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Bandits' notebook: Dietrich retires

If you plan to make an all-time Buffalo Bandits team for their upcoming 20th anniversary season, you might want to give some consideration to Steve Dietrich as the team's starting goalie.

Dietrich announced his retirement from indoor lacrosse on Monday, according to NLL Insider. The veteran had been with the Toronto Rock as a backup to Bob Watson; he will join the Rock as a goalie coach for the 2011 season.

Dietrich played 18 seasons in the NLL, but he'll be remembered for his 2006 season with the Bandits. He was picked as the Most Valuable Player for the league that season, the only time that has ever happened in the league. Dietrich went 10-4 with a goals-against average under 10. John Tavares once said that he's never seen a goalie have a better year than the one Dietrich turned in with the Bandits in 2006.

Dietrich also played with Baltimore, Detroit, Rochester, Calgary and Edmonton over the years.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: On the road to the Derby

Hollywood Prevue Stakes Horse Race
By Gene Kershner

Last weekend featured races on both coasts that provided valuable graded stakes earnings to several colts seeking one of the 20 starting gates for the 137th Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May. The top 20 horses in graded earnings automatically qualify for the Kentucky Derby and the purses for both races gave the winners a boost to claim one of those coveted spots.

The Grade 3, $1 million dollar Delta Downs Jackpot was gobbled up by 20-1 longshot Gourmet Dinner, who drew away in the stretch for a two-length victory over nine 2-year-old rivals. The winner covered the mile and 1/16 in 1:45.23, paying a whopping $42 for the win. Bug Juice, a speedy colt who had won two non-graded stakes at Finger Lakes Race Track, set fast early fractions but gave way to the longshot in mid-stretch.

Gourmet Dinner's sire Trippi was more of a sprinter winning several graded stakes at distances of 7-furlongs, so while he may have earned a gate in Louisville, he'll probably be a horse who will have sky high odds to win at the mile and 1/4 distance of the Derby. Gourmet Dinner, winner of four of his last five, shipped in from Calder Race Course in Miami with his regular rider, Sebastian Madrid.

Last year's Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Calvin Borel, did not fare as well as Madrid. Borel was unseated by Aces N Kings when the horse failed to negotiate the final turn and bolted. Borel suffered a broken jaw in the incident and will miss the remainder of the Churchill Downs Fall meeting. In addition to the jaw injury he also has a large laceration all the way to the bone about four inches across on his chin.

The other graded race for 2-year-old colts this weekend, the $100,000 Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes, was won by a promising colt, Premier Pegasus, above. The son of the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, wired the field in the 7-furlong event in 1:22.78. Premier Pegasus will be one to watch over the Derby prep season as he certainly has the pedigree to handle Churchill Downs. Last year's Hollywood Prevue Stakes winner, American Lion, finished in 11th place in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.

Premier Pegasus is trained and owned by Myung Kwon Cho. He was also bred by Cho in Kentucky. He is undefeated in three starts after breaking his maiden in July at Del Mar and winning a non-graded stake at Hollywood in October.

We'll also keep an eye on the late closing, Industry Leader, who made up a few lengths in the stretch, but could not catch Premier Pegasus before the wire. It was only the Cherokee Run colt's second lifetime race, so into the virtual stable he goes as a potential contender down the line.

We'll unveil our Post Time Derby Watch List in January as road to Louisville starts to unfold over the first quarter of 2011.

Look for a Post Time preview of Saturday's Cigar Mile this Friday, the highlight race at Aqueduct, before heading to the inner track for the winter meeting.

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at


This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Roland on the spot

   November 22, 1981 -- It qualifies as one of the most dramatic finishes in Bills' history.

   The 6-5 Bills had fallen behind the 2-9 Patriots, 17-13, in the final seconds. Matt Cavanaugh had hit Don Hasselback with a 2-yard touchdown pass just after the two-minute warning. The game looked over. Then Joe Ferguson hit Roland Hooks with a long pass to get the ball to the New England 36.

   OK, there was a heartbeat, but a faint one. Then Ferguson threw a long pass toward the end zone ... which was deflected by the Patriots' Mike Hawkins ... into the waiting arms of Hooks for a game-winning touchdown.

   Bills win, 20-17. Fandemonium, as someone once said. (OK, I should give credit to Van Miller.)

   Hooks finished with six receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for 45 yards. Nick Mike-Mayer had two field goals for Buffalo.

   The Bills, buoyed by the win, won their next three games to move to 10-5, and they made the playoffs for the second straight year.

   So remember, never leave a game too early.

-- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: An all-time great visits

     November 21, 1920 -- The greatest players in football have been regular visitors to Buffalo since the American Football League fully merged with the National Football League for the 1970 season. Sometimes the greats visited our city before that too.

     Jim Thorpe certainly qualifies as one of those greats. He won the decathlon at the 1912 Olympics, and had played pro baseball and football after that. When the American Professional Football Association was formed for the 1920 season, Thorpe played a major role.

     In fact, he had several roles. Thorpe was named president of the league, which was the direct predecessor of the National Football League, but he still maintained his old position as coach of the Canton Bulldogs. What's more, he occasionally suited up to play.

     The Bulldogs came to Buffalo Baseball Park to play the Buffalo All-Americans on this date. He guaranteed that he'd play at least a quarter, and so 15,000 turned out to watch him do it. Thorpe didn't make much of an impact in the game.

     The All-Americans lost the contest, 3-0, as Al Feeney kicked a 20-yard field goal with four minutes left. It was the first loss of the season for Buffalo, which had won its first seven contests. 

     The APFA was a loose association of teams in that first year, and the Akron Pros' 8-0-3 record was declared better than the All-Americans' 9-1-1 mark. Thus the Pros were declared league champions.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Pennant-clinching party

     November 20, 1988 -- If you are going to win a championship, you might as well do it in dramatic fashion.

     The Bills certainly followed those instructions when they wrapped up the AFC East title in almost record time. They beat the New York Jets, 9-6, for their first division crown since 1980.

     It wasn't a day for scoring, due to rain. Pat Leahy kicked a field goal for the Jets in the second quarter, Scott Norwood answered with two field goals, and Leahy then tied the score at 6-6.

     Leahy had a chance to win the game with a 40-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in regulation time. But Fred Smerlas broke through and blocked the kick to send the game into overtime.

      Norwood kicked one through from 30 yards out in OT, and the Bills were division champs with an 11-1 record. And the fans stormed the field in celebration. Part of a goal post was passed up to Bills owner Ralph Wilson in his box.

--- Budd Bailey

Turkey Trot sells out

The Turkey Trot has reached its capacity of 12,500 participants for the 155th running of this Thanksgiving Day road race, organizers said in a press release.

A cutoff number was set to assure everyone's safety on the course and at the postrace party in the Buffalo Convention Center, according to the release.

Organizers urge those who want to run next year's race to sign up online when registration becomes available, which usually happens in July.

The race starts at the corner of Delaware and Shoreham in North Buffalo on Thursday morning.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Everyone over the boards

     November 19, 1978 -- Fighting still takes place in the National Hockey League, but the amount of mayhem has gone down over the years. Today's anniversary is proof of that, and may surprise you.

     On this date, the Sabres had one of their last bench-clearing brawls -- one of those "everyone over the boards" situations that used to happen from time to time. The game was against the North Stars in Memorial Auditorium. It may have been the last one at home, depending on how you define your terms.

     The mayhem started at 15:17 of the second period. Those getting major penalties and/or misconducts were Danny Gare and Ric Seiling for the Sabres, and six members of the North Stars. 

     The Sabres had a 3-1 lead at the time of the incident, and they seemed to be on the power play for the rest of the second period. Jerry Korab had two goals (completing a hat trick) and Andre Savard added one to make it 6-1 after 20 minutes. 

     Savard added two more goals in the third period to finish his hat trick, and Don Luce scored Buffalo's other goal. It all added up to a 9-2 win.

   The Sabres and Kings had a big brawl in Los Angeles in March, 1985, while the teams were changing lines.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: The first look

Here are a few items about the Bandits that have come up in the past couple of days:

* Your first look at the team will come on Sunday, Dec. 5. The Bandits will stage an open practice at HSBC Arena. The team will work out from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by an autograph session from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The Bandits are selling season tickets in the 300 level this year. The cost is $17 per game, which is $7 less than the bow office price. In addition, the team will unveil its new 20th anniversary retro jersey.

* U.S. Indoor Lacrosse has announced its team for next May's world championships. It will be held in Prague. Joe Smith is the only Bandit to make the reserve list. The American team will have five more players move from the reserve list to the roster in February, so the defender has a chance to make the team.

* There's considerable talk that Ken Montour still hasn't recovered from concussion issues, and he may be forced to miss the entire 2011 season. That covers a lot of time, of course, but it doesn't look good at this point. Mike Thompson, coming off a great summer season in Peterborough, moves up to the starting job while Angus Goodleaf would back him up. It might not be a stunner to see the Bandits pick up a little more experienced depth at the position.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Out the door

     December 8, 1963 -- If you are an old-time sports fan, you've heard of the Polo Grounds. That's the old facility in New York City that hosted some of the greatest moments in sports history, particularly baseball. Bobby Thomson's legendary playoff homer in 1951 would have been an out in a lot of stadium, but not the Polo Grounds.

     The Buffalo Bills played a part in the building's great history. They provided the opposition for the New York Titans in the last football game ever played there. The New York Giants had played in the Polo Grounds for a while, but later switched to Yankee Stadium.

     If you are coming up with a list of the greatest days in history by a Bills' running back, this one belongs in the argument. Cookie Gilchrist had a game for the ages against the New York Jets in War Memorial Stadium.

     He set an AFL record by rushing for 243 yards on 36 carries. The total was higher than anyone had ever compiled in the rival National Football League. Buffalo had a team total of 285 yards rushing on the day.

     Gilchrist made his runs count, too. He ran for five touchdowns on the day as the Bills took a 45-14 decision from the Jets. Gilchrist set an AFL record for yards in a season in that game, finishing the day with 1,096 yards.

     The win ended a two-game losing streak and moved Buffalo's record up to 6-6-1. Farewell, old friend, as Seymour Knox once said about another old building.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Beat Toronto

     November 18, 1970 -- It was a game that Punch Imlach had been waiting months to play.

     Imlach was the new coach and general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, having been fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs more than a year before that. It's fair to say he couldn't wait to go to his old stomping grounds and play the Leafs in Maple Leaf Gardens. In fact, he had a sign in his office that made the point rather nicely. It read: "Beat Toronto."

     Imlach had tuned up his roster with veterans in the days before the game, including Phil Goyette and Donnie Marshall. Then he went into the locker room in Toronto just before the first-ever game between the teams and said that if the team won that contest, the players wouldn't have to pay any outstanding fines.

     "The whole room went big-eyed," Gerry Meehan said later.

     Imlach received a long standing ovation when he appeared behind the Buffalo bench. Then his players took to the ice and thrashed the Leafs, 7-2.

     Buffalo scored the last five goals of the game, as Meehan and Larry Keenan had two goals each. By the end of the night, even Toronto's fans were cheering Buffalo goals. And a rivalry was born.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.