Spectacular Pre-Season

The Sabres open their pre-season on the road versus Columbus tonight and a post-Capt Jack era will officially start with a young core of players under the guidance of a Head Coach who has won both as a player and HC will endeavor to take Buffalo to the playoffs.

     I appreciate and enjoy the pomp and ceremony of Hockey even in pre-season but as we all know as soon as the regular season begins the pre-season is soon forgotten.

     What has stoked my interest historically about this NHL 2021-22 Season is it has been approximately 97 years since the cities of Vancouver and Seattle played each other in the same professional Hockey league that could eventually led to the Stanley Cup Finals.   

  The battle between the two PCHA Stanley Cup champions, with Seattle being the first team in the United States of America to win the Stanley Cup, resumed on a late September day nearly a century between games with an NHL pre-season contest on September 26th 2021.

     Professional Hockey history is rich with storied teams and leagues and the Kraken victory over the Canucks in a 2021-22 pre-season game brings into sharp relief how deeply embedded professional Hockey is in North America.

     In 1924 the Pacific Coast Hockey Association folded after only nine seasons, but what an interesting nine seasons it was. Both PCHA league teams Seattle and Vancouver beat their rival league champions from the National Hockey Association for no less than two Stanley Cup Championships.

     The 1919 Stanley Cup Finals tied at 2-2-1 had game six cancelled just hours before puck drop because of a number of Canadiens players having come down with feverish temperatures.  This cancellation happened during the height of the Spanish Flu in the United States of America.

    There was an offer for Seattle to claim victory but the Metropolitans HC refused to accept the Cup due to the circumstances surrounding game six.

     Officially 1919 is listed in NHL history of the Stanley Cup as “no winner”, admirably though when the Cup was redesigned in 1948 the NHL had the inscription added, “1919 Montreal Canadiens Seattle Metropolitans Series Not Completed”.

    As the 2021-22 gets under way for the Buffalo Sabres with a pre-season contest in Ohio versus the Blue Jackets I will watch and listen with a renewed enthusiasm for a “meaningless game” that might just not be.

Center Fred Stanfield

In the late Fifties a very young Fred Stanfield played for the Mississauga Dixie Beehives then played Major Junior Hockey for the OHL’s St. Catherine’s TeePees/Black Hawks for three seasons with fellow teenage players Dennis Hull and Ken Hodge.

     Mr. Stanfield’s first NHL team would be Chicago and was also assigned to play in the now defunct CHL minor league during his three season 10-game tenure for the Chicago Blackhawks.

     In his third Chicago season Mr. Stanfield is traded to Boston and produces 64 points with 20 goals in 73 games. For six straight seasons Mr. Stanfield scores 20 or more goals and contributes to two Stanley Cup championships for Boston.

    Then Boston trades Mr. Stanfield to Minnesota for a goalie when Mr. Cheevers left Boston. Although Mr. Stanfield was afforded the opportunity to play on the North Stars number one line, he did not produce as expected.

     Approximately halfway through Mr. Stanfield’s second Minnesota season the North Stars trade 31 year old Mr. Stanfield to the Buffalo Sabres and in 32 games for Buffalo Mr. Stanfield scores 33 points. His veteran leadership assisted Buffalo on their march to the 1975 Cup Finals.

As with every NHL player all good things must come to an end, Mr. Stanfield in his early thirties played for two and half more season for Buffalo.

     His final Sabres season was 57 games with 11 points, so he went down to the AHL Hershey Bears where Mr. Stanfield recorded 60 points in 50 games in his first AHL season.

     That first season in Hershey he played then he coached the Bears into the playoffs as a mid-season Head Coach replacement as he was the following season in the OHA coaching the Niagara Falls Flyers into the playoffs as well.

      An excellent ending to an excellent Hockey career, Mr. Stanfield decided to spend the rest of his life with his wife in one of Buffalo’s beautiful suburbs while running a successful business furniture store that grew into an impressive operation.

     In the work force you know a good boss or owner when the employees speak highly and emotionally of them and just the case with Mr. Stanfield.  Found memories of Mr. & Mrs. Stanfield hosting players at home for weekend get-togethers. (Weekend at Freddy’s)   

     Always a willing participant with the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association,   Mr. Stanfield continually exercised throughout his retirement while also playing in 30 to 50 games of Hockey a year and stayed in great shape.

When my Hockey History calendar approaches May 4th (his birthday) I will reflect and continue to write about his Hockey accomplishments.