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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A fine Mess

   March 31, 2004 - Sometimes a Buffalo team is merely around for a memorable event, part of the supporting cast rather than supplying the major part of the drama. Such was the case when Mark Messier said farewell to the loyal fans of the New York Rangers, as the Sabres provided the opposition for his last home game.

   Messier had been playing for more than 20 years at that point, and was part of the great Edmonton Oilers' teams of the 1980. However, he'll always be remembered as a member of the New York Rangers, particularly when he led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994. That remains their only championship since 1940.

   The Rangers were about to miss the postseason for the seventh straight year, and Messier didn't figure to be part of a rebuliding plan at the age of 43. So the fans responded with a goodbye that gave thrills to all in the building.

   "I had goosebumps when I saw the ovation," Sabres forward Daniel Briere said to John Vogl of The News. "The way the fans reacted and the players, it's a special moment in hockey. It might have been his last goal, so that was pretty sweet to be there."  

   Then after the game, Messier was the last one off the ice as he took in a five-minute overation.

   "I guess the great part about it is being able to share it with not only your teammates but the fans," Messier said. "The fans have been nothing but tremendously loyal. That's one of the great things about playing sports, is being able to share it with a lot of people."

--- Budd Bailey

Vote in our golf poll

 

Results will be published in The News' annual golf preview, which will appear April 7.

Don't agree with the list? Be sure to e-mail me your votes at [email protected]. Or you can send me a message on Twitter. Follow me at http://twitter.com/jayskurski

---Jay Skurski

TWC offering free Extra Innings preview

Beginning Thursday -- baseball's Opening Day -- Time Warner Cable digital subscribers will get an 11-day free preview of Major League Baseball's Extra Innings package.

Extra Innings offers up to 80 out-of-market games each week. Games of the Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Indians and Pirates are not included in our market due to MLB blackout restrictions. Saturday games on Fox and Sunday night games on ESPN are also excluded from Extra Innings.

 For the full season Extra Innings is priced at $179 if ordered by April 11, or $199 afterward. It is available only to digital subscribers.

--Greg Connors

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Audette overshadowed

   March 30, 1995 --- Here's a definition of a tough day at the office: A hockey player scores the first hat track of his NHL career ... and he doesn't even get to take a bow about it in front of the home fans.

   That's what happened to one of the Sabres on this date.

   Donald Audette was the player in question. He got three goals in a 7-0 win over the Ottawa Senators before 12,386 in Memorial Auditorium.

   The final goal came with 1:35 left to play, and obviously didn't affect the outcome. So Audette had to let others take bows.

   "I can't worry about that stuff," Audette said of the oversight to The News' Milt Northrop. "Everybody played well. Tough choice."

   First star Alexander Mogilny registered a career-high four assists, second star Jason Dawe scored a pair of goals and an assist, and third star Dominik Hasek turned in his third shutout. So called Audette the fourth star after getting the first Sabre hat trick since Derek Plante had one on Dec. 1, 1993, against Tampa Bay.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Kalsu joins the Army

   March 29, 1969 -- Bob Kalsu was an All-American tackle from Oklahoma, and was an eighth-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills in 1968. He became a regular in the Bills' lineup in his rookie season, and was voted the team's top first-year player.

   He was required to satisfy his ROTC obligation after college and thus left the Bills to become an officer in the U.S. Army on this date. Kalsu arrived in Vietnam in November, 1969, and was killed in action on July 21, 1970.

   Kalsu's wife, gave birth to their son, James Robert Kalsu Jr., only two days later. She was told of the death of her husband only hours after that.

   Bob Kalsu was the only NFL player to die in combat in Vietnam. He went on the Bills' Wall of Fame in 2000, and the team's booster club hands out a scholarship to a high school senior in his honor.

   We'll always remember him here.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Keep shooting, Bob

   March 28, 1973 -- The Buffalo Braves finished their third season in the NBA on this date. They didn't go out smiling, but one player went out shooting.

   Bob McAdoo set a team record that day by taking 36 field goals against the Houston Rockets. It stood up through the rest of the history of the franchise in Buffalo.

   There are a couple of odd tangents to discuss about that season-ending game. The Braves lost their 11th straight game that day to finish the season at 21-61. That was a single game worse than their records in their first two years. So in one sense, the Braves were going backwards.

   The Braves played their last two games that season against the Rockets in San Antonio. In fact, the teams played three games in Texas, and all of them were in San Antonio. 

   Coach Jack Ramsey saw how McAdoo was more or less unstoppable down the stretch for the Braves as he adapted to his rookie year in the NBA. Ramsey and general manager Eddie Donovan rebuilt the team around McAdoo in the offseason, starting with the trade of center Elmore Smith to Los Angeles for small forward Jim McMillian. From there, the  Braves were ready to take a big step forward.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Bizarre finish

     March 27, 1976 -- Now this is the way to make a dramatic exit from the sporting scene. 

     The Buffalo Norsemen were playing a first-round playoff series against the Johnstown Jets in the North American Hockey League. The two teams were tied at two games apiece after the Norsemen won Game Four at home. 

     During the pregame warmups of Game Five in Johnstown, the Jets jumped the Norsemen ... and the officials weren't even on the ice, so the brawl went on and on.

     Once the situation finally calmed down, the Norsemen refused to take the ice for the deciding game. The league commissioner and officials pleaded with Guy Trottier and Willie Marshall to take the ice, but they and the rest of the team refused. The game was forfeited and the Jets were awarded the series, 3-2.

     There are two more aspects of the story. The Norsemen folded after that season, so their last game was a forfeit.

     In addition, the Jets were in the midst of taking part in the filming of a hockey movie, starring Paul Newman. The story of Game Five was quickly worked into the script as part of the ending. "Slap Shot" became the most beloved movie in hockey circles in history.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Flying to the Eagles

     March 26, 2007 -- There was plenty of excitement when Takeo Spikes signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills. His departure was a bit more quiet.

     The Bills sent Spikes to Philadelphia in a trade on this date. Buffalo threw in a quarterback, Kelly Holcomb, in the deal and received defensive tackle Darwin Walker.

      "Losing players of the caliber of Takeo and Kelly is tough, though we think this deal works for everyone," Bills General Manager Marv Levy said the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

     Spikes had injury problems after a good start in Buffalo. Holcomb's departure cleared the way for Craig Nall to serve as the backup quarterback to J.P. Losman.

     Walker had been a starter for the Eagles for five straight seasons. He was known for his pass rushing skills, and the Bills hoped he'd jump right into the rotation on the defensive line.

     Walker, however, never reported to the Bills. He eventually was traded to the Chicago Bears for a draft choice.

--- Budd Bailey

Golden Gloves highlights

Buffalo Golden Gloves President Don Patterson sent us a link to highlights from last week's first round of the Western Region Golden Gloves qualifer, which also has links to past Golden Gloves bouts.

The Golden Gloves qualifier concludes April 2 at the Erie Community College Burt Flickinger Center with winners advancing to the New York State Tournament on April 16 at ECC.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PV1ObtkQpY&feature=email

---Miguel Rodriguez

Running notebook: Cross over the bridge

     You'll have to cross the international border to compete in a race this week. The one event on the schedule is all the way up in Hamilton, Ont.

     That's right, it's time for another Around the Bay event, the oldest race in North America (started in 1894). It's usually a difficult event, but the cold weather forecast ought to add an extra element of "fun."

     A couple of other notes:

     * Former Western New Yorker A.J. Walsh had a fine run in last week's Los Angeles Marathon. He ran a 2:42:51 to place 39th overall.

     The L.A. event was held in heavy rain. A highlight was that someone held up a sign at the 5-mile mark that read, "The Kenyans are already at 15 miles." Maybe so -- but everyone still gets the same shirt.

     * Last week I wondered if a $25 price tag for preregistration would scare off some runners from the Bengal Run 5K. By one standard, it did. Finishers went from 542 in 2010 to 434 in 2011. There can be other explanations for that drop, of course, but as I mentioned I did hear a lot of complaints about the price in the days leading up to the race.

     I should mention, though, that the headband premium wasn't something Wilt Chamberlain wore during his basketball days, but rather a nice, embroiderered winter item that covers the runners' ears. I've never gotten one of those before at a race.

--- Budd Bailey

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