The Buffalo Sabres Alumni reunion I attended earlier this month as part of the 40th Anniversary of the Sabres was a “Blast”. I reunited with some former teammates, former opponents and some former players I had never met. The NHL is such a small circle of people, a hockey family. Former players, management, trainers have a special bond or connection.
The Sabres new owner, Terry Pegula and his wife Kim were very gracious hosts. On the first night, the cocktail reception for the players only was filled with lots of stories and jokes and a few gibes on looks and weights. . .
On game day, we had a luncheon with season ticket holders and sponsors. The renewed energy created by the new ownership could be felt in the crowd. There was positive vibes in the air even though the pressure of making the playoffs weighed heavily on a win against my other alumni team, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Before the game, we were picked up in limousines and dropped off in front of the HSBC arena for a Red Carpet Walk. It really felt like Hollywood Stars on Oscar night. As we climbed out of the Limo and walked through a very loud crowd gathered to get a glimpse of their favorite former Sabre. There was a big cheer when I climbed out of the car. I waved and smiled, but I knew that the cheer was directed to Pat Lafontaine who was right behind me. Thousands of enthusiastic, loyal fans stood outside the roped area cheering us on and getting autographs.
Before the big game against the Flyers, we were all introduced on the ice one at a time. Rip Simonick, the Sabres equipment manager was honored as the only original Sabres. Rick Rick Jeanneret was also cited for his 39 years as radio play by play announcer. There was an emotional moment when Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and former coach Joe Crozier walked on the ice holding a Richard Martin jersey. Rick Martin, who passed away two weeks prior to this event, was a member of the famous FRENCH CONNECTION with Perreault and Robert. The whole ceremony can be seen on Youtube.
The 70’s included players like Larry Carriere, Joe Daley, Gerry Desjardins, Danny Gare, Gerry Korab, Jimmy Lorenz, Don Luce, Terry Martin, Dereck Smith, Gary MacAdam, Paul MacIntosh, John Gould, Jocelyn Guevremont, Perreault and Robert and more.
The players from the 80’s who walked on the ice counted Adam Creighton, (I looked like a “shrimp” standing beside him on the ice) Steve Dykstra, Phil Housley, Tony Mackegney, Wilf Paiment, Larry Playfair, Darren Puppa, Jody Robertson, Donald Audette, Randy Burridge . . .
The 90’s highlighted players like Pat Lafontaine, Grant Ledyard, Brad May, Craig Muni, Mike Peca, Wayne Primeau, Rick Vaive, Brett Warrener, Jay Wells, Jason Wooley etc..
Finally, Jay McKee, Teppo Numminen and Andrew Peters closed out the 2000’s.
I met with several members of the Goalie’s Union. Gerry Desjardins played for the Los Angeles Kings expansion team in the late sixties and was behind Tony Esposito in Chicago for several years.
I met Joe Daley, one of the last goalies to play without a mask.
Darren Puppa and I had an interesting conversation (yes goalies can do that). We had never met but after just a few minutes, we were exchanging common stories.
Rocky Farr who has the best “Show Biz” name in hockey was there, former London Knights goalie.
I always enjoy meeting with Don Luce and Mike Robitaille because I have bragging rights to the Memorial Cup in 1968 with the Niagara Falls Flyers for whom Rick Jeanneret was the play by play announcer. Don and Mike played for the powerful Kitchener Rangers which we upset in 8 hard fought games.
Phil Housley was just a young “pup” coming out of high school hockey when I was with the Sabres organization is now a high school coach.
Larry Playfair, the President of the Sabres Alumni, one of my favorite people in Pro Hockey was very hospitable to all the alumni members. As a good host, he made sure that he was always around even until “last call”.
Steve Dykstra, Jody Robertson, Jim Weimer, Gary MacAdam were all members of the Rochester Americans who won the Calder Cup with me as their assistant coach.
I renewed connections with my (former) Pro Scouting colleagues, Paul MacIntosh (Dallas), Terry Martin (Colorado), Adam Creighton (Boston) and Larry Carriere (Montreal).
Gerry (King-Kong) Korab is always the life of the party. His gigantic frame makes him very noticeable and jovial behavior is contagious.
Dereck Smith won an award for the fewest games played (3) by an alumni present. Terry Pegula presented the award as a symbol that all alumni are important.
Gilbert Perreault was there. I love to listen to his Elvis voice. They play a video of Gilbert singing an Elvis song after each game at the HSBC.
There were 6 former captains of the Sabres at the celebrations: Gerry Meehan, Danny Gare, Gilbert Perreault, Lindy Ruff, Pat Lafontaine and Michael Peca.
The Sabres won the game and clinched a position in the Playoffs. Good luck to them!
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)