a sportsman in the early days, Healy would be Buffalo’s most watched news anchor in the 1960s.
Director Gertrude Noble and Floor Manager William Noble look on as Victor’s Amateur Hour emcee James Trantor rehearses a commercial with producer James Christensen.
Woody Magnuson was another of the hosts on WBEN-TV’s Amateur Hour, this time sponsored by North Park Furniture. He was also the host of a longtime WEBR kids show as “Uncle Bill.”


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

Buffalo in the ’70s: Joe Byron’s anthems ring out at Sabres’ games

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Two months into the Buffalo Sabres’ first season in 1970, tenor Joe Byron got a phone call that would make him a Buffalo pop culture icon.

Tenor Joe Byron

The anthem singer wasn’t working out, and the Sabres asked if he was available.

It was a quick turnaround, and he never even had the chance to rehearse with organist Norm Wullen before he sang for the first time. His first night at Memorial Auditorium, he climbed up to Norm’s spot in the rafters – only to be told that he’d be singing from the penalty box.

He asked Norm to play some standard tunes on the organ on his way down, so he could get used to his playing, and their first rendition of “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” went off without a hitch.

For next 15 hockey seasons or so, most Sabres home games would start with public address announcer Milt Ellis asking everyone to stand and for men to remove their hats for the singing of the anthems by Byron, accompanied by Wullen on organ.

Just about every part of Byron’s game night experience speaks of a simpler time.

After singing the anthem, Byron would leave the penalty box, and try to find an open seat to watch the game. He never had a season ticket, and was never assigned a seat by the club. He’d wander the aisles, and on most occasions, a friendly fan would recognize him and invite him to sit.

Before kiss cams, applause meters and T-shirt guns, it was Byron who kept the fans going during breaks in the action.

On holidays or special occasions, Byron’s voice was the Aud’s entertainment between periods. Christmas carols during the holidays: “Auld Lang Syne” for New Year’s, something romantic on Valentine’s Day and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” for St. Patrick’s Day.

After a series of heart attacks, he began to slow down in the early 1980s and gave up singing at every game, and along with Wullen and Ellis, faded into our Sabres memories.

You can hear Wullen’s organ and Byron’s national anthem starting at 7:42 in the video below.

Wrestling at The Aud: from The Hulk to Gorgeous George

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Hulk Hogan is going to be in Buffalo this weekend, and had some nice things to say about Buffalo Wrestling and the fans here. Steve Cichon has more from the Hulk and wrestling’s glory days in Buffalo.

Hulk Hogan is making an appearance at the Nickel City Con at the Convention Center this weekend, and he spoke with Mark Ciemcioch at The Buffalo News about his times in Buffalo.

He has great memories of wrestling in Buffalo, and like so many of us, Hulk Hogan has great memories of Memorial Auditorium.

Hogan traveled to Buffalo many times during his career, even having knee surgery here. He particularly enjoyed working the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium before it closed in 1996.

“I had some great matches in there,” Hogan said. “I’d hit people with a punch in the middle of that ring, and it sounded like a cannon would go off. The whole crowd would go along with it, (chanting) ‘Boom, boom!’ It’s a great wrestling crowd, a great city and a (I have) lot of fond memories of Buffalo.”

Hulk Hogan on ‘Hulkamaniacs,’ Buffalo and his biggest comeback yet

Wrestling, of course, goes way back in Buffalo– to big Friday Night sell out crowds through the 30s, 40s, and 50s, first at the old Broadway Auditorium (now “The Broadway Barns” and the home of Buffalo’s snowplows), and then Memorial Auditorium when it opened in 1940.

“This was a shirt and tie crowd,” said the late Buffalo News Sports Editor Larry Felser, who remembered when Wrestling at the Aud was one of the biggest events in Buffalo.

“Not that many people had TV sets back then,” remembered Felser in 2001. “People were crowding into Sears and appliance stores to try to see this thing on TV, because the place was sold out.”

And with all those big crowds, there was no wrestler who could draw them in like Gorgeous George.

“When Gorgeous George would wrestle, they’d pack the Auditorium for this guy,” said Felser.

“The Human Orchid,” as George was known, was the first modern wrestler, said retired Channel 7 sports director Rick Azar, saying he “changed the face of professional wrestling forever.”

As someone who called himself “Hollywood’s perfumed and marcelled wrestling orchid,” it’s clear that George knew how to make sure he set himself apart.

“He had an atomizer, and he’d walk around the ring with perfume, supposedly fumigating his opponent’s corners,” said Felser, who also remembered his flair for marketing outside the ring.

“His valet drove him around in an open convertible around Lafayette Square, and he’s got a wad of one dollar bills, and he was throwing money to people. It was a show stopper. He landed on page one. TV was just in its infancy then, but they were all over it. It was like World War III. That’s how big a story it was.”

Gorgeous George is credited with ushering in the Bad Boy era of sports– and even inspired Muhammad Ali, who told a British interviewer, “he was telling people, ‘I am the prettiest wrestler, I am great. Look at my beautiful blond hair.’ I said, this is a good idea, and right away, I started saying, ‘I am the greatest!'”

See some photos of Gorgeous George and read more about his career:
Buffalo in the ’50s: ‘Gorgeous George’ arrives in Buffalo, perfumes his room
Buffalo in the ’50s: Gorgeous George brings showmanship to the Aud

The rise and fall of Buffalo’s college hoops golden era

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Canisius’ Tony Masiello and St. Bonaventure’s Bob Lanier fight for a loose ball in a Little Three game at Memorial Auditorium in 1969. (Buffalo Stories archives)

For as long as anyone can remember, the people of Buffalo have been fanatically devoted to sports.  Since 1960 for the Bills and 1970 for the Sabres, relatively large, rabid fan bases have supported those squads through lean years and even lean decades with open wallets and enthusiasm.

Buffalo fans warmly remember Saturday night college basketball doubleheaders, followed by Sunday night American Hockey League Bisons games at Memorial Auditorium in the late ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. (Buffalo Stories archives)

But with college basketball bringing March Madness to Buffalo again next week, thoughts and conversation inevitably turn to the years before the Bills and Sabres when “Little Three” games between Niagara, St. Bonaventure and Canisius were the city’s most riotous sporting events, tickets to Saturday night basketball doubleheaders at Memorial Auditorium were Western New York’s hottest ticket, and Buffalo was universally recognized as one of America’s great college basketball towns.

Up until World War II, the most ferocious rivalry among the Little Three schools was in football, but as football became too costly, each of the schools had disbanded its team by 1951. Once students and alumni had only hoops to hang their hats on, the heated rivalries burned even brighter, and all of Buffalo came along for the ride.

St. Bonaventure stuffs Niagara at the goal line in a 1940 Little Three football tilt. (Buffalo Stories archives)

In his infamous 1969 Sports Illustrated piece on Buffalo sports and Buffalo’s sports fans, Brock Yates’ account of basketball at the Aud sears an image:

“Saturday night standing room-only crowds elbow their way into the grim, lakeside fortress known as Memorial Auditorium to scream for Canisius.”

A few years later, Ray Ryan remembered it this way in a 1975 article in Buffalo Fan magazine:

“The collegians and their camp follows would converge on the downtown hall early in the evening, elbowing through the crowded lobby, passing the turnstiles, and crowding up to the beer stands … (with) an electric air of excitement as the cheering and jeering began …”

Basketball doubleheaders had been all the rage at New York City’s Madison Square Garden when Buffalo’s first two-game basketball set was played in 1936 at the Broadway Auditorium. Canisius played Georgetown and Niagara played St. Bonaventure in “a program worthy of any court in the country.”

The 1936 Canisius Golden Griffins basketball team, including future city councilman and “Over the Tavern” inspiration Big Joe Dudzick, bottom row, third from right. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The venue was an upgrade in size from Canisius’ usual home court at the Elmwood Music Hall, and the ability to fill the larger space showed basketball’s honing in on boxing as one of Buffalo’s favorite spectator sports.

But there was still room for improvement in those early years. The Broadway Auditorium was larger, but not regulation. Notre Dame’s coach George Keogan almost refused to play on the barn’s concrete floor, but with 5,000 spectators watching, he was assured by a Canisius official that it was “soft concrete” and the game went on with a laugh.

Canisius played many home games at the Elmwood Music Hall, which stood at the corner of Elmwood and Edward until 1938. (Buffalo Stories archives)

As World War II dawned, and continuing after the war, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure each became competitive and started attracting some of the country’s best teams on the way to or from those big dates in New York City. It was a confluence of great basketball, great fans, great gates and Memorial Auditorium’s opening in 1940 to make all parties involved excited for college basketball doubleheaders in Buffalo.

Through the early ’50s, the Aud was guaranteed 10,000 spectators, usually with more filling up standing room. Then things waned. There was a point-shaving scandal with several big New York City schools. Pro-basketball started catching on in New York in the scandal’s wake, and college basketball as a whole took some lumps.

Canisius vs. Niagara at Memorial Auditorium, 1951. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The local series was not without hiccups even through the glory years. The late Buffalo News Sports Editor Larry Felser, himself a Little Three athlete as guard on the Cansius football squad, said that pettiness between the schools was as much a part of the tradition as the games themselves.

It was a critical hit was when, in 1958, Niagara pulled out of the Aud doubleheaders. A few years later, Bona opened the Reilly Center and trips to Buffalo became less important.

In 1965, then-Ellicott District Councilman James D. Griffin wrote letters to the presidents of Niagara, Canisius and St. Bonaventure inviting them to a Common Council discussion on the use of the Aud and the Rockpile.

Niagara phenom Calvin Murphy can’t make it past Canisius players Tom Pasternak and Tony Masiello, (Buffalo Stories archives)

Writing “as a sport fan as well as a member of the Common Council,” Griffin hoped it would be possible for the differences that broke up the Little Three’s run at The Aud to be set aside “not only for the same of the loyal fans, but also for the sake of the City of Buffalo, which enjoyed much favorable publicity due to the high caliber of ball played in previous contests.”

College basketball’s last great kick at the can came in the end of the 1960s, and it had to do as much with great players as schools setting aside differences.

Each of the Little Three had big stars to help capture the sports passions of Buffalo. After starring for Black Rock’s Cardinal Dougherty High School, Tony Masiello went on to star for Canisius College before being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the 1969 NBA Draft.

Bennett High’s Bob Lanier led St. Bonaventure to an NCAA Final Four bid in 1970, before a Hall of Fame pro career with the Pistons and Bucks.

And before he ever shot a basket for Niagara, Calvin Murphy — who remains the shortest player ever inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame — was entertaining Bills fans with his champion baton-twirling during halftime breaks at the Rockpile.

The energy and excitement these three brought to the court and to the old Little Three rivalry was just enough for Buffalo to win an NBA franchise in 1970. The Braves were wildly popular until the end of the season, when top players were traded away and the franchise was sold and moved out of town.

But with the huge following of the pro Bills and Sabres, it was too late to rekindle the glory days of the Little Three. An attempt was made in 1996 with the opening of then-Marine Midland Arena, adding UB to make the Big 4. While there was some excitement among fans, it was the schools that put a damper on the idea by not cooperating in scheduling games.

“Does this sound like something out of a 35-year-old time capsule or what?” wrote Larry Felser on one of those opinionated days in 1997.

Torn-Down Tuesday: The fetid, festering Hamburg Canal

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Hamburg Canal, which was built to divert traffic from the busy Erie Canal. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Before they were even finished digging the Hamburg Canal, in 1849, the standing, fetid water in the half-dug ditch was blamed in part for a growing cholera crisis in what we now call the First Ward and Canalside areas.

1896 map with Hamburg Canal highlighted in blue. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Originally conceived to help divert traffic away from the busy Erie Canal, soon the railroads were doing a good enough job of making the Hamburg Canal in particular nearly completely obsolete.

For decades, the fate of the canal was a political hot potato. Albany politicians tried to wrestle control of the valuable land. Others vowed the city could make a fortune by filling it in and getting the land into the hands of the railroads – but which railroad seemed to be the point of disagreement.

Meanwhile, the mucky water sat festering.

The Common Council declared the Hamburg Canal a nuisance in 1869. The following year, Buffalo Mayor Alexander Brush and a group of concerned citizens took a tugboat tour of the Canal from Michigan Street to the Buffalo Harbor. One participant called the waterway “a horrible bed of pestilence.”

It got worse from there. A 1912 report called the canal a “mass of decaying filth, stagnant water, foul-smelling, and covered by a dark scum.”

The largest part of the Hamburg Canal was finally put out of its misery when the Lehigh Valley Railroad built Buffalo’s glowing new passenger terminal on a filled-in portion of it in 1916.

Hate for the man-made waterway was reignited when Depression-era WPA workers came across a long-covered portion of the canal running where they had been planning on building the foundation of Memorial Auditorium. Special reinforced sewers were built below The Aud to allow the old canal’s waters to continue to move all through the building’s nearly 70-year history.

Today, the Canalside rink, the Courtyard by Marriott and The Buffalo News are all on ground that was once Buffalo’s most derided waterway.

Buffalo in the ’80s: Sabres score nine goals in a single period

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Second period box score
second period box score

It’s an NHL record that stands to this day.

On March 19, 1981, the Buffalo Sabres became the only team to score nine goals in a single period. The torrent of goals came in a 14-4 trouncing of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Memorial Auditorium.

In just that second period, Gil Perreault had a hat trick. Andre Savard and Ric Seiling each had four points. Savard had two goals, Seiling, Derek Smith, Craig Ramsay and Danny Gare also each had a goal.

The score after two periods at Memorial Auditorium. Torontos three goals combined for the most ever scored in an NHL game.

The score after two periods at Memorial Auditorium. Toronto’s three goals combined for the most ever scored in an NHL game.

Perreault returned from a rib injury that night to “the easiest hat trick (he)’d ever had.”

“It was a great, beautiful night,” said Andre Savard, who had three goals and six points on the night. “We played well in the first period and couldn’t score, but we did score in the second period.”

Here are photos of four of the nine goals:

sports090

Andre Savard with one of his two goals in the record-breaking period. Buffalo News archives

sports090-22

Gil Perreault scores one of his three in the record-breaking period.

sports089

Bill Hajt, Craig Ramsay, Andre Savard and Jim Schoenfeld celebrate another of the Sabres nine goals in the second period. Buffalo News archives

sports089-22

Ric Seiling scores top shelf.

Buffalo in the ’70s: Hubert Humphrey and the Buffalo Braves

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic nominee for president in 1968 when he lost to Richard Nixon in the general election. In 1971, as he contemplated another run at Nixon the following year, he stopped in Buffalo for a pre-campaign visit and to take in the Buffalo Braves home opener at The Aud.

Humphrey-Hubert251

Senator Humphrey appears to be having a better time than Mayor Frank Sedita as the former VP gets ready to lob the ball out onto the court.

Humphrey-Hubert252-1

Humphrey visits quickly with the Braves cheerleaders. No record of whether an “ooh, ahh… Hubert on the warpath” chant broke out.

Humphrey-Hubert252

Fans directly behind them in the golds and reds don’t seem too interested in the courtside conversation going on between Braves owner Paul Snyder, Braves Captain Walt Hazzard, Vice President Humphrey, and Mayor Sedita. That night, Hazzard, in his first game with the Braves after being acquired from the Hawks in the offseason, led the Braves with 14 points as they were pounced by the Seattle Supersonics, 123-90.

Buffalo in the ’70s: Rick Jeanneret in the Aud Press Box

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.”

Buffalo in the ’70s: Bob McAdoo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tangle at the Aud

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was an overtime thriller in a battle of two of the NBA’s premier big men as Bob McAdoo and the Braves hosted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lakers at Memorial Auditorium.

Buffalo News archives

It was Nov. 9, 1976, and McAdoo was showing the stuff that had won him the NBA MVP Award a season earlier.

Down by 20 heading into the fourth quarter, McAdoo led a comeback — including hitting a basket with two seconds left to tie the game. Randy Smith’s eight points in overtime cemented the Braves’ 121-116 victory.

Abdul-Jabbar led the game with 37 points in the losing effort; McAdoo had 34.

Buffalo fans were getting one of their last looks at McAdoo in a Buffalo uniform. Exactly one month to the day after this photo was taken, McAdoo was traded to the New York Knicks along with Tom McMillen for John Gianelli and cash.

McAdoo and Abdul-Jabbar ended up teammates on two Los Angeles Lakers championship teams where McAdoo was the sixth man on the club that also featured fellow Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and James Worthy.