Thursday, May 20, 2010
In 1973-74, the Buffalo Sabres had finished mid-pack and missed out on the Stanley Cup playoffs. They rebounded strongly in 1974-75, winning the newly created Adams Division and finishing tied with the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Philadelphia Flyers and also the Montreal Canadiens with 113 points.
The Sabres, led by The French Connection line, which consisted of Rene Robert (with a team leading 100 points), Gilbert Perreault (96 points) and Rick Martin (95 points), defeated the Chicago Black Hawks 4 games to 1 in the quarterfinals before ousting the Canadiens 4-2 to reach their first Stanley Cup Finals in only their fifth season of play.
Game 1 of the finals, the first without an Original Six team since 1943, was played in Philadelphia's Spectrum and went to the Flyers 4-1. Philadelphia also took Game 2 by a close 2-1 margin.
The series then moved to the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium for Game 3 on this date in 1975. "The Aud" was originally constructed in 1940, the building was renovated with the arrival of the Sabres and Buffalo Braves of the NBA in 1970.
Early in Game 3, a bat was spotted flying near ice level during the game. Finally at one point, with the teams line up for a face off in the Flyers zone, with the bat buzzing the players heads, Jim Lorentz raised his stick and swatted the bat out of the air and Rick MacLeish of the Flyers picked up the dead creature and deposited it over the boards at the Flyers bench.
As time passed, the sell out crowd of over 16,000 fans began to have an effect, as the non air conditioned arena began to get warmer and steamier. Temperatures at ice level eventually got so warm that a layer of fog began to appear on the ice.
Eventually, the fog became thicker and thicker, causing the officials to halt play several times because the players could not see halfway down the ice. Several attempts were made to deal with the fog, including having the players skate in circles to try to stir up the air and clear the fog, as well as having the arena staff quickly raise and lower bed sheets to move larger amounts of air with some effect.
Play was resumed, but then stopped again and again and the visibility remained poor. Eventually both coaches, Fred Shero of the Flyers and Floyd Smith of the Sabres instructed their players to shoot as often as possible since the opposing goaltender was going to have problems seeing the puck.
Down by two goals, the Sabres fought back with a pair of goals by Danny Gare and Martin just 17 seconds apart to even the score at 2-2 before the struggling Sabres goaltender Gerry Desjardins let in a shot by MacLeish from 40 feet to put the Flyers back in the lead at the end of the first period.
During the intermission, Desjardins asked to be relieved in the Sabres goal. "After the second goal against me, I thought it was a grand time to get the hell out of there. I knew if I had stayed in, everything would have gone down the drain," Desjardins said following the game. "After all, we were only down by one goal. It was close at the end of the first period, Why waste it?"
During the second period, Reggie Leach scored on his own rebound after a wild scramble in front of new Sabres goalie Roger Crozier to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead, but Don Luce was able to put one past Bernie Parent to send the game into the third with Philadelphia up 4-3.
During the third period, defenseman Bill Hajt of Buffalo put in a rebound of a shot by Martin to even the score and eventually send the game into overtime.
The fog continued to disrupt play in overtime, causing seven stoppages. Finally, with about a minute to play, Perreault skated into the Flyers zone and passed the puck to Robert in the far corner. Robert, along the goal line, shot the puck from the sharp angle, which eluded Parent and went between his legs for the winning goal for the Sabres after nearly 80 minutes of play, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
"I didn't see Perreault's pass," said Parent. "I saw Robert's shot too late for me to come out and stop it. I'm surprised he overtime took so long. It was hard to see the puck from the red line. If three men came down and made a good pass from the red line, you couldn't see the puck. A good shot from the red line could have won it. But it was the same thing for Crozier."
"There had been a lot of pressure on our line," Robert said. "People saw we scored so many goals during the season, what has happened to us now, that we're letting down, the we don't check. Philadelphia double shifts our line, you know, and they are a real good team, too. Getting a big goal like that makes you feel good. It has been tough for us."
Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Buffalo Sabres Rene Robert jersey as worn when he scored the winning goal in overtime of the "Fog Game" in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.
The original Sabres jerseys, worn from 1970-71 to 1976-77 featured a lace-up collar and no names on the back, unless it was for a national TV game, in which case names were added and then removed afterwards, as the club owners felt that not having names on the backs of the jerseys would lead to increased program sales.
Our video section today begins with highlights of the bat attack and the eventual fog bank which descended over the ice.
This look at the history of "The Aud" includes footage of Robert's overtime goal in the fog.
History Will Be Made - Jim Lorentz.