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.
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.
Jim Schoenfeld became one of the most popular of Sabres as he played and then coached Buffalo as well as creating two albums in his first few years with the Sabres called “Schony” and “The Key is Love” with some assistance from John Valby on the latter album.
When he stopped playing Mr. Schoenfeld did local television mattress commercials for years and even some broadcasting which Mr. Schoenfeld said he was not suited for and his bar “Schony’s” was a popular watering hole with live music.
As a bartender in my city I would tell my customers that I only ever cheered for one Boston NHL player. People invariably would shout out “Orr” or “Esposito” and although I highly appreciate these players and their accomplishments the response was always “nope”.
I would inform my customers that it was “Jim Schoenfeld” and about Mr. Schoenfeld’s 39 regular season games for Boston during the 83-84 NHL season.
We all have a sicken memory of Malarchuk’s life bleeding away in front of us and gratefully he physically survived the ordeal.
But how many remember Mr. Schoenfeld bent over on his hands and knees blood pouring from his face from another blocked shot? Or who remembers how Tim Horton was Mr. Schoenfeld’s mentor and friend, so much so Jim cried on the ice when the announcer asked for a moment of silence before the next game after Mr. Horton’s fatal crash.
I know Mr. Schoenfeld would have been an outstanding defenseman for the Sabres but the mentoring of Mr. Horton assisted his development into one of our best defenseman ever to wear the Blue & Gold.
In Mr. Schoenfeld’s best offensive season 79-80 he scored 36 points and was a plus 60, and he was the third runner-up in the Norris Trophy behind only Larry Robinson and Borje Salming, while earning a roster spot on the All-Star team.
In Mr. Schoenfeld’s first season he was fourth in the Rookie of the Year, Calder Trophy voting, and in his third season, he Captains Buffalo’s advance to the Cup Finals.
There have been flashy scoring defensemen and even a rookie of the year defensemen in Campbell and Myers for Buffalo but in my heart, (and ears), there is no other defenseman quite like Jim “Schony” Schoenfeld.
From 1972-73 until 1981-82 Mr. Schoenfeld scored 45 goals for the Buffalo Sabres and during the 1980-81 campaign in the middle of March Mr. Schoenfeld registered his lone career NHL Hat Trick in a four point game against the Winnipeg Jets.
In the opening period with 90 seconds remaining Mr. Schoenfeld earns the primary assist on Danny Gare’s goal to give Buffalo the 1-0 lead.
Winnipeg ties the game early in the Second Period but Mr. Schoenfeld scores his sixth goal of the season on the PP with less than five minutes remaining in the period.
Buffalo and Winnipeg trade goals in the next 88 seconds for a Buffalo 3-2 lead heading into the final period.
Winnipeg’s cross-checking penalty called with seven seconds remaining in the Second Period carrying over into the Third afforded Mr. Schoenfeld an opportunity to score his second PP of the game and seventh of the year with 22 seconds remaining on the PP.
Half way through the period Mr. Schoenfeld hooks one of the Jets but the Sabres defense and goalie are up to the task and Winnipeg fails to score.
With Buffalo maintaining a 4-2 lead on Winnipeg Mr. Schoenfeld with approximately three and half minutes remaining scores his eighth of the season to complete his one and only NHL Hat Trick.
When Mr. Schoenfeld was on a popular online video interview/talk show hosted by two former Sabres a couple of Halloweens ago, he talked about one year there was like nine players wives expecting and they were a tight knit group of young players that spent significant time together with each other’s families away from the rink. Mr. Schoenfeld said it was the closest team he ever belonged to.
Mr. Schoenfeld related the unwritten rule that the young single players had to throw the Halloween party and that they did a tremendous job. When pressed for information Mr. Schoenfeld could not remember the specific costumes but commented that the parties were terrific.
He then told a story about a costume he does remember… someone was dressed as an “old man” and he was making passes at all the women and if they had on a skirt he used his cane to try and look up the their skirts and he would attempt to look down their tops and all night long during the party the players were trying to figure out who it was.
Well as it turns out that it was one of the player’s wives…too funny…an absolute hysterical Halloween costume and prank on the players by their wives.
A Family man that was an outstanding defenseman, Captain, combative coach, excellent executive, spokesperson, tavern owner with a musical career who is admired and respected by NHLers and fans alike, ladies and gentlemen I give you…Jim “Schony” Schoenfeld.
Hockey Enthusiasts basically approach the Draft in one of three ways since most drafts began hosting online and they are Snake, Linear, and Automatic along with mock and ordered drafts as options.
For the ESPN Fantasy Hockey League the concentration will be on the top three ways to draft “your team”.
The Automatic draft is a good team saver for those participants who cannot attend the live draft for any reason.
For the complete neophyte do not be overwhelmed by the 90 second clock and pressure to know who you need to select for each round and go ahead with the Automatic draft and prompts that will ensure that your turn and selection will be the highest ranked player available to fill your roster needs.
Most Leagues utilize the Snake draft which allows for the most equitable distribution of talented players each round for every Team.
The Snake draft “flips” the order so that the last team to select in one round gets to select first in the next round and then the next to the last player will be last and then first and so on until all the rounds are completed.
The Linear draft is a rigid order of team selection that gives an inequitable distribution of talented players so that team ten in a Ten Team League will select tenth overall each round.
Being required to select last each round is something no Team Manager should endure to build their team so turn a careful eye to the settings of a League you are considering before committing.
In 1948 Fort St. James officially becomes a National Historic Site of Canada and one year later one of Fort St. James citizens was born. And 20 years later that citizen Brian Spencer is drafted in the fifth round, 55th overall in the NHL 1969 Amateur Draft.
The pride of north-central British Columbia, (where the community today still is around 1700 population), Mr. Spencer makes it to the NHL and bounces back and forth in the NHL and the CHL for five seasons before being acquired by Buffalo.
The season before the Cup Finals run the Sabres traded for LW Brian Spencer from the Islanders for C Doug Rombough.
Mr. Spencer does not have the accolades like other Sabres but he did have spirit, and a style of play that earned him the nickname “Spinner”. He scored three times in 13 games totaling five points for the Sabres after the trade.
Mr. Spencer’s first full season with Buffalo was his best point production totals during the regular season and playoffs for his career.
Overshadowed by a team full of offensive players, Mr. Spencer made the most of his minutes and the fan base here in Buffalo embraced him.
An NHL career that began in pain and tragedy and a life that ended the same way, a player whose contributions to a team that had endeared him to a city clear across a continent from where he was born. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Brian “Spinner” Spencer.
In continuing with my love and understanding of Hockey when I was an older boy, young teen, one of my favorite players was Rick Dudley. There was an amazingly talented player who could score 30 or more goals and collect fighting penalties as if it were a side hustle.
He is a Hall of Famer, earned multiple Championships, and Coach of the Year, has played successfully in the NHL as well as the WHA, became an NHL HC, Mr. Dudley continues today in an Executive NHL career.
Mr. Dudley is one of only three players to don the number 99 while playing Hockey in the NHL which is just one of many experiences of someone who can literally say they have been there and done that.
At 19 years of age in 1968-69 Mr. Dudley played for the St. Catharines Black Hawks of the OHL with teammate 17 year old Marcel Dionne and 19 year old Dick Redmond.
After his last season in the OHL Mr. Dudley was not drafted by the NHL yet was able to eventually play and be the only LW considered and voted on for the Hart Trophy in the 1974-75 NHL season where he amassed 70 points in 78 games.
Even after watching the Buffalo Sabres let Mr. Dudley walk to the WHA I followed his career, and to my happy surprise Buffalo had brought him back after four seasons had passed by.
Mr. Dudley had played out his prime in Cincinnati and after a few seasons back in the fold on the Sabres it was apparent he was no longer the player we hoped he would be.
Again I was forced to watch one of my favorite players walk and play for another team, this time the Winnipeg Jets.
At 32 years of age Mr. Dudley played his last seven professional Hockey games for the 1981-82 Jacques Demers coached Fredericton Express of the AHL.
I still followed Mr. Dudley’s career and again to my happy surprise he was brought back this time around to be the Buffalo Sabres Head Coach. Not being able to get past the first round in two seasons followed by an abysmal start and being replaced in the third season ended Mr. Dudley’s Sabres career for the third time.
Mr. Dudley has been hired by multiple teams in the NHL for a variety of Executive positions, including GM, Assistant GM, Director of Player Personnel, Hockey consultant, and Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.
Rick Dudley won me over as a player when I was a young Sabres Fanaticus watching Buffalo march their way to their first Stanley Cup Finals.
I started out as a fan of Rick Dudley the player, now I admire Mr. Dudley as one of the most experienced and knowledgeable Hockey people I have witnessed and read about.
In continuing on with writing about my love and understanding of Hockey I am going to keep writing about the players that have donned a Buffalo Sabres Hockey sweater since 1970 in no particular order, after Mr. Martin of course.
The Buffalo Sabres in 1971 selected in the first round, fifth overall, in their second amateur NHL draft, Montreal Junior Canadiens stand out Richard Martin.
As a rookie Mr. Martin scored an unheard of 44 goals which the NHL never before seen a rookie even touch 40 goals much less eclipse that amount. Mr. Martin averaged a point per game in his rookie season with 74 points in 73 games. It was at the end of his rookie season when the Buffalo Sabres traded for a player that would compliment and benefit from Mr. Martin, and help form and create the French Connection line.
Mr. Martin was one of the greatest natural goal scorers in the NHL during the 1970s that had put in back to back 52 goal campaigns in only his third and fourth season in the NHL. During his fourth season Mr. Martin played only 68 regular season games but had 95 points, the French Connection was flying, the Buffalo Sabres more than qualified for the 1974-75 playoffs and earned a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In January of 1976 the Buffalo Sabres became the first NHL team to beat one of the USSR’s allegedly superior Hockey teams. During the offensive onslaught that was a 12-6 Buffalo Sabres victory, Mr. Martin scored unassisted in the first period, had two primary assists in the second, and one more primary assist in the third period.
The 1976 Canada Cup team is considered one of the greatest National teams put together to represent Canada in international play that saw for the first time professional Hockey players participate in a best-on-best tournament. Mr. Martin played four games for victorious Team Canada and had five points with three goals.
In 1978 the 31st NHL All Star Game was held in Buffalo at Memorial Auditorium and had two of the Buffalo Sabres best offensive players on the roster, Rick Martin and his French Connection center. In an incredible game I witnessed as a teenager Mr. Martin with less than two minutes remaining in the contest scored and sent the All Stars into their very first Sudden Death overtime game in NHL history.
On November 8th 1980 a controversial trip and kicked knee caused an injury that saw Mr. Martin play only 14 more NHL games. Mr. Martin reportedly never forgave the goalie who came way out of his net to purposely kick Mr. Martin’s knee to knock him back down causing an injury that resulted in the demise of a great career.
Then on March 10, 1981, one of the worst trades the Buffalo Sabres ever made by their worst GM ever (who was named in a 10 million dollar malpractice lawsuit settled out of court in Mr. Martin’s favor approximately 10 years later) was completed sending French Connection star Rick Martin and beloved Don Luce to the Kings for a pair of draft picks.
Sadly on a Sunday March afternoon in 2011 Mr. Martin’s heart condition caused him to have a single vehicle accident, valiant efforts to keep Mr. Martin with us was not to be as he was pronounced gone upon arrival at the Hospital.
Writing about my love and understanding about Hockey began with the Press Box, the Owners, and then the first GM/HC, now I will write about the players, and of course the very first player I want to write about is Gilbert Perreault.
To me Gilbert “Bert” Perreault truly is the face of the Buffalo Sabres and he has since day one through all of Buffalo’s timeline and great players been the one player to represent the Buffalo Sabres.
There are younger Hockey fans that see this player as ancient history, not the face, I have heard and read about LaFontaine or Hasek, and now with Captain Jack the waters are muddied.
As a teenager in the 1970s I witnessed Mr. Perreault in his prime, one of the most breathtaking danglers of a generation. Gilbert could just take over possession of the puck behind his own goal line and literally skate through every player through the length of the ice to get a shot on net or a deft pass to another scorer on the team.
In 1970 Gilbert Perreault was drafted first overall in the amateur draft for one of the two newest NHL franchises, the Buffalo Sabres. For the next 17 seasons, number “11” would be on the ice for the Buffalo Sabres.
In his Rookie season Mr. Perreault would score an amazing 38 goals for 72 points and be awarded the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year and was considered and voted on for the Hart Trophy that season as well.
The Sabres as a team experienced the “sophomore jinx” but Mr. Perreault did not, he increased his point total by two over his Rookie of the Year performance, on the strength of 48 assists.
In between his second and third season Mr. Perreault had the honor of playing for Canada in the Canada – USSR series, later referred to as the “Summit Series”. In only two games of play Mr. Perreault scored an unassisted spectacular end to end goal and had an assist.
In his third NHL season Mr. Perreault was even better with 60 assists and his point production went up over a dozen points, The French Connection was flying, he is awarded the Lady Byng trophy, comes fifth in voting for the Hart trophy, and the Sabres make the playoffs.
Against a first place Montreal team Mr. Perreault gets 10 points in six games in his and the Sabres very first NHL Stanley Cup playoff series.
During his fourth NHL season Mr. Perreault breaks his leg and he plays only 55 games but gets 51 points and the Sabres do not qualify for the playoffs.
Then the Sabres magical fifth season saw number “11” lead the Sabres to the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Buffalo Sabres earned the right to skip the preliminary round and in the 1974-75 Stanley Cup Quarter Finals Buffalo ousted the Blackhawks in five games. Mr. Perreault led the team with eight points against a Chicago team led by none other than Stan Mikita, Dennis Hull, and Tony Esposito.
As good as the Sabres and Mr. Perreault played against an aging Blackhawks squad no one was able to predict what was about to happen next during the 1974-75 Stanley Cup Semi-Finals against the Mighty Montreal Canadiens.
The series opened in Buffalo and Mr. Perreault scored and had two assists during the victory in game one, and then in the all important game five with the series tied at two, Mr. Perreault does it again. Number “11” scores in the first period and then gets the lone assist for the GWG in OT to be able to take the 3-2 lead into Montreal where the Sabres finish off the Canadiens in game six to advance to the 1974-75 Stanley Cup Finals.
During the 1975-76 NHL season, Mr. Perreault once again is pitted against the Soviets as the Buffalo Sabres become the first NHL team to defeat one of the USSR’s supposedly superior Hockey teams. In a raucous 12-6 old fashion butt kicking Mr. Perreault scored and had two assists in a contest that seemed surreal with the Sabres seemingly scoring all game long.
The 31st NHL All Star game was held January 24th 1978 in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium in what can only be described as Hollywood perfect. In a game where the Wales Conference outshot the Campbell Conference 40-12 in regulation the contest ended tied at two. The NHL had its first ever Sudden Death Over-Time All Star game in history.
The hometown crowd of well over 16,000 witnessed the Buffalo Sabres Richard Martin tie the game with less than two minutes remaining to send the contest to over-time. Then Mr. Perreault with just five seconds shy of four minutes into OT scores and wins the All Star game sending the already giddy crowd into pure jubilation.
As the stats and his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame bear out, Gilbert Perreault was an exceptional player who led very good and competitive Buffalo Sabres teams throughout the Seventies and into the early Eighties.
One of the few players to play for only one NHL team, one man, one team, one city, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the one and only Gilbert Perreault.
I have always enjoyed the goaltender position either playing in net or watching spectacular saves and shut-outs in a well played defensive contest.
The goaltender position does get respect but compared to goal scorers in the NHL “goalies” take a back seat in most highlight videos.
When I initially took interest in Hockey as a child in the late Sixties it was during Tony Esposito’s first season in the NHL and he won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens.
Oddly enough, for the next NHL season Tony Esposito gets selected in the NHL intra-league draft by the Chicago Blackhawks and goes on to win the Calder Memorial and Vezina Trophies.
The oddity is that a player in the NHL who was already wearing a Stanley Cup Championship ring from the last season with one team has the opportunity to earn and did capture rookie of the year honors by winning the Calder Memorial Trophy with another team in the next season.
Some of my earliest memories of Tony Esposito were in the 1975 Stanley Cup Quarter Finals between my boys and the Blackhawks. All one can say is that this particular series was not Mr. Esposito’s finest moments played for his Chicago Blackhawks.
I have weaned myself off of morbid curiosity and by this I mean I do not celebrate “death dates” of people and players I admire, instead I have been celebrating their “birth dates”.
For example with Tony Esposito I will mark my Hockey calendar April 23rd his birthday to remember his NHL achievements and to take note of such an incredible career.
Writing about my love and understanding of Hockey I began with the press box and ownership of the Buffalo Sabres.
For me logically the next person to write about would be George “Punch” Imlach who was the Sabres first Head Coach and General Manager a position of complete control for the newly created Sabres.
In the early Twentieth Century a` Scottish couple immigrate to Canada in 1911 and a half a dozen years later they have their only child on March 15th 1918, George Imlach.
A decent right handed center, George played for a number of seasons for Junior and Senior teams before becoming a Head Coach. His playing career interrupted shortly by his service in the Canadian Army during WWII. It is reported that George was a drill sergeant, but he mostly coached army teams. It was during the late 1930s when George was playing for the Toronto Goodyear Seniors Hockey team that he was elbowed unconscious or nearly so.
There are two different versions of why George was initially called “Punchy” because he was either so woozy and punch drunk or he regained consciousness and started swinging punches at his trainer. No one remembers exactly which but all will agree that the press shortened “Punchy” to “Punch” originating the iconic name.
I do not believe a more capable or more successful HC could have been selected at the time, even though Punch was never a professional Hockey player he did become the only GM\HC to win three consecutive Cups.
The first thing I like to recall about Punch is the spin of the roulette wheel for the number one draft pick. Then NHL President Clarence Campbell made an error in reading the number and miscalling it as number one instead of 11. And it was Punch who spoke up during Clarence’s congratulations to the Vancouver staff that corrected the situation and Buffalo received its first ever draft pick Number One overall.
The next thing to stick out about Punch was his ability to work Clarence Campbell’s nerves which was highlighted in 1974 when Punch while trying to make a point drafted a Japanese player in the 11th round with the Sabres picking 183rd.
As it turned out Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas did not exist, Punch had grown tired of the nonsense of the long, tedious telephone process to get through the draft. And it took the NHL a few weeks to figure it out, but when they did the NHL noted the Buffalo Sabres have an “invalid claim” on official NHL historical records. Ironically the Buffalo Sabres still list Tsujimoto as alumni.
Although Punch only coached the Sabres for 120 games before his heart condition forced him to give up coaching duties and until nearly the end of the decade GM Punch and his wife Dodo (Dorothy) would be in the stands at the Memorial Auditorium watching the games.
The Buffalo Sabres reaching the 1975 Cup Finals and remaining competitive throughout the Seventies falls directly on Punch’s shoulders. But all good things come to an end and Punch was fired a few weeks before Christmas 1978.