Commentator Extraordinaire Ted Darling

I would like to pay homage to the people responsible for my love and understanding of Hockey and I begin oddly with the press box.

Out of the three Buffalo Sabres broadcasters to be recognized by the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, Rick Jeanneret and Harry Neale are fine, but for me right from the start it has been Ted Darling, The Voice of the Buffalo Sabres.

Born in the “Limestone City” Kingston, Ontario June 9th, 1935, Edgar Lee “Ted” Darling is a 1958 graduate of Canada’s premier RTA Ryerson University Toronto.

During the 1960s, Ted worked in Sudbury, Huntsville, and Kingston radio stations, CBC Ottawa, and was hired by CBC Montreal’s Hockey Night in Canada in 1968 as an intermission host on Saturday Nights.

Preferring play-by-play over color Ted made a recording of himself broadcasting a Sabres game before the 1970-71 Season began, (which was quite a feat in of itself considering the Sabres have yet to play a game), for General Manager Punch Imlach. The result was an offer from a brand new NHL team the Buffalo Sabres to be their play-by-play broadcaster on radio and television.

It was October 10th 1970 in Pittsburgh when the Buffalo Sabres began their inaugural season with a win, and for the first time Ted Darling would be a play-by-play man for an NHL team. In the next press box over for the Canadian broadcast sat Foster Hewitt himself, an idol of Ted’s.

Ted’s voice has been described as authoritative with a soothing tone, friendly and approachable, and it was Ted’s calling of the game that night after Horton’s death I listened to with a heavy heart.

When the Sabres marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1974-75 Season, it was Ted’s voice emitting from my transistor radio making vivid that Quarter Finals victory over the Blackhawks and unimaginable excitement created with the Semi Finals victory over the Canadiens in Montreal.

Making his home in “Southern Ontario” at Lockport, NY, it was during the Blizzard of ’77 Ted was snowed in and called a road game for the Sabres from his family room watching on TV.

Ted related that an engineer mixed his telephone broadcast with crowd reactions and that his son assisted by keeping track of penalties and time left in the period.

As a bartender in Buffalo I would always try to have the game on during my shifts, Ted was always in my background during the 80s.

After listening and watching this man I had to read disparaging articles on Ted’s alleged alcoholism and why he was let go by the Sabres. The public came to find out that Ted was suffering with Pick’s disease and in 1991 he was relieved from broadcasting for the Sabres when the disease affected his on air work, he succumbed to the disease approximately five years later in 1996.

Nostalgia is literally pain from an old wound, how deliciously sweet it is to hear Ted Darling making the call on some recording and being transported back to my youth, if only for a moment. Then the slight twinge I feel for him when I remember he was only 61 and had to endure a disease for years before passing.

I like to think, although short, Ted Darling’s life was full and wonderful, that not only included Family and Hockey but he was able to translate his love for both through his broadcasts to not only myself but literally thousands of other Western New Yorkers and Southern Ontarians.

Original Six

There are a considerable amount of people who misunderstand the NHL’s term, “Original Six”. The NHL expanded by six teams and became a 12 team league in 1967-68, then divided itself into two divisions, with the six new teams making up the West and the other six becoming the East division.

The NHL season and playoffs were set up so that a team did not play the other division teams until the Stanley Cup Finals. This particular arrangement lent itself to the NHL and the media to anoint the Eastern division teams as the “Original Six” in the newly expanded league, without imparting a similar moniker for the new teams.

The misunderstanding comes from some people’s supposition that the “Original Six” teams are the first six teams to play in the NHL.

On a beautiful November night in 1917, the NHL formed with five teams and a 22 game schedule with the first game set for December 19th. The Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas make up the original teams to start in the NHL’s inaugural season.

In 1918 the Wanderers withdrew from the NHL and Quebec was sold and did not play, the following season Quebec is reinstated, and Toronto changes its name to the St Patrick’s, while the league increases the schedule to 24 games.

In the fourth season, we see Quebec shift to Hamilton, and the NHL remains at four teams.

Then a few seasons later in 1924-25, the NHL expands to six teams for the first time by adding two franchises, one in Montreal, the Maroons, and for the first time in America, the NHL grants a franchise to Boston.

The NHL has also increased its schedule to 30 games to accommodate their newly expanded league. So after seven years of existence, the NHL grew to six teams, Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the “Original Six”.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Maroons

Toronto St Patricks

Ottawa Senators

Hamilton Tigers

Boston Bruins

This group of original six NHL teams represents technically the very first time the NHL had six teams, ironically the league expands to 10 teams before contracting back down to six teams again for the 1942-43 season.