The Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock were supposed to play a full preseason game at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena at Six Nations, Ontario, on Wednesday night. They didn't really come close.
The Bandits were leading the Rock, 5-4, in the third period, when a bench-clearing brawl broke out with 5:02. The referees gave up after a while and sent everyone home for the night. How would you like to drive a few hours to that game, only to have it cancelled in that fashion? It probably didn't give the coaching staff much of a chance to make decisions about players, either.
It was the second "win" of the week for the Bandits. They defeated Philadelphia on Sunday in a game played in HSBC Arena on Sunday. Oddly, not only were fans not allowed in the game, but the media wasn't invited to that one either.
Oh well, opening day isn't far off. The Bandits start the season in Calgary on January 8.
* Caroler 5K, 27 Riley St. in East Aurora, 4 p.m. Saturday, 830-6713. This is a new race, and I've heard of quite a few people who plan to be there. It's part of the 38th annual Carolcade in East Aurora.
* Freezer 5K, 30 Mississippi St. in Buffalo, 11 a.m. Sunday, 574-0888. This is the second annual race; last year's debut caught a lot of people by surprise by how big the turnout was. The organizers will try to repeat the winning formula this time around.
Congratulations to Henry Sypniewski, for winning the USATF's Paul Spangler Award as the most outstanding masters runner in the oldest age category.
December 16, 1973 -- The Buffalo Bills played the New York Jets in windy, cold Shea Stadium on this date. The game is one of the most memorable in Bills' history, even though the outcome is generally forgotten.
The contest is best remember for the performance of O.J. Simpson. Not only did he go past Jim Brown's NFL yardage record (1,863 yards), but he became the first player to go past 2,000 yards. Simpson remains the only player to hit 2,000 in a 14-game season.
The Bills won the game, 34-14. Simpson ran 34 times for exactly 200 yards and a touchdown, as Buffalo only threw the ball five times. Jim Braxton ran for 98 yards on his own on 24 carries with two touchdowns. By the way, Joe Namath was 13 for 30 for 206 yards for the Jets.
The Bills' win gave them a 9-5 record -- not good enough for a playoff berth, but their first winning season since the 1966 campaign.
December 15, 1970 -- The professional basketball career of George Wilson features plenty of sitting and suitcases.
Wilson was a 6-foot-8 center who had the distinction of being taken three different NBA expansion drafts. He was picked by the Cincinnati Royals from the University of Cincinnati. Wilson went from there to Chicago to Seattle to Phoenix to Philadelphia. Then the Buffalo Braves took him in 1970.
Wilson rarely got off the bench in Buffalo, but he had a single great moment in his Braves' career, and it happened on this date. The Braves were playing the powerful Los Angeles Lakers, eventual finalist in the NBA playoffs. With the score tied at 111, Wilson found himself with the ball 25 feet away from the basket as time ran down. With few other options, he shot the ball ... and made it.
Game over, expansion team stuns Wilt, West, Baylor and Co., film at 11.
Wilson is basically only remembered in Buffalo for that shot, and he was done with his pro career after the 1970-71 season (one that featured only 22 Buffalo wins), but at least he had a nice moment.
For more on the Buffalo Braves' 1970-71 season, click here.
December 14, 1969 -- Do you remember the Buffalo Bills' last game in the American Football League? If you do, you may be alone. Most people, including the players, are trying to forget it.
The Bills were well out of the playoff picture by the end of the '69 season, and the final game took them to San Diego. It was definitely "run for the bus time" for Buffalo. The Chargers handed the Bills a 45-6 loss. And it wasn't that close.
Jack Kemp played in the final game of his career -- he was headed to Congress in 1970 -- and completed 16 of 33 passes for 164 yards and two interceptions. Tom Sherman cleaned up, and was 2 of 2 for 20 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Willie Grate that completed the scoring. In other words, the Bills trailed, 45-0, in the fourth quarter.
San Diego piled up 563 yards in total offense. Dickie Post ran for two touchdowns in the second-worst loss in Buffalo history.
The Bills finished 4-10 that season, despite the addition of first overall draft choice O.J. Simpson.
December 13, 1972 -- It might be the most famous fight in Buffalo Sabres history, even today. Those who don't even like boxing mixed with hockey remember it.
The Sabres were an up and coming team that season, putting aside the misery of the first two years as an expansion franchise. The team had added another very good player with its first round draft choice, as defenseman Jim Schoenfeld joined forwards Gil Perreault and Rick Martin to form the nucleus of some good teams.
This night in the Aud, Schoenfeld and Boston's Wayne Cashman tangled in one of the corners of the ice in Memorial Auditorium. All of a sudden, the two fell through the doors and started throwing punches right on the concrete.
"It kind of signified that the team was on the verge of doing something," Schoenfeld said.
The Sabres went on to win the game, 7-3. They won enough games that season to make the playoffs for the first time.
December 12, 1982 -- It's not easy to put a Steel Curtain on a team known as the Steel Curtain. However, that's a pretty good summation of what happened on a cold Sunday in December.
The Bills put on one of their best defensive showings in history in blanking the Steelers, 13-0. The statistics more or less told the story of what was considered a big AFC showdown at the time.
The Steelers were held to 94 yards in total offense, and only had six first downs. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw "threw" for 3 yards passing in the game; in all Pittsburgh was 4 for 23 through the air. Including sacks, Pittsburgh's total passing offense was minus-2.
After the contest, Bradshaw said the Steelers just weren't prepared for the cold weather at Rich Stadium that day. Apparently they also weren't prepared for Roosevelt Leaks' touchdown run and two field goals by Efren Herrera. Joe Cribbs added 143 yards on 30 carries.
The game gave both teams 4-2 records. As it turned out, the Bills lost their last three games and missed this playoffs … which wasn't easy in a year that saw eight teams from each conference make the playoffs because of the strike in the middle of the season. So this was Chuck Knox's last win as coach of the team; he left for Seattle after the season.
December 11, 1940 -- For many old-timers in Western New York, college basketball and Memorial Auditorium were almost inseparable. Eventually, teams headed to play in Madison Square Garden would stop in Buffalo to play local teams, often in memorable double-headers.
That era started right here. Canisius played its first-ever game in Memorial Auditorium, losing to Oregon, 50-42, before 2,500.
It was the opening night for that season, which saw the Golden Griffins go 10-9 under coach Allie Seelbach. The team played its last six games on the road, and won at Scranton in overtime to wrap up a winning record.
Robert Gauchat was the top player on that Griffins' team. A future Hall of Famer at the school, Gauchat led the team in scoring. Joe Niland was the captain; he went on to make the All-Century team.
Canisius played more than 600 games in Memorial Auditorium in the next 56 years, ending its run in 1996.
As we move closer to the end of the holiday shopping season, what do you get your friendly neighborhood racing fan? Today's post will look long and hard at the perfect gifts for the racing fan in your homestead. No, we're not talking about a deposit into an account wagering deposit account, we're talking actual gift-wrapped items to put under the tree.
1. Seattle Slew Ornament. Our friends at Breyer have the perfect ornament depicting the 1977 Triple Crown champ. 2. The DRF Cover Tee. Best invention for a handicapper ever. You can put the form in the simple to slide in sleeve. Comes in multiple shades of black. 3. Equine Photos. The Exclusively Equine website has some great photos of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and others. My favorite is the 2007 Belmont Stakes stretch drive between Curlin and Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the race since 1905. 4. Binoculars. What racing fan doesn't enjoy a nice pair of binocs to watch the horses as they head down the backstretch? 5. Horse Racing Ties. What male handicapper wouldn't love one of these to wear during a big day at the track?
Should you delve into eBay, here are a few gems that you can bid on between now and Christmas.
1. 2007 At The Track Santa. Who wouldn't want this piece to display old Kris Kringle at the track? A must have for the racing fan's mantle. 2. Bobbleheads Galore. Who are you looking for? A quick search of "horse racing bobbleheads" pulls up Seabiscuit, Affirmed, Zenyatta, Man o' War and Xtra Heat from the equine set. Jockeys and trainers include Mike Smith, Russell Baze, Jerry Bailey and Steve Asmussen. 3. Vintage Racing Programs. Another quick search reveals old Kentucky Derby programs and collectibles from Hollywood Park. 4. Racing Pins. A number of fairly cheap racing pins are available for the taking for less than $10. 5. Kentucky Derby glasses. Another great collectible from various past years. Every year the Derby unveils a new set of glasses to assist in mint julep consumption.
I hope that helps you in some of your holiday shopping for the racing fan in your life. Don't forget there are a plethora of racing and handicapping books out there. One particular racing book, The Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, recently won the 2010 National Book Award for Fiction. We'll be back before the end of the year to recap the year that was in thoroughbred racing.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com. He handicaps and blogs every Friday at the Sports, Ink blog at www.buffalonews.com and can be found on Twitter (@EquiSpace).
December 10, 1972 -- We thought it was going to be the last hurrah for the Old Rockpile. In one sense, it was.
The Bills played their final game in War Memorial Stadium on this date. They tied the Detroit Lions, 21-21, as O.J. Simpson ran for 116 yards on 27 carries. Greg Landry's touchdown pass to Ron Jessie spoiled the victory party for Buffalo. As of this writing, it's the last tie in the history of the Bills.
It ranked as one of the oddest games in Buffalo Bills' history, with an entirely different atmosphere than, say, the last game in Memorial Auditorium. Perhaps few people were sad to see the old stadium go. Many of the fans had smuggled all sorts of tools into their winter coats for this game. As the final seconds ticked down, spectators could watch other fans working feverishly to extract their seats from the concrete floor of the building. Apparently the idea of a sale of seats hadn't quite entered anyone's mind yet.
As it turned out, the old Rockpile needed those seats, even though the Bills landed in Rich Stadium the following August. Canisius College played some football games there. Then the Bisons landed in the facility as an Eastern League team in 1979. Baseball stayed in WMS almost another decade.
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.