Friday, October 15, 2010

1970-71 Buffalo Sabres Roger Crozier Jersey

The Buffalo Sabres were granted an NHL franchise in December of 1969 to begin play in the 1970-71 season. Punch Imlach was hired to build the team and immediately set out to assemble a scouting staff for the upcoming draft six months later.

On June 10, 1970, the Sabres and fellow expansion club the Vancouver Canucks participated in the expansion draft, which Imlach said "wasn't a very enticing prospect", as the existing 12 clubs could protect fifteen players plus two goalies, meaning the best the Sabres could hope for was the 16th best player from any club. To make matters worse, once a team lost a player, they could protect another, which meant the Sabres and Canucks would then be choosing the 18th best player at best. In addition, first-year players were exempt as well. Montreal, for an extreme example, was able to protect fifteen players and two goalies, plus an additional 12 players and Boston was in a position to protect eight additional beyond the prescribed 15, leaving nothing but scraps for the Sabres and Canucks in the first phase of attempting to put a respectable team on the ice.

Thus, their hopes of getting some noteworthy talent focused on the Amateur Draft held the next day. There was still the matter of deciding if Buffalo or Vancouver would have the first pick, which was usually decided by a coin toss, but Imlach explains in his book "Heaven and Hell in the NHL",
"For some reason, perhaps because it made better television, the NHL substituted a big jeezly wheel, the kind you see on the midway. It was numbered one to twelve. I won a toss to see who picked what numbers for the main spin. I chose the top ones. There was a hell of a crowd in the ballroom at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, everyone in hockey there. When the first spin of the wheel stopped at eight, I had won first choice in the expansion draft. Everybody at our table cheered. But now came the big one."

Clarence Campbell spun the wheel. When it stopped, he looked at the winning number and announced "Number one! Vancouver wins first choice in the amateur draft!"

But I was on my feet and so was everybody at our table, pointing and yelling, "Eleven! Eleven!"

Clarence took another look. The digits in the double figures were one above the other.

It's always amused me that Clarence didn't say, "I've made a mistake." He said, "There has been a mistake. The winning number is eleven..." the rest was drowned out in the wild uproar, not only at our table, but through the room, with only Vancouver and it's supporters remaining quiet. Even glum."
Prior to the expansion and amateur drafts, the Sabres had acquired a few players, but no one anyone was interested in trading for. But now in position to pick first in the expansion draft, Sid Abel of the Detroit Red Wings approached Inlach with a proposal. Abel was coveting Tom Webster, a 21 year old right winger who the Bruins had left unprotected. Imlach continues,
"But this night when [Abel] saw me, it was only a few hours after I'd won first choice in the expansion draft. He hooked his arm though mine and said so the guys with me could hear, "Come with me, Punch. I want to give you something."

"I'll bet you do!" I said.

We walked to a quite corner.

"Look, you know Tom Webster?"

"Yeah." The protected lists were out and Webster was not protected. Detroit wanted him, badly. Obviously.

"If you'll pick Webster first, we'll trade you Roger Crozier for him," Abel said.

Music! Whatever else we got in the draft, we just had to come up with an NHL goalkeeper. But Crozier was beyond my wildest dreams. He had won the rookie award in his first full year, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs a year later and had a low 2.65 goals against average in the season just ended. But he wasn't happy in Detroit an dthey though he was sick too much. That's when you can get a guy.

"You got a deal!" I told Abel.
With the goaltending position now addressed and his plan to select Gilbert Perreault in the amateur draft lined up, Imlach took defensemen with four of his next five picks before going after the best skaters and scorers he could get in an effort to provide the public in Buffalo an exciting as possible product.

The opportunity to provide the public in Buffalo that product finally arrived on this date in 1970, when the Sabres played their first ever home game in the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium The Aud

"We hadn't been able to get the balcony built for that season. We didn't even have our own dressing room," Imlach recalled.

The Sabres had already won their debut game on the road in Pittsburgh 2-1 and lost in New York to the Rangers 3-0 before returning home to face the Montreal Canadiens.
"They played that funny game where they don't let you have the puck. I remember before the game, at the reception the Knoxes threw for opening night, somebody said that everybody there would do anything they could to help the Knoxes, except play goal. The game that night show how true that was. Roger Crozier was just magnificent in our goal, but they outshot us 44-14 and beat us 3-0."
While it may have been the Sabres first game in "The Aud", it was far from the first event ever held there, as Memorial Auditorium opened thirty years and a day earlier on October 14, 1940 and it's first tenant was the AHL's Buffalo Bisons hockey team until the arrival of the Sabres in 1970. Also calling The Aud home beginning in 1970 were the Buffalo Braves of the NBA as well as indoor lacrosse, soccer and roller hockey teams and the usual concerts, rodeos and circuses.

To accomodate the arrival of the Sabres and Braves, the roof of the arena was raised 24 feet to make room for a new upper level of seating which raised the capacity for hockey from 12,280 to 15,858. Later renovations pushed that total to 16,433 seats and air conditioning was added in 1990 to try to modernize the building until a new arena could be funded and constructed.

The air conditioning would also prevent another occurrence of an incident in 1975 when a playoff game in the spring was plagued by a thick fog forming on the ice as a result of a sold out building and the warm weather outside heating up the building too much.

1975 Buffalo Fog Game
"The Fog Game" during the 1975 playoffs

The Aud remained in use until 1996 and was not demolished until 2009. For a fascinating look inside the abandoned Buffalo Memorial Auditorium prior to it's demolition, click here.

Today's featured jersey is a 1970-71 Buffalo Sabres Roger Crozier jersey. The original Sabres jerseys featured a lace-up collar and no names on the back until mandated by the league in 1977. This style lasted as long as the Sabres played in The Aud, and were replaced by a new buffalo head logo as well as a radical change in color scheme from blue and gold to black and red with the move to their new arena.

Crozier had actually played for the Buffalo Bisons in the AHL prior to his making the jump to the NHL with the Red Wings in 1963. Following his trade to the expansion Sabres, he would return to Buffalo and The Aud for six seasons before closing out his career with a brief stint of three games with the Washington Capitals in 1976. He was the first member inducted in the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 1980.

Buffalo Sabres 70-71 jersey

This video tribute to the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium includes footage of the game winning goal for the Sabres from "The Fog Game" and Wayne Gretzky breaking the single season goal scoring record of 76.

Our final video today is the final minute of the last game ever played at The Aud.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome and encourage genuine comments and corrections from our readers. Please no spam. It will not be approved and never seen.


hit counter for blogger