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.
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.