Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Blizzard of '77 - 1976-77 Buffalo Sabres Gerry Desjardins Jersey

The snow started to fall early in the morning of Friday, January 28th and the winds began to blow at 29 miles and hour with gusts up to 49 mph as the Buffalo Sabres practiced before a scheduled flight to Montreal later that afternoon.

As the cold front reached Buffalo at 11:35 AM, the temperature fell 26 degrees, reaching zero within four hours and the winds now averaged 46 mph with gusts up to 69 mph, creating wind chills of -60º to -70º.

Thousands were stranded in offices, schools and factories as roads became impassable when as much as eight inches of snow fell or was blown off the frozen Lake Erie, on top of the 33 inches that had already choked Buffalo that winter. An estimated 13,000 people were stranded in downtown Buffalo alone, along with an estimated 8,000 cars clogging the roads of the city, many of which ended up completely buried. Some Sabres employees were forced to sleep overnight in the Sabres home rink "The Aud", among the 300 people who took shelter there.

Abandoned cars, Abandoned cars

Six homes were completely destroyed on one block as fire trucks were unable to get through the drifts to reach the fire. A state of emergency was declared in Erie County were Buffalo is located, as well as Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties as drifts reached 15 feet high by nightfall as the high winds combined with the unusual weather conditions earlier that winter left Lake Erie covered with ice and a layer of snow that was easily picked up by the winds and deposited on shore in Buffalo. In a typical winter, the snow on the lake went through a thaw and freeze cycle that would leave it with a hard crust on top, preventing the wind from carrying the snow into the city in such massive amounts.

Driving home from practice, Sabres winger Jim Lorentz had to abandon his car and walk the last mile as the snow was now "bumper-high". He did not find his car until three days later.

Gary McAdam had five separate accidents in his new Thunderbird in his attempt to return home. At the scene of the fifth accident, while examining his battered car, another vehicle came sliding toward his, causing McAdam to jump onto the trunk of his car as the sliding vehicle came to a halt against his bumper.

It took Lee Fogolin and Brian Spencer an incredible four hours to make the five-minute drive to their condominium. They were not seen again for three days.

Sabres coach Floyd Smith postponed the team's planned departure from Friday to Saturday, but the blizzard conditions remained as the wind continued to howl, clocked at speeds up to 51 mph, blowing even more snow into Buffalo from Lake Erie.

Buried School Bus, Buried School Bus

Saturday, for the first time in 143 years the Buffalo Courier Express could not publish it's morning newspaper.

Coach Smith was able to make it to the airport by following snow plows, but it stretched his usual 20 minute drive to two hours. Defenseman Jerry Korab couldn't even open the door of his house, so he called winger Rene Robert and told him, "If you want me to protect you tonight, come dig me out." Robert arrived with his four-wheel-drive truck, dug Korab out and headed off for the airport with three additional teammates along for the ride.

By 3 PM, only 10 players had arrived. As Smith as about to phone Montreal to cancel the game, Jocelyn Guevremont, who had gotten to his four-wheel-drive vehicle by jumping out of a window and shoveling his way to his garage, arrived with four other players, giving Buffalo enough bodies to make the trip.

"On the plane, the stewardesses were hollering at the pilots that we couldn't take off," recalled Don Luce. "I think they tried to turn it around, but all the plane did was blow sideways. Somehow they got it in the air."

Sabres Hall of Fame announcer Ted Darling was unable to make the flight to Montreal and was forced to call the game over the phone from his apartment while watching the game on television.

Once the game got underway, not surprisingly, the Canadiens broke out on top with a goal from Serge Savard at 17:23 to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. It would take Montreal just 35 seconds to extend their lead to 2-0 thanks to a goal by Steve Shutt.

Buffalo would dig in and convert a power play opportunity for their first goal, which came at 6:47 from  Andre Savard from team captain Gilbert Perreault and Robert.

Montreal reasserted their expected dominance over the undermanned Sabres with Yvon Lambert's goal at 14:47. Still, Buffalo fought back and Luce kept the Sabres in touch with his 14th goal of the season at 15:55 from McAdam and Craig Ramsay. The period would finish that way, with Montreal leading 3-2 despite being outshot by Buffalo 20-14.

For the remainder of the contest, the Sabres and goaltender Gerry Desjardins would keep Montreal's high powered offense at bay. Eventually, defenseman Jim Schoenfeld would solve Michel Larocque at 8:25 to even the score at 3-3.

Gerry Desjardins, Gerry Desjardins
Gerry Desjardins

Schoenfeld's goal would hold up, as the Sabres rallied to limit the Canadiens to just five shots for the third period, to earn the plucky and shorthanded Sabres an unexpected, if not unbelievable, 3-3 tie on this date in 1977 against the defending (and eventual) Stanley Cup champions, outshooting them by a final margin of 27-19.

The blizzard forced the Sabres to cancel the following night's game in Buffalo against the Los Angeles Kings, a day when the winds continued to howl with gusts up to 52 mph.

White Buffalo, White Buffalo
Snow covered Buffalo, with it's highways abandoned and covered in white

Monday, the Sabres boarded a bus for what turned out to be a 10-hour trip across New York State for a game against the Islanders to start a three game road trip as the storm raged in Buffalo until Tuesday. While only 12 inches of new snow fell, the wind created drifts that finally topped out at 30 feet. Some areas even banned snowmobiles, as one rider was injured in a collision with a chimney on top of a house and the high drifts caused low clearance issues with power lines! Some towns even resorted to using metal detectors to locate buried cars before plowing the roads.

The Sabres next scheduled home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was also postponed while the city was still recovering from the paralyzing drifts, meaning the Sabres went two weeks without a home game. Additionally, the Buffalo Braves of the NBA postponed four of their scheduled home games.

In all, there were 29 storm related deaths in Western New York, 11 of those in the City of Buffalo. Nine of those unfortunate people were found buried in their cars.

Several books have been written about the Blizzard of '77, which are available here.


There was even a Blizzard of '77 board game created in the aftermath, in which, once the blizzard hits, you flip the board over and now all the spaces become hazards of one sort or another, making any movement difficult at best!

Blizzard Game, Blizzard Game

Today's featured jersey is a 1976-77 Buffalo Sabres Buffalo Sabres Gerry Desjardins jersey, the style worn in Montreal the night 15 intrepid Buffalo Sabres managed to escape storm ravaged Buffalo to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens and hold them to a 3-3 tie.

At the time the Sabres were only in their sixth season and this was still their original jersey style with the tie-neck collar, no logos on the shoulders and without names on the back, which were added the following season. The Sabres jerseys retained their lace up collars until 1978-79 when they were replaced by v-neck sweaters.

Desjardins began his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings in 1968-69 and was later involved in a trade which sent him to the Chicago Black Hawks in 1969-70. Chicago actually traded him to the California Seals on September 9th, 1971, only to be sent back to Chicago in another trade five weeks later before ever playing a game for California!

The New York Islanders claimed him in the 1972 expansion draft from Chicago. He suffered through two losing seasons as the Islanders found their feet in the NHL. Desjardins sought greener pastures in the WHA, but signed for the 1974-75 season with the unstable Michigan Stags franchise, which became the Baltimore Blades mid-season, a move which triggered an escape clause in his contract, allowing him to sign with the Buffalo Sabres in time to appear in nine regular season games as well as the teams playoff run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

With Buffalo, he found not only stability, but success as well, easily setting career highs with 29 and then 31 wins as the Sabres number one goaltender before being forced to retire after being struck in the eye by a puck after playing just three games of the 1977-78 season.

Buffalo Sabres 76-77 jersey
Buffalo Sabres 76-77 jersey

Today's first video is an amazing look at the Blizzard of 1977 and its effects on Buffalo.

Here is a pair of videos showing how a wall of snow coming off of Lake Erie can turn an ordinary day into a white out in a matter of minutes.


  1. I spent the day with Brian Spencer shooting pool at his house while we watched the team play Montreal. There was no way to go anywhere all roads impassable. My car was stuck in the middle of New rd. And eventually completely buried. I sure miss Brian.


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