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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: New man in goal

   February 15, 2011 -- Ryan Miller was not the goalie when the Sabres played the Canadiens in Montreal. This was pretty big news.

   After all, Miller had played in the previous 31 consecutive games for the Sabres.

   Jhonas Enroth was the starter this time, and he acquitted himself well. Enroth earned the win as the Sabres beat the Canadiens, 3-2.

   This one might be remembered for a 10-round shootout, with Enroth finally besting Carey Price of the Canadiens. Jochen Hecht had the winning score in the shootout. Enroth's first three wins in the NHL, then, came via the shootout.

    "I'm pretty good at shootouts but the first three wins in the NHL is pretty unique," said Enroth. "I was just trying to stay focused, do my job and stop the next one."

   Miller appeared in 66 games during the course of the 2010-11 season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Going for a ride

     February 14, 1908 -- Ever see the 1965 movie, "The Great Race"? It starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk, and was about an auto race from New York to Paris.

     There really was such an auto race in 1908, and, strangely enough, there were a couple of Buffalo connections.

     The first was that the route of the event came right through Buffalo. Day Three of the event wound up here. A crowd of 5,000 reportedly came out to greet the contestants. That's not as many as the 250,000 that saw the six teams off at Times Square in New York.

     The cars took a boat across the Pacific Ocean, but eventually they made it all the way to Paris. The winner was George Schuster, who represented the United States team and came from Buffalo. Only two other teams made it to the finish.

     Schuster worked at the E.R. Thomas Motor Company. He was known as an excellent mechanic, and that was a skill that was important when driving 13,341 miles in those days of poor roads.

      Schuster also was the first person to drive across the United States in winter via automobile. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on October 12, 2010.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Oh captain, my captain

     February 13, 1989 -- The Buffalo Sabres suddenly needed a captain on this day.

     Lindy Ruff had had the job for more than two years, taking over for Gil Perreault when the superstar retired in November, 1986. But he resigned the position only three days after he was scratched during a game with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the first time that Ruff had missed a game since taking over the captaincy except for times when he was injured or suspended.

      "I gave it back with no ifs, ands or buts," Ruff said after telling his teammates of the decision after a practice at Sabreland in Wheatfield. "This was totally my decision. Ted (Sator, the team's coach) said he wanted me to keep it (the "C") but my morals stood in the way. I don't feel they (the Sabres' management) forced me out. It was a case where they wanted me to play a limited role."

     Ruff was said to not be a fan of Sator, and the benching was the another step in that direction. He went to the Rangers at the trading deadline later that season for a draft pick that was used on Richard Smehlik.

     Who would have guessed that Ruff would return to the Sabres in 1998 as a head coach, and stay for more than a decade?

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: He's down, again

      February 12, 1968 -- Boxing has had a decline throughout the United States. Perhaps that wouldn't be try if all of the fights were as, um, lively, as the one on this night in Memorial Auditorium.

     Vic Brown of Buffalo must have felt very much at home at the Aud. He was in the midst of a stretch where he fought six straight times there, winning the middle four bouts.

     His first opponent of 1968 was Johnny Barazza. Brown scored a technical knockout in the second round, and probably had a few seconds to celebrate his win.

     Then, Barazza broke away from his handler and headed straight across the ring to confront Brown. The local heavyweight wasn't flustered; he delivered another right hand, sending Barazza to the canvas.

     Barazza still hadn't had enough at that point, but he was restrained from taking on further punishment.

     Brown finished his career with a 28-28 record. He lost to such fighters as Ernie Terrell, Floyd Patterson and Ken Norton.

--- Budd Bailey

The best of Larry Felser

Other memorable Larry Felser columns:

News Senior Sports Columinst Jerry Sullivan on Felser: "The Buffalo guy"

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Long wait between drinks

   February 11, 1999 -- A member of the Buffalo Sabres made some very unlikely National Hockey League history on this night, and that's understating the case if anything.

   Start with the fact that Randy Cunneyworth scored a goal for the Sabres. Cunneyworth was just up from Rochester of the American Hockey League.

   The winger hadn't scored in a Buffalo uniform since 1981. That was the longest gap between goals for the same team in NHL history.

   Cunneyworth's score fit the night's theme, as the Sabres beat Montreal, 5-2. He joined Paul Kruse and Mike Wilson as those who scored the first goal of their NHL seasons.

   In fact, Kruse and Cunneyworth played on a line with Rob Ray, and they were in top form.

   "That was the best line we had tonight," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.

   Cunneyworth's last game as a Sabre was Game Six of the NHL Finals against Dallas. You may remember how that one came out.

--- Budd Bailey

Suhr: Rising to the occasion in Boston

By Jenn Suhr

So I was blessed to end 2011 ranked No. 1 in the world … 

And I was doomed to open my 2012 campaign with a “no height” at the World’s Most Famous Sports Arena (Madison Square Garden).

No-Heights (when you don’t clear any bar during the competition) is the most frustrating result possible for any pole vaulter.  Sort of like a wide receiver dropping a pass that he always catches (being a New Yorker, I was pulling for the Giants but I feel for Welker).  I was so frustrated with the result, I bolted out of MSG as soon as the competition ended and within a half-hour was in the Lincoln Tunnel heading west.  True to my luck of the day, we got stuck in a Lincoln Tunnel traffic jam behind a tractor-trailer that lodged itself in the middle of the tunnel.  Of all the places on earth, being stuck in a car with my husband and coach, Rick, in a traffic jam after a “No-Height” is not a place I wanted to be at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night. 

Rick was oddly quiet so I figured I would start with my own meet summation of what went wrong.   Again, he was just silent.  But I figured that his critical analysis was coming and it would not be favorable … and deservingly so considering my less than positive result.  With my confidence questionable, my frustration high, and our Lincoln Tunnel progress painfully slow, he finally broke the silence with an unexpected remark. He looked at me and said, “I think you can break the American record next week in Boston.”  At first, I didn’t think I heard him right.  Then, when he repeated it, I thought the fumes from the cars inside the tunnel must have gotten to him.

His summation was not what I expected, but then again, good coaches are never predictable!  He told me I was jumping better than I scored. He was able to look at all the variables of the night, link them together and logically explain to me what had happened. 

So my week’s work began right there as we exited into New Jersey en route back to Riga.  We sketched out a weeklong plan that, if executed properly, would give me a shot at the American record seven days later. The technical adjustments went into place the first thing the next morning and the mental picture started to form. I understood what he was doing as the week progressed. His confidence in me is contagious and by Tuesday afternoon I started to believe (my confidence was admittedly low after MSG) that the Boston event would be a great one for me.

On Saturday night, I became the first American woman in history to clear the bar at 16 feet in an indoor competition. Saturday could not have come soon enough. The push from the Boston crowd helped me along the way as they always have (this was my third American record in the Reggie Lewis Center). New England fans seem to love the pole vault and they showed me that love on Saturday. The thing I remember the most was falling to the pad after successfully clearing 16 feet and hearing more than 4,000 people cheering.  What a feeling!

The highs and lows of this event are hard for Olympic track fans to understand and even harder for pole vaulters to navigate emotionally. My results over the last week or so illustrate it best.  A “No-Height” one week in NYC and an American record the next.  That is the pole vault.

As tough as it was this weekend for New England sports fans, they were a big part of my American Record in Boston.

Pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, a Fredonia native, is scheduled to compete in the Millrose Games in New York, starting on Saturday.


Gahagen's amazing save

You can read more about him in Saturday's Youth Hockey column by Miguel Rodriguez, but here's a quick YouTube clip of then-Williamsville North goalie Parker Gahagen's amazing stick save with 11 seconds left that clinched a state title for the Spartans. The save comes at the 50-second mark of the video, and it's a beauty.


Here's one more clip of the same play.


Gahagen has led the Buffalo Junior Sabres back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.


This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Quirk of fate

   February 10, 1977 -- Oddly enough, a center who used to play for the Sabres had a large impact in Buffalo's goaltending history.

   The Sabres had acquired Gerry Desjardins to be their first-string goaltender in the winter of 1975. He came over in a trade with the New York Islanders, even though he was playing in the World Hockey Association at the time.

   Desjardins took over the job immediately, and helped the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup finals later that first season. Then he had the starter's spot for all of 1975-76, and more than half of 1976-77.

   Fate then got in the way. Peter McNab, sent to Boston in a swap of free agents, tipped a shot that hit Desjardins in the mask and caused an eye injury. Desjardins did not return to the game that night. Indeed, he only played in a handful of games in his career.

   The Sabres were bringing along two young goalies in Bob Sauve and Don Edwards. Because of that one tipped shot, the timetable for their NHL arrival was moved up by months at the least.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Weekend racing heats up in Florida

By Gene Kershner    

Last Friday I commented in our weekly blog that some element of unpredictability would show its head in one of the two big prep races and I'll Have Another ($88.60) fulfilled that prophecy. He won convincingly in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita at a whopping 43-1. On the East Coast, odds-on favorite Alpha ($2.70) took the Withers going away at Aqueduct.

   It quiets down on the Derby trail this week (on the track) and the older horses take the
forefront on the racing scene. Two of the three Triple Crown race winners from 2011 will face
off in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Rosie Napravnik will seek her first Grade 1
victory aboard Belmont Stakes champ Ruler On Ice, who dons the blinkers for the Donn. The
Preakness champion Shackleford (7-2 morning line favorite) will face off against the Belmont
champ in his first race of 2012.

   The last time two Triple Crown race winners met at Gulfstream Park was in the 1989
Breeders' Cup Classic when arch rivals Easy Goer and Sunday Silence met.

   The Donn, the first big race of the year in the handicap division, did not come up light.
Other horses that could compete for the win are Mission Impazible and Flat Out, two horses
that have won Grade 1 races in the past. It also headlines a great day of racing at Hallandale
Park, which includes the Grade 2 Hutcheson for 3-year olds, the Grade 3 Suwannee River for
older fillies and mares on the turf, and the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap on the turf.

   The $150,000 Hutcheson, a 7-furlong Derby prep race drew six sophomores, including the
highly touted Ever So Lucky (2-1), trained by Jonathan Sheppard. The ever present Todd
Pletcher sends Thunder Moccasin (7-5 morning line favorite) to the gate.

   If you've been wondering where the 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom has been hiding, he's been training for a race on Feb. 25 at Tampa Bay Downs for the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race on the turf. This will be his first after suffering an injury in the Belmont Stakes exiting the gate last June. The Derby champ is pointing towards the $10 million Dubai World Cup, to be run on Meydan's Tapeta surface on March 31.

   The first round of Derby Futures pools opens this weekend (Friday through 6pm Sunday) with
25 betting choices. The "All Others" is the 9-5 favorite over Holy Bull winner Algorithms
(8-1). I explained my feelings in a News article last February, describing the Futures as
basically a sucker bet. The remaining pools are scheduled for March 2-4 and March 30-April 1,
and all Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools feature both win and exacta wagering.

   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.


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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.