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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Loss of a pioneer

   December 1, 1987 -- Those who consider Buffalo a hockey town should never get one of the persons who helped make it that way. It was on this day that former Sabres coach and general manager died at the age of 69.

   Imlach had an impressive career in hockey once his playing days were over. He became the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958, and soon hired himself as coach. Imlach won four Stanley Cups there, including three in a row. Toronto hasn't won one since.

   But his best work might have come in Buffalo. The Knox brothers reached up the QEW when they were granted an expansion franchise for Imlach, who left the Leafs in 1968. Imlach was the first general manager and coach in Sabres' history.

   Imlach left coaching due to health problems in his second year, but as GM he put together a team that reached the NHL finals in only five years. It was a memorable job performance. Sellout crowds at Memorial Auditorium were the norm during most of the 1970s.

   Imlach's teams stalled in the late 1970s, and he was fired by the Sabres in 1978. He rejoined the Maple Leafs. Imlach couldn't duplicate his success there, and left a few years later. Heart problems stayed with him until his death.

   Imlach was one of the first members of the Sabres' Hall of Fame. There's no arguing that choice.

--- 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.