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