Unheralded Hajt


In the first three rounds of the 1971 NHL amateur draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Rick Martin, Craig Ramsey, and in the third round selected defenseman William Albert Hajt who chose to attend the University of Saskatchewan instead of accepting Buffalo’s contract offer to play in the 1971-72 season.

Bill Hajt was a left-hand shooting, 6-3, a 215-pound defenseman that after leaving the University he played the next two seasons in the AHL for the Cincinnati Swords where he contributed to winning the AHL regular-season title and Calder Cup championship in 1973.

Rookie OPC card

During the 1973-74 season, Mr. Hajt finished up at the AHL level and played six games for the Sabres that year collecting a couple of assists.

During Buffalo’s amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals of 1974-75, Mr. Hajt was a quiet and underrated solid, stay-at-home, defensive defenseman who finished the regular season with almost 30 assists and a plus 46 rating.

Rookie Mr. Hajt scored the Sabres fourth goal to tie the third game of the Cup Finals which became Buffalo’s first Stanley Cup Finals victory, the following season Mr. Hajt set the Buffalo record with four assists by a defenseman in a regular-season game.


Mr. Hajt was named to the 1981 Wales Conference All-Star in Los Angeles but refused to play in it so he could “rest-up” for the second half of the season he missed his next All-Star nod in 1985 due to a shoulder injury.

Mr. Hajt led Buffalo twice in plus/minus rating and at retirement owned the Sabres record for career games played by a defenseman, was selected twice for the honor of the Tim Horton Memorial Award (unsung hero), and once for the Charley Barton Memorial Silver Stick Award (dedication to the game).

He retired once in 1983 while in camp, left for home, came back stating that it felt like being in a “morgue” and felt bad about leaving the Sabres shorthanded and coming back to play for four more seasons.


Mr. Hajt’s son Chris played six NHL games for Edmonton and Washington while mostly playing at the AHL level, and a few European leagues before coming back to the OHL, AHL, and NHL to coach, where he was an assistant coach for the Sabres during the 2017-18, 208-19 seasons.  

As a young boy/teenager most of the 1970s Buffalo Sabres were my Hockey Heroes and number 24, big and lanky Bill Hajt was no exception, and as I grew so did my appreciation for defensive play and players.

Everyone appreciates a flashy Dahlin or Housley skating in on a goaltender and scoring but it is reassuring to have a stay-at-home defensive defenseman that every coach at every level wants and requires for their team’s success.  

January 9th, 1989 Sabres vs Soviets

To put into perspective my timeline it was during December 1979 and I was at boot camp when the USSR invaded Afghanistan.

Then fast forward to a Monday evening January 9th 1989 and I was in the Memorial Auditorium watching the Buffalo Sabres defeat the Central Red Army team in OT only a month before the USSR pulled their forces out of Afghanistan.

Also, the Buffalo Sabres draft-pick a Lt. in the Central Red Army Mr. Mogilny was four months from defecting from the USSR via Stockholm to Buffalo to join the Sabres in early May of 1989.  

While heading into the Aud (Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) someone handed me what I thought at the time was some more Hockey information because of the two team’s rosters printed on the back of a folded single sheet of paper.

Later at home, I read the title, “The Puck ‘N’ Red Army…they shoot as well as they skate.” On the inside, it listed the Red Army atrocities from 1917 to the 1979 invasion. It was put together by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Ukrainian Student Organization of Michnowsky.

Two other artifacts remain with me, the NHL published their own single-page folded sheet of paper that was larger and glossy ironically both papers had mistakes and omissions.

Additionally, I still have an oversized pin-back button manufactured in 1988 by a now-defunct Buffalo Business named Trench, and that has the dates and the words, Soviet Super Series ’88-’89, January 9, 1989.

The NHL and NHLPA billed this as the NHL Super Series, NHL Teams vs USSR 1988/89, and on television, here along the Lake, it was titled, Super Power Face-Off with the winner being presented with the Friendship Cup trophy provided by SportsChannel America.

I was a teenager when Buffalo twice beat the mighty Soviets 12 – 6 and 6 – 1 during the icy Cold War years of the 1970s. I take some pride in that the Buffalo Sabres are the first NHL team to defeat the Soviets.

When I was a young bartender in the mid-1980s the Buffalo Sabres lost a horrible game on January 6, 1986, a 7 – 4 score to the Soviets during the 1985-86 Super Series.

Right after Christmas December 26, 1988, the Soviet Super Series ’88 – ’89 began with a tie in Quebec and ended January 9, 1989, in Buffalo.

The Soviets were 6 – 5 – 2 as they rolled into Buffalo to play their last game of the series and it was the 4 – 1 – 1 CSKA Moscow team that the Sabres faced.

Soviet roster has many future NHLers

After the Soviets scored the first goal of the game the Sabres went ahead 4 – 1 on goals by Captain Mr. Foligno, newly acquired Mr. Vaive, Mr. Hogue, and future HC Mr. Ruff, the Soviets fought back and forged a tie game to end the second period.

Early in the third period on the PP, the Soviets tackle Mr. Ruff at the blue line essentially giving the Soviets a four-on-three advantage opening up a Soviet defenseman who scores his second goal of the game to give the Central Red Army the 5 – 4 lead.

A few minutes later Mr. Sheppard knocks the puck away from a Soviet forward near the center ice circle and skates in all alone going backhand forehand four or five times until he slides it under the goalie with the forehand to tie the game.

The third period finishes tied giving the Sabres an opportunity to win the game in OT and tie the Soviet Super Series for the NHL which they do spectacularly.

Not long into the overtime session Mr. Housley carries the puck into the Soviet zone along the dasher boards and gets the puck deflected to the front of the net where rookie Mr. Priestly gets control of it to incredibly score the winner 2:20 into the overtime.

It happened because during the Sabres rush into the Soviet zone Mr. Priestly was grabbed by the head and neck area and spun around down to the ice inside the blueline well away from the play.

Mr. Priestly rose and skated deeper into the Soviet zone when Mr. Housley played the puck off the backboard behind the net and shot it off a Soviet defender to the side of the goaltender deflecting it towards Mr. Priestly in front who snapped it home.

Along with Mr. Mogilny, there was another future Buffalo Sabres player on that Soviet squad who did play that night, Left Wing Yuri Khmylev.

I had often wondered if the Soviets that game had more motivation to play well and beat that Buffalo team in 1989 because of USA’s Gold Medalist (1980 Miracle on Ice) Sabres defenseman Mr. Ramsey.

I attended this game over three decades ago and can remember some of the experience so I am appreciative that YouTubers have provided videos to look back with nostalgia and assist this Hockey Historian’s memory.