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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Cleaning house

     June 13, 1995 -- The Buffalo Sabres weren't in good shape in the summer of 1995. The Sabres had gone after some big offensive talent earlier in the decade in an attempt to create excitement that would lead to the contruction of a new arena.

     That happened, as the Crossroads Arena was on its way toward completion. As for the team, though, the plans blew up after a painful loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 1995 playoffs.

     It was time to start over. Team president Doug Moss decided that general manager/coach John Muckler could do that job ... as long as he gave up his coaching duties. Muckler agreed.

     It was a big task. The Sabres had to get younger, bigger, stronger and cheaper -- all at once. Buffalo was fifth in the NHL in payroll in 1994-95, and one round in the playoffs didn't justify that.

     "You can't justify our costs with our results," Muckler said. "You just can't do it.  "I love to coach, there's no question about that. Everyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy coaching, (but) there's a time in everybody's career to take on a new challenge. I dream of winning a Stanley Cup as a coach, and now I dream of winning a Stanley Cup as a general manager."

     Players as Alexander Mogilny, Dale Hawerchuk and Craig Simpson were gone by training camp.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Coming up empty

     June 12, 1999 -- The Stanley Cup Finals were back in Buffalo on this date.

     Twenty-four years was a long time to wait. The last game for the Finals came when the Flyers wrapped up the Cup in 1975 with a Game Six victory.

     This time the Dallas Stars were the villains. In particularly, Joe Nieuwendyk didn't do anyone in Buffalo any favors. He scored both Dallas goals in a 2-1 win over the Sabres.

     While the Stars' forward had a memorable night, the Sabres' offense had an evening to forget. The team set a franchise record for fewest shots on goal in a playoff game with 12. Only Stu Barnes could figure out a way to score.

     "We weren't skating well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought they skated better than us for whatever reason -- being at home, being a little tight, being too pumped up."

     Buffalo had big problems on the power play, going 0 for 8.

     "They got guys on top of the box to block shots," Sabres defenseman James Patrick said. "They worked hard, and they had [Ed] Belfour behind them. They didn't give us any room to operate."

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Live from the Belmont Stakes

ELMONT - Good morning from overcast Belmont Park on Long Island.  The New York metropolitan area took in some rain last night and the track is listed as muddy and the turf courses are listed as good. We’re locked and loaded for a very competitive Belmont Stakes, racing’s last leg of the Triple Crown.  We’ll keep you posted as the day wears on as to track condition changes, weather, my lunch menu (there’s some good chow in the back yard), how I see the stakes races unfolding and some general banter around the Belmont Stakes. First post is at 11:35 a.m. with a 8-1/2 furlong allowance race on the turf. 

One of yesterday’s Post Time Brooklyn/Belmont Double wagers is live to 4 horses. We wagered $30 total and our smallest ticket included the Brooklyn winner Birdrun and will be a winner if 1-Master of Hounds ($34.60), 4-Santiva ($81), 5-Brilliant Speed ($71.50) and 9-Animal Kingdom ($34.20).  Those were my top four choices in yesterday’s News, so fingers crossed. 

Some fun facts around the Belmont Stakes include that it is the oldest Triple Crown event (today will be the 143rd edition). It is also the fourth oldest race in North America. The biggest win ticket cashed was Sarava ($14.50) in 2002 and the smallest was in 1943 when Count Fleet paid $2.10. There have been 36 “off” tracks (25.3 percent) and that percentage may go up today. 

The most popular first initial for winning Belmont runners has been C (note: there are none today) with 20 winners and S with 18 winners (hello Santiva or Shackleford?).  Post position 1 has delivered 23 winners and post 5 has delivered 14 winners.  The colors of Belmont winners are deadlocked at 53 between bay and chestnut colored horses. 

“New York, New York”, returns as the Belmont song, which had been the song of choice from 1997 to 2009. “Sidewalks of New York” was performed prior to 1997, and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” made a brief appearance last year.  The largest Belmont crowd was in 2004 for Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown attempt when 120,139 showed up at Big Sandy. 

12:55 p.m. We're through the first three races and my first Carolina Barbeque BBQ pork sandwich, and all went swimmingly well. Yours truly is still live in the early Pick-4 to 1,5,7/1,7,9 and the sammy was absolutely tasty. A slight drizzle is falling over Belmont Park right now and still no change in track conditions. According to my doppler app it appears that the worst of the system has headed north of Long Island.

Race 4 features 7-Rattlesnake Bridge, a horse who finished second to Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer at Gulfstream Park in March. He's taking the early money in this one, I also favor 1-Glickman and 5-Ripples n' Waves, both who have decent wet Tomlinson figures. 11-Johannesburg Smile is the only horse I'm having second thoughts about and might be worth a saver bet on.

1:18 p.m. A nice handicapping play worked there. After looking back at the past performances, I decided to back up my base bet with an exacta with 11-Johannesburg Smile on top of the three horses I played in the Pick-4, thus protecting my base wager.  The $1 exacta paid $15 and thus softened the blow of losing the multi-race wager. Unfortunately we had a breakdown in that race, as the 5-Ripples n' Waves was vanned off, let's hope he's not too badly injured.

1:35 p.m. Some early odds on the Belmont Stakes: Master of Hounds, 4-1;Stay Thirsty, 17-1; Ruler On Ice, 33-1; Santiva, 13-1; Brilliant Speed, 9-1; Nehro, 7-2; Monzon, 30-1; Prime Cut, 22-1; Animal Kingdom, 5-2; Mucho Macho Man, 7-1; Isn’t He Perfect, 34-1; Shackleford, 10-1.  Interesting that Mastr of Hounds has dropped six points to 4-1 and the two horses I mentioned in Friday's print article that should thrive in the slop, Nehro and MMM both have picked up some steam at the windows.

2:00 p.m. The first stakes race of the card is up next, the 81st running of the Grade 1 Acorn. The star of the show is 2-Turbulent Descent who ships in from California for trainer Mike Puype. She's been terrific so far and scared away a number of foes in this race. Last year's edition of the Acorn had 13 entries, today has 6. She's my single heading into a big two-day carryover Pick-6.

2:58 p.m. I was down in the paddock before the Acorn and It's Tricky did look as fabulous as she did on the track. She's starts off the Pick-6 with a $22 winner. Turbulent Descent just couldn't get it going and was second as the 1-5 favorite. Bobby Flay's Her Smile came in third. Puype said of his beaten favorite, "She got outrun. the filly on the lead ran big. That's what happens when you get a muddy track. We must have been seven or eight lengths clear of the next horse. I'm not going to say we ran a short horse. That's just the way she runs. She ran well."

3:10 p.m. The Grade 2 True North is up next and I favor the Dutrow entry in here and if you're looking for a live long shot, 6-Khan of Khans should be a healthy price.

3:21 p.m. Well we no know that 3-Trappe Shot ($4.60) sure likes to run on Belmont Day. He ran huge last year as a 3-year old winning going away and today was no different winning the True North by 8-1/2 lengths! A tremendous victory for Kiaran McLaughlin's Tapit colt. Khan of Khans faded after leading at the top of the stretch.

The 7-furlong Grade 2 Woody Stephens is next which kicks off a $1 million guaranteed Pick-4 sequence into the Belmont Stakes. I'm going to ride JJ's Lucky Train in the first leg (along with 1-Travelin Man and 2-Justin Phillip). Justin Phillip has a win in the slop and was outfinished in his last where he led in the stretch in a one mile race.

 4:03 p.m. Nice win by 2-Justin Phillip ($10.80) at 4-1 under blistering fractioons of 22.23 and 44.45 and finishes it in 1:23.56. A tremendous victory and a good start to our Pick-4!! We had that one nailed with JJ's Lucky Train finished second.

The Grade 1 Just a Game is next, I'm heading down to the paddock to check out 2-Aviate, who I favor here. 

4:55 p.m. Upset city! 4-C.S. Silk ($27.20) drifted up from her morning line of 6-1 to 12-1 and hung on after leading most of the way defeating 6-Fantasia by three lengths for another big priced winner in the Pick-6 sequence. I'm live in one backup P-4 ticket (with a partner) with 4/9,10 left in the final two legs. The last horse we switched from our prime A ticket to the B ticket was....wait for it....C.S. Silk.

The 110th edition of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap is on deck. The odds on favorite will be 4-Gio Ponti, but i also favor 6-Viscount Nelson (first time Lasix, shipped in from Ireland) and 7-Prince Will I Am (Johnny V in the irons). Historically race fans haven't been able to watch the Manhattan because the national telecast wouldn't show it, but NBC has it on today's schedule.

The rain has subsided, but the track is still sloppy and the turf has been downgraded to yielding. Time to start putting together our Belmont tickets. Animal Kingdom is still the current favorite at 3-1 in the Belmont.

5:13 p.m. If you're looking for a long shot here, I would favor 3-Winward Islands, currently 11-1 (up from his 8-1 morning line) or 8-Bim Bam, who ran well on the Preakness undercard, a beaten third by Paddy O'Prado in the Dixie.

With the sloppy track, it's becoming tougher and tougher to figure out the Belmont. Front runners have done well so far and that may favor Shackleford, so depending on the early fractions, especially if he can go a half in 0:50 or higher he may just run away with it. My only hesitation is the distance factor. With a field of 12 horses with just two "off" track races amongst them, it may be time to sit back, have a cold one and enjoy the race.

5:46 p.m. A huge upset in the Manhattan with longshots 1A-Mission Approved ($44.00) at 21-1 over 8-Bim Bam who went to post at 31-1 and nosed out 4-Gio Ponti. The favorite Gio Ponti tried to come up the rail at the top of the stretch, couldn't find room and had to swing wide to make his late run, but came up short. Big balloons on the tote board with the $1 exacta paying $554 and the $1 trifecta payout at $1,920.

It's time to get ready for the last leg of the Triple Crown. There are four horses still live to a monstrous Pick-6 payout of $1,130,718.50 and one of those horses is NOT Animal Kingdom. The four live horses are 1-Master of Hounds, 4-Santiva, 6-Nehro and 10-Mucho Macho Man. Yowsa.

6:25 p.m. They’re on the track in the post parade and the crowd is roaring with Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York blaring in the background. I’ll stick with my picks from the paper (1,4,5,9) and use Nehro and Mucho Macho Man underneath.  Best of luck everyone and we’ll check back in after the race.

7:10 p.m. Well that was a shocker. 3-Ruler On Ice with blinkers on and a wet track win sitting in his past performances snuck by everyone, including yours truly to win at 25-1, paying $51.50 to win, $26 to place and $13.60 to show. He combined with 16-1 Stay Thirsty combined for a $1 exacta payout of $464. The $1 trifecta completed with 5-Brilliant Speed paid a whopping $4,134. The $1 superfecta was over $37,000. 

It was quite the Triple Crown season, thanks for following along in each of the live Triple Crown blogs, I hope you enjoyed the ride and cashed a ticket or two along the way!  Now it's time for the summer season and Saratoga is just six weeks away...

- - Gene Kershner

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A spin of the wheel

     June 11, 1970 -- When the Buffalo Sabres were granted an NHL franchise in 1969, Seymour Knox III received some good advice from Rangers' owner Bill Jennings. Knox was told to keep an eye on a young center playing in Quebec who was billed as the next Jean Beliveau.

     Knox was smart enough to remember that. Gil Perreault's name would come up many times in Sabre history.

     But first, he had to become a member of the Sabres. The league's Entry Draft was held on this day, and Buffalo and Vancouver were both candidates for the top pick. It was to be determined by the spin of a wheel.

     NHL President Clarence Campbell first looked at the wheel and said that the number had come as one, causing the Canucks' front office to cheer. But then Campbell looked closer and said, "There has been a mistake." The number was 11, and that meant the Sabres had won lottery.

     Perreault had scored 121 points in 54 games with the Montreal Junior Canadiens. He finished his career with 512 goals, five more than Beliveau had in his great career.

     As for the other picks that day, the Sabres took Butch Deadmarsh, Steve Cuddie, Randy Wyrozub, Mike Morton, Tim Keeler, Tim Regan, Doug Rombough and Luc Nadeau.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Plenty of notes and races

    A few stories picked up around Western New York running circles this week:

   * One of the volunteers at the Corporate Challenge was assigned to grab the fifth-place male finisher for record-keeping purposes. When that person crossed the finish line, our friendly volunteer went running up to him and noticed the runner didn't have a bib.

   "I'm a bandit," the runner said.

   So the volunteer had to grab the other race people in the area and make sure the sixth-place finisher moved up to fifth, the seventh man went up to sixth, and so on.

   If you feel obligated to cheat the system by running in a race without paying, the least you can do is peel off before the finish and save race officials some confusion. But a better solution is to just go run in the park by yourself.

   * A while back Dr. Timothy Osberg was the subject of a story about streakers,‘ people who ran a mile a day, day after day.

   Dr. Osberg was nice enough to let us know that his streak is over. He had surgery on May 20, and he just wasn't medically ready to go that day. So, he was done after 25 years and 50 weeks. Amazing.

   Dr. Osberg is back on the treadmill once in a while now. He says he soon will be back running every day, and he hopes to break his old record ... when he's about 82. Good luck. I hope I'll be around the write up his story.

   * Every year or two, a woman is the overall winner of a local race … in other words, she defeated all the men and women competing.

   Allison Carr joined that club on June 3 at the Mount Mercy Academy 5K. Her time was 18:36 -- 20 seconds ahead of the field. This is one amazing runner.

   I'm on vacation next week, so here's an extra helping of the race calendar, courtesy of buffalorunners.com. Since tonight's races are just getting underway as I post this, I didn't include them.

    * 21st annual Strawberry Festival 5K and 8K, Platt and E. Slate St. in Albion, 8 a.m. Saturday, (585) 590-0955.

   * Red Devil Run for Recovery 5K, 9365 Clarence Center Road in Clarence Center, 9 a.m. Saturday, 634-9565.

   * Susan Komen WNY Race for the Cure 5K, Rose Garden in Delaware Park in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, 580-3116.

   * Fort Erie Dash 'N Splash, 100 Gilmore Road in Fort Erie, 10 a.m. Saturday, (905) 871-9868. Let's hope the stormy forecast doesn't come true for Saturday.

   * Dirty Duathlon, 4 miles/10 miles, Holiday Valley Ski Resort in Ellicottville, 10 a.m. Sunday.

   * Buffalo Orienteering 5K Trail Run, Hunters Creek Park in South Wales, 10 a.m. Sunday, 652-8789.

   * Girls on the Run 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, 645-6815. This program is really taking off nicely; it's good to see it with its own race.

   * OLSH 5K, 3148 Abbott Road in Orchard Park, 6 p.m. Thursday, 445-5022.

   * LK 5K, 68 East Main St. in Hamburg, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 870-7946.

   * St. Gregory the Great's Great Race, 5K, 200 St. Gregory Court in Williamsville, 7 p.m.
June 17, 634-0961.

   * SMH River Run 5K, 145 N. 4th St. in Lewiston, 9 a.m. June 18, 298-2249.

   * Ripley's Race to Wellness, 5K, 1 Park Ave. in Ripley, 9 a.m. June 18, 736-2631 x240.

   * Anew Run, 5K, 83 S. Main St. in Jamestown, 9:30 a.m. June 18, 661-3894.

   * Wegmans/St. Jude Awesome 5K, 800 Niagara Falls Blvd. in North Tonawanda, 9:30 a.m. June 18, 239-0992.

  * Trooper Brinkerhoff 5K, Town Park in Boston, 10 a.m. June 18, 604-8949.

   * Warm Up for Relay 5K, 491 High St. in Lockport, 10 a.m. June 18, 478-4836.

   * Salmon Run, Clark's Park in Wilson, 5 p.m. June 18, 751-6120.

   * Jog for the Jake, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. June 19, 949-4355. Find out in this Sunday's paper why this race is ending after this year.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: No deal

     June 10, 1970 -- It was expansion draft day for the Buffalo Sabres, when the franchise would finally gets its share of major league players. Already, Sabres' general manager Punch Imlach was doing some thinking.

     He had worked out a deal with the Boston Bruins to acquire other considerations. Then Imlach heard that the Bruins wanted to send forward Tom Webster, who would be protected after the first round of selections, to the Detroit Red Wings for goalie Roger Crozier.

     Imlach called the Red Wings, found out it was true, and then called the Bruins to say the deal was off. Buffalo selected Webster with the first pick, and before he could try on a uniform he was off to Detroit for Crozier.

     The Sabres took only three players above the age of 30: Phil Goyette, Donnie Marshall and Reggie Fleming. The other picks were: Al Hamilton, Tracy Pratt, Jim Watson, Francois Lacombe, Mike McMahon, Skip Krake, Jean-Guy Lagace, Craig Cameron, Chris Evans, Doug Barrie, Gerry Meehan, Paul Terbenche, Brian Perry, Howie Menard, Rocky Farr and Gary Edwards.

     To cap off the day, Imlach purchased Ted Hodgson from the New York Rangers.

     Webster had 30 goals for Detroit in 1970-71, and once had 53 goals while playing for the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association. Crozier worked out well for the Sabres, giving them some acrobatic goaltending in their first few years.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Taking a Swing at the Brooklyn/Belmont Double

By Gene Kershner

  ELMONT -- A short field of five colts will take to the track Friday afternoon for the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap, including last year's Belmont champion Drosselmeyer. The betting menu includes a special multiday daily double wager known as the Brooklyn-Belmont Double. Below we'll look specifically at the Brooklyn, the first leg of the Double, which requires bettors to select the winners of the Brooklyn Handicap and Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.

     The 123rd renewal of the Brooklyn has also attracted the 2009 winner and current Breeders' Cup Marathon champion Eldaafer; let's take a look at all of the contenders and how they rate coming into the race (trainer, jockey and morning line odds in parenthesis):

1 -- Eldaafer (Alvarado, Valdivia, 2-1). The defending Breeders' Cup Marathon champion should have no problem with the distance or the track. The A.P. Indy gelding came in third by two lengths in last year's Brooklyn when he was caught wide. His lone dirt effort during the current racing season was a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream in February. He certainly has the class to win this race and is coming in at a good time in his form cycle. Trainer Diane Alvarado entered an Atlantic City allowance race on the turf to try and sharpen up her Marathon champ. "He needed to run and was eligible for the condition, and he had been running at the wrong distances," said Alvarado. "He can win going shorter in starter allowances, but he isn't dominant going that distance against stakes horses. He also didn't train as well [in Florida], but he has been training forwardly since he got back up here."

     2 -- Drosselmeyer (Mott, Lezcano, 6-5). Nearly 53 weeks to the day he was crowned the Belmont champ, he will attempt to win another 1-1/2 mile race at Big Sandy. He's never been out of the exacta in three career starts at Belmont. Trainer Bill Mott has progressively raced him at longer distances during the 2011 campaign. "It was a given [the Brooklyn] would be a reasonable spot to run him in, and he's coming off a win over the track," said Mott. "He obviously likes the track. They were very game [in the One Count]." Leave him off your tickets at your own peril.

     3 -- Afleet Again (Reid, Pennington, 12-1). The Afleet Alex 4-year old comes in after a losing effort in the $65K One Count Stakes where 2-Drosselmeyer and 4-Birdrun ran one-two and he was caught five wide. He's sure to improve on his form cycle and his daddy won the Belmont Stakes, so the pedigree for the added distance is there. His last win came in April of 2010 in the one-mile Grade 3 Withers. He's worth a couple of $1 double tickets based on pedigree and form cycle alone.

     4 -- Birdrun (Mott, Marajh, 7-2). Another runner whose sire won the Belmont (Birdstone), but he has never raced at the Brooklyn's 1-1/2 mile distance. "The distance is an unanswered question, and we'll find out by running him," said Mott. Another horse that's never been out of the exacta in five tries at Belmont Park; he is a horse for the course.

     5 -- Alma D'oro (Pletcher, Velazquez, 8-1). Letting a Pletcher/Velazquez horse off in a short field at over 8-1 is criminal. However, this horse was weakening in the eight furlong One Count when he finished fourth behind the aforementioned Mott horses. Pletcher is red-hot at Belmont (28 percent), would only consider in the show spot on trifecta tickets.

     Post Time Brooklyn/Belmont Double Plays ($30):

     $5 Double 1, 2 with 9 (Animal Kingdom)  [cost -- $10]

     $2 Double 1, 2 with 1-Master of Hounds, 4-Santiva, 5-Brilliant Speed [cost -- $12]

     $1 Double 3, 4 with 1, 4, 5, 9 [cost -- $8]

Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!

Make sure you stop back here at the Sports, Ink on Saturday for the Post Time live blog directly from the Belmont Park press box.

  Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Wheeling and dealing

      June 9, 1982 -- Buffalo Sabres general manager Scott Bowman wasn't happy about losing to the Boston Bruins in the spring of 1982. He decided to do some housecleaning the following summer.

     Bowman figured he had two top-rank goalies in Don Edwards and Bob Sauve, and decided to trade one of them. Edwards was the one to go.

     He and Richie Dunn were packaged with a second-round pick in 1982 and a first-rounder in 1983. Coming east were Calgary's first- and second-round choices in 1982, and Calgary's first- and second-round picks in 1983.

     Whew.

     In 1982, Buffalo took Paul Cyr and Jens Johansson with the two picks, and in 1983 it added Normand Lacombe and John Tucker. Calgary's picks turned out to be Richard Kromm and the player who might have turned out better than any of them, Dan Quinn.

     Here's a funny footnote to the trade: Edwards was sitting in the Sabres' lobby on the morning of December 2, 1986, waiting for an appointment to see Bowman to talk about a coaching job. There was quite a delay. You see, Bowman was at that moment being fired by the team's ownership.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A Sunday kind of love

     June 8, 1919 - Is there anything better than a nice Sunday summer afternoon at the ballpark?

     The baseball fans of Buffalo finally got a chance to find out on this day. The Bisons played their first-ever Sunday game at Franklin Park. The novelty didn't play well at first, as only 2,500 turned out for the game.

     The Sunday games apparently became part of the schedule. Here's what the Buffalo Courier said about the first few contests on that day of the way, courtesy of the Bisons' website:

     "The crowds at Franklin Park have been orderly the past two Sundays, and only on one or two occasions did anyone forget and coach louder than was necessary. A few women have been in attendance and two well-dressed Chinamen were observed behind the catcher last Sunday. Several clergymen were present and one observed, 'I would rather the men would congregate in the ball park than spend their time in the saloons.' "

     That Buffalo team finished 81-67, good for third place in the International League. Also in the IL that year were the Reading Coal Barons and Rochester Hustlers.

     That Bisons squad had Bucky Harris as its second baseman. It was his last year as a player, but he stayed in the game. Harris managed 29 seasons in the majors, and even spent two others guiding Buffalo's fortunes (1944 and 1945).

--- 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.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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