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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Meet the new boss

   February 22, 2011 -- The fans of the Buffalo Sabres got their first good look at the owner
of their favorite team. It's fair to say he was a hit.

   The sale of the Sabres from Tom Golisano to Pegula had been completed the day before. He
held a news conference in HSBC Arena on this day. One statement made an immediate impression.

  "Starting today," Pegula said, "the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win a
Stanley Cup."

  Pegula first became a big Sabre fan during Buffalo's run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1975.
He became a season-ticket holder in 1980, holding the tickets until 1999. In fact, Pegula said
many times that he had hopes of buying the team at some point.

   Pegula became a billionaire along the way through energy interests. He immediately took off
any financial restraints from the team, and said all decisions would be made on the basis of
winning games.

   There was one other highlight from the news conference. Pegula spotted Gil Perreault at the
news conference, got a little weepy and said to him, "You're my hero."

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Marathon men

   February 21, 1953 -- This was a college basketball game that was like a certain battery advertisement's slogan. It kept going and going and going.

   Niagara and Siena needed six overtimes before the Purple Eagles finally pulled out a victory, 88-81. The game was played in the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany.

   No college basketball game had ever been longer. The record lasted for almost 30 years. Syracuse and Connecticut received national attention for their six-overtime game in the Big East Tournament of 2009.

   Future NBA standout Larry Costello played that game for Niagara. He didn't play the entire game -- merely 69 minutes and 40 seconds of it. In other words, he was on the bench for 20 seconds. After that game, Niagara changed his jersey number from 24 to 69.

   Ed Fleming was even more of an iron man. He played all 70 minutes that night. Sure enough, he took uniform number 70 for his final two seasons.

   By the way, future NBA coach and television analyst Hubie Brown was on the Niagara roster as well that night.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: Just wondering

We're in the midst of a three-week between games for the Bandits. Considering their four-game losing streak, that may be a good thing or a bad thing. But it does give us all time to do a little thinking. The Bandits already have made one major trade during this break, as Anthony Cosmo was picked up from Minnesota. Could they make another?

Paul Rabil, recently dealt from Washington to Edmonton, has said that he doesn't want to play with the Rush and wants to stay closer to his home in the East. Rabil is the proverbial horse, a prototype for the type of big, athletic player who is coming into the league these days. A guy like that would always be welcome in a transition role with the Bandits.

But what sort of package would get it done? It's easy to wonder if Mark Steenhuis would figure into any trade discussions.

Steenhuis is a former 50-goal scorer in the league. Lately, though, he's been placed in more or a transition role. He gets credit for doing what the team needs and trying to fill a role. Still, 50-goal scorers don't grow on trees, and he does like to play at the offensive end. Edmonton traded Athan Iannucci for Rabil, and could use some offense.

The obvious question: Would Steenhuis be willing to play in Edmonton? He has a business and family firmly settled in St. Catharines, Ont., so Buffalo is the ideal spot for him. Edmonton is a rather tough commute.

The Bandits already have given up a lot of their first-round picks; it's hard to believe they would trade the one they got from Edmonton in the Chris Corbeil trade that has a chance to be the number one overall this fall. That would appear to point to at least a body or two on the roster in any transaction.

I don't have any "inside information" on this, but it is fun to speculate.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Playing short-handed

     February 20, 2007 -- Think this season is the only time in Buffalo Sabres' history that the team has been hit hard by injuries? Think again.

   The Sabres defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 6-3, for an easy win in Buffalo. Still, the win was tempered by the loss of Daniel Paille, who broke a finger late in the game and was slated to miss significant playing time.

   That meant the Sabres had lost six regulars to injury in about two weeks.

   "I actually laughed," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of being informed the winger was hurt. "What can you do? The doctor said it's going to be maybe two or three weeks. I said, "That's a short one for us.' "

   As for the game, Buffalo had little trouble with a Flyers team suffering through a rare difficult season which would see it finish last. Andrew Peters scored his first goal for the Sabres in 75 games.

   Meanwhile, Ryan Miller had a strong night in goal with 32 saves.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Erasing the record book

     February 19, 1972 -- When the Buffalo Sabres came into the league in 1970, their best rookie was Gil Perreault. The flashy skater was their first overall draft choice. He could score too; Perreault's 38 goals that season broke the record previously held by three players.

     Surely the Sabres wouldn't be so lucky the next season with a rookie.

     Oh, but they were. Rick Martin was the team's first round pick in 1971, and he was even better when it came to putting the puck in the net.

     Martin scored goal number 39 as the Sabres lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-1, in Maple Leaf Gardens. Martin picked a hockey legend to beat, as Jacques Plante was in the Toronto net. The assist went to Al Hamilton.

     Darryl Sittler took much of the spotlight from Martin in that game. He scored the last three goals of the game. The Leafs finished with a 43-33 edge in shots that night.

     Martin went on to score 44 goals that season and start a career that might have put him in the Hall of Fame had it not been for a bad knee injury.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Stay in your seats

     February 18, 1996 -- Next time you are thinking of leaving a game early, you might want to have second thoughts. After all, you never know when a great comeback might take place.

     The Buffalo Blizzard taught that lesson on this day in Memorial Auditorium. They were trailing, 17-15, to the Wichita Wings. They had blown a 10-point lead, giving up six straight goals. Many of the 6,031 were headed to the exits in the final seconds.

     Then with only six seconds left, Andrew Crawford of the Blizzard dashed up the field in an attempt to get a goal. He was fouled to give his team a free kick at the spot of the foul. Crawford was 55 feet away from the goal with one second left.

     Paul Dougherty was assigned to take the kick. He unleashed a "banana ball," that soared over the wall of men, beat leaping Wichita goalkeeper Kris Peat, and went in just under the crossbar for the game-winning three-pointer.

      "I made it swerve," Dougherty explained. "I've hit some like that, but that was one of the best."

     Those who hung around were sure glad they did.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits acquire goalie Cosmo from Minnesota

It was thought that Darris Kilgour wouldn't take the Bandits' record four-game losing streak lightly. This morning we found out his reaction, and it was a big one.

The Bandits acquired goalie Anthony Cosmo from the Minnesota Swarm in exchange for first-round draft choices in 2013 and 2014.

Cosmo is a future Hall of Famer in the National Lacrosse League. He is 34, and played with San Jose, Toronto and Boston. He led the league in goals-against average last season at 9.66. Cosmo was taken by Minnesota from Boston in the dispersal draft, but he hadn't reported to the Swarm.

I am extremely excited to play for such a well-respected organization in the Buffalo Bandits,” said Cosmo. “I am humbled by the opportunity to play for a coach like Darris Kilgour and what are clearly the most passionate fans in the NLL.”

The goaltender should move right into the starting lineup. Ironically, Mike Thompson -- who had been the regular top goalie on the Bandits -- is the starter in the upcoming All-Star Game, which will be played in Buffalo on Feb. 25. He'll drop to second-string status when the Bandits play their next game (Colorado on March 3). That probably will move Angus Goodleaf to the practice squad.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Slow weekend on Derby Trail

 By Gene Kershner

      Life on the Derby trail won't start to heat up until next weekend's Grade 3 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, a showdown between top 3-year-olds Union Rags and Holy Bull winner Algorithms.

Adding to the intrigue to next Sunday's big race is the fact that jockey Javier Castellano took off of Union Rags, runner-up in the 2-year old division and the Breeders' Cup (BC) Juvenile last year, to ride Algorithms for top trainer Todd Pletcher.

The biggest prep race this weekend is Sunday's 7-furlong San Vicente, which has attracted only six horses to Santa Anita on Sunday afternoon. Creative Cause and Drill will headline the race and each will give up five pounds to the other four horses in the race. Creative Cause, third in the BC Juvenile at Churchill by a length, makes his first start of the year for Mike Harrington and has Joel Rosario in the irons. Drill, a Bob Baffert-trainee, impressive on the poly last summer at Del Mar, is still trying to find himself after finishing fifth in the non-graded San Pedro earlier in the Santa Anita meet. American Act, with Martin Pedroza aboard, comes out of a key race where he defeated Baffert's Bodemeister, a big winner last weekend, to break his maiden in January. He could be the surprise horse in this race.

Elsewhere, Graham Motion decided to pass on next weekend's Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes in favor of an allowance race at Gulfstream for defending Derby champ Animal Kingdom's 2012 debut and prep race for the $10 million Dubai World Cup. He'll run 1 1/16-miles on the turf, a surface he finished second on last March in a one-mile allowance race before winning the Spiral at Turfway Park en route to the Derby.

Motion is just looking to get a good race under him before making the grueling trip to Dubai and a chance at a huge payday.Also on Saturday's card in Hallandale is the Grade 2 $300,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, in which eight older horses square off in the $150,000 stakes race, the feature race on the card.

Post Time favorite and 6-year old Capt. Candyman Can (3-1) takes on BC Sprint runner-up Force Freeze (8-5 ML favorite) in the 7-furlong sprint on the Gulfstream strip. You could get some value with Pletcher's Simba's Story (5-1), who is running third off the layoff and has shown improvement in each of his races this winter. Pletcher, who won his 3,000th career race last Saturday, is winning at a white hot 38 percent at Gulfstream and shouldn't be discounted here. The Chief, Allen Jerkens, sends out Bold Warrior (5-1) in this super competitive sprint race.

Sunday's big Gulfstream race features older fillies and mares in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 $150,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes. Gulfstream Park owner Frank Stronach purchased Her Smile for $1 million after she finished third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She moves from the Pletcher barn and owner Bobby Flay to the Capitol District's Chad Brown. Pletcher will try to beat his former filly with a solid filly of his own, R Holiday Mood, winner of last year's Miss Preakness Stakes and a winner already in an earlier non-graded stake at Gulfstream in January.

So there's plenty of racing action in store over the next few days, including a free NHC online handicapping contest on Saturday, for those who have registered for the 2012 NHC Tour ($50 fee).

Good luck this weekend and let's go cash some tickets! 

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.


This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A nice tribute

   February 17, 1959 -- The NHL's best players have come to Buffalo twice for All-Star Games over the years. The one everyone remembers came in 1978, when the two conferences squared off.

   This is the anniversary of the other one.

   Bill Dobbyn was a member of the Buffalo Bisons hockey team, and was considered a top prospect. Sadly, he took a stick to the eye on Dec. 27, 1958, and lost his vision in the eye. Red Wings' general manager Jack Adams wanted to put together an All-Star game to raise money for Dobbyn.

   The other five NHL teams wanted to help too. Therefore, several top players took to the ice as the all-stars played the Bisons. A crowd of 9,368 filled the Aud for the game.

   How many games feature nine future Hall of Famers? This one did: Bobby Hull, Ted Lindsay, Pierre Pilote, Glenn Hall, Johnny Bower, Andy Bathgate, Johnny Bucyk, Bill Gadsby and Bert Olmstead.

   No wonder the All-Stars won, 6-2. Lindsay and Bill Dineen had two goals each.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The neon lights are bright ...

   Feb. 16, 1995 -- Many pro athletes have left Western New York for one reason or another over the years, so it's difficult to come up with a surprise.

   Tony Meola surprised us.

   Meola left the Buffalo Blizzard to take the lead role in an off-Broadway play. He was signed to perform as the "celebrity lead" in "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."

   Before he left, the goalie at least gave the fans here something to remember. He played all 71 minutes and 59 seconds of the longest game in Blizzard history at the time. Buffalo defeated the Cleveland Crunch, 17-15. The "School Day" crowd of 12,134 was Buffalo's largest of the season.

   "I'll be back here assuming that we're in the playoffs," Meola said to The News' Bob Summers upon exiting.

   The former member of the United States national team (two World Cup teams) didn't come back. Instead, he ended up playing a great deal of outdoor soccer, and won the MLS goalie of the year award in 2000. As for the play, it ran off-Broadway for 22 years before ending a run in 2010.

--- 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.