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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Had 'em all the way

   February 9, 1990 -- Talk about cutting it close.

   Pierre Turgeon, in the midst of a breakout season for the Sabres, waited for 59 minutes and 54 seconds before springing into action against the Rangers in Memorial Auditorium. Turgeon tipped a shot by Dave Snuggerud past Rangers goalie Mike Richter to give Buffalo a 3-2 win.

   Benoit Hogue and Rick Vaive had the other goals for the Sabres. Bernie Nicholls scored twice for the Rangers.

   This was a goaltenders' battle in some ways. Daren Puppa, enjoying his best season as a Sabre was excellent with 32 saves. Richter was even better with 40 stops.

   While history is a little cloudy on the subject, this was about the time that Alexander Mogilny revealed to the Sabres that he had developed a fear of flying. He missed a game in St. Louis two nights later, but eventually finished out the season in Buffalo and overcame his problems.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Leaving the big time

   February 8, 1950 -- College football in Western New York has had all sorts of ups and downs over the years -- admittedly, mostly downs. This was another down.

   Canisius College had had a football team for many years in the first half of the century. The team used to attract large crowds to Civic Stadium (later War Memorial Stadium) for games. It even made it to a bowl game.

   The big games locally, though, were those against Little Three rivals Niagara and St. Bonaventure. Vince Lombardi once applied to be head coach at Canisius. When he didn't get the job, he later said it was one of the biggest disappointments of his life.

   But the sport was getting more and more expensive to fund at the highest level. The drain on a small, private school was a large one.

   So, the Golden Griffins bowed to the inevitable and announced on this date that it was folding up the program. Niagara and St. Bonaventure (1952) soon followed.

   Canisius tried Division III football about a quarter-century later. That worked for a while, but the Griffs dropped that sport again in 2002.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: It's raining baskets

    February 7, 1953 -- Records for accomplishments in a particular building seem to carry less weight now than they used to have. Maybe it's because buildings tend to come and go a little more these days.

   But back in 1953, it was pretty big news when Larry O'Connor scored 42 points in a game against John Carroll in Memorial Auditorium. That set an Aud record.

   O'Connor was quite a ball player in his time. He led the team in scoring that season by averaging 18.3 points per game. O'Connor was drafted by the NBA in 1953 by the New York Knicks (although he didn't play) and is in the Canisius College Athletic Hall of Fame.

  As for the Griffs as a team, they finished 9-14 on the season - losing six of their final seven games. Joe Niland was the team's coach.

   Andy Anderson broke O'Connor's record in 1967 when he scored 46 points against LaSalle. Larry Fogle later left them both in the dust.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The Hammer comes to town

   February 6, 1979 -- The Buffalo Sabres were in the midst of an odd 1978-79 season. They had started slowly, leading to the firing of general manager Punch Imlach and coach Marcel Pronovost. John Andersen and Billy Inglis, respectively, replaced them at least on an interim basis.

   Slowly but surely, the Sabres started to play better. What's more, the new bosses weren't afraid to do a little tinkering with the lineup. In this case, they sent speedy forward Gary McAdam to Pittsburgh for forward Dave Schultz, a move that caused some shaking heads through the Niagara Frontier.

   Schultz, after all, was the poster boy for the Flyers' teams of the mid-Seventies that were called "The Broad Street Bullies." However, I bet you had forgotten the fact that Schultz scored 20 goals in 1973-74  -- even if he was better known for his penalty-minute total. By the way, his Flyers won the Stanley Cup that year.

   Schultz had passed through Los Angeles and Pittsburgh before getting to Buffalo. By the time he reached the Sabres, it was pretty obvious that his reputation preceded him. Schultz couldn't breathe on someone with picking up a penalty.

   He had five points in 28 games that season. The following year, he spent most of his time in Rochester, and then retired.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Butler takes over

   February 5, 1993 -- The Buffalo Bills had to do the football equivalent of changing horses in the middle of the stream. How else to describe a situation where they brought in a new general manager in the middle of one of the great runs in NFL history?

   John Butler was promoted to general manager by the team shortly after Bill Polian had been fired from the position.

   Butler had been the team's director of player personnel. He faced a difficult challenge. It's not easy to build a winning team, but it's also difficult to maintain one.

    "You know this is a team of great character and resiliency," Butler said. "The coaching staff has a great way of bouncing right back and our players have been remarkable at that. The last five or six years when it looked like they were down and out, boom, here they come. They bounce right back. The character of the team is not going to change."

   The Bills had 11 players on the roster who were unrestricted free agents, including Will Wolford, Shane Conland and Jeff Wright. Then Butler had to figure out how to work out the contracts of two of the team's superstars, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith. Both had one year left on existing deals.

   Butler helped the Bills get to one more Super Bowl in 1994, and guided the team until December, 2000. He then was hired as the general manager of the San Diego Chargers. Butler died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 56.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Before the Aud

     February 4, 1936 -- If you've spent much time following Buffalo basketball, you'll hear local fans get nostalgic about the double-headers that were played in "the old days" involving members of the Little Three -- Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure. Few know where that tradition actually started. It's not where you think.

     Before the Aud opened in 1940, three local teams met for the first twin-bill in Buffalo history. It was at the Broadway Auditorium, known more for six-day bike races than basketball.

     On this night, St. Bonaventure defeated Niagara, 37-23. Then Canisius topped Georgetown, 43-39.

     Canisius has been playing basketball for more than 100 years, but good records weren't really kept until the Forties. The Golden Griffins went 10-7 that season under coach Allie Seelback.

     Charles Fadale was the captain, while Dan Carnavale was on the roster. That last name might sound familiar ... to baseball fans. He went on to play for the Bisons shortly after finishing college, and then managed the Bisons in 1955.

     We do know who named the athletic teams -- Dr. Charles Brady came up with "Golden Griffins."

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Coasting along the Derby trail

By Gene Kershner

Last weekend saw the Breeders’ Cup 2-year old champion Hansen falter in his sophomore debut in the Holy Bull to Todd Pletcher-trained Algorithms. This weekend’s action shifts back and forth from coast to coast as the Grade 3 Withers Stakes will be run in New York at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes will be run in Arcadia, Calif., at Santa Anita Park.

The $200,000 Withers features Kiaran McLaughlin’s Derby hopeful Alpha, who won the Count Fleet in early January on the winterized inner track at the Big A. The even money favorite won impressively, after bobbling at the break, by 2 1/2 lengths. McLaughlin has his eyes on the big prize. “When you look at the schedule, you start with the first Saturday in May, and work back from there. We are taking the Withers as an important step, and maybe, maybe, afterward we’ll talk about what we’re going to do.”

McLaughlin didn’t have as much luck with his other Derby hopeful last weekend in the Holy Bull and hopes that Alpha will turn the tables in the Big Apple this weekend. “We’re excited to be running him, to be in this position,” said McLaughlin of Alpha, who drew post position 7 with Ramon Dominguez aboard. “Our stomachs were upset last weekend when Consortium didn’t run well in the slop at Gulfstream [sixth in the Holy Bull to Algorithms] so we’re thankful for Alpha. But we have to do it day by day, race by race.”

Alpha is clearly the class of the field, but if you are searching for a long shot, Swag Daddy (10-1) may be your answer. The steadily improving Scat Daddy colt is 2 for 2 on the inner track (including the $75K Restrainor) and his daddy won the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth at 9 furlongs so the 1 1/16 mile distance shouldn’t be an issue. [UPDATE 2/4/12: Swag Daddy scratched on Saturday morning]

In California, in the Lewis, the big name is Liaison. The Indian Charlie colt returns to the track where he broke his maiden starting a three-race win streak. Highly ranked in most early Derby polls, this colt has dream connections in trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano, arguably the most talented tandem the west coast has to offer. He followed up the maiden win at the Great Race Place with two wins on the Cushion Track at Hollywood, including the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity.

Those last two wins at Hollywood were by a neck and a half-length over arch-rival Rousing Sermon, who is the main threat to derail Liasion’s winning streak. Trained by the most recent inductee into the Hall of Fame, Jerry Hollendorfer, and ridden by uber-jockey Joe Talamo, the Sermon has never missed the board in six starts. Both horses are sporting excellent workouts and Hollendorfer sports an incredible 32 percent winning percentage taking horses from synthetic surfaces to dirt.

Baffert also sends another colt, Sky Kingdom in the Lewis, who finished fourth in the Cash Call, who won impressively in an allowance at Santa Anita in early January in his first effort on dirt. With the solid run on dirt versus his efforts on the synthetic surfaces of Hollywood and Del Mar, the chance he improves again second time at Santa Anita is definitely a possibility.

The longshot possibility that intrigues me is the shipper Isn’t He Clever, who will have Corey Nakatani in the irons and stretches out for the first time after a commanding 11 3/4-length win at Sunland Park in his last outing. The Smarty Jones colt shouldn’t be dismissed and should be a part of your exotics plays.

It should be an exciting weekend of racing, and if last year is any indication of what will happen, some element of unpredictability will show it’s head on one of the two big prep races this weekend.

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

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

Running notebook: Once around the track

A few quick notes of interest:

* The Buffalo Marathon appears to be headed for a record year. Registrations are at an all-time high by a substantial margin; the free t-shirt for those who register early apparently worked as an incentive.

* The Western New York Running Hall of Fame has already started to think about 2012. The second class will go in this year at the 5-kilometer run at the start of Labor Day weekend.

Therefore, it's not to early to think about nominations. You can go to the website here and nominate someone who you think is deserving. Two reminders about the process -- if a person was nominated last year, he or she stays on the active list; and more information about a particular runner only helps the committee to consider that person fully. There are biographies of the first 10 inductees on the site that can be used as a model.

* According to the buffalorunners.com schedule, it's a light weekend. The only race is the Mr. Ed's Superbowl warm-up in Middleport. Starting time is 11 a.m. Sunday, call 585-798-3283. This is my annual drive to Middleport.

Sunday's running column is about the Mr. Ed's race. It was a fun story to write, and you might learn a couple of things about the event along the way.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Round and round

     February 3, 1931 -- The sporting world, local version was a little different in 1931 than it is today. Here's an example.

     The city speedskating championships were held in Delaware Park in Buffalo on this day. More than 12,000 fans turned out for the event. History didn't record where they put them all.

     The attraction was Kit Klein, certainly the greatest speedskater in local history. She defended her titles on that day in the 440-yard and 660-yard events. The huge crowd included legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, who posed with Klein for photographers after the events.

     Klein had her biggest moment in the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Speed skating for women was only a demonstration sport at that point. Still, she finished first in the 1,500-meter event and third in the 500-meter race.

     Klein went into the National Speedskating Hall of Fame in 1964, and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. It's a good idea to remember this pioneer's accomplishments.

--- Budd Bailey   

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The front of the line

     February 2, 1980 -- The Buffalo Sabres were in the midst of their 10th anniversary season during the 1979-80 campaign. It seemed like a good time to start recognizing those who had contributed to the franchise's success in that time.

     Thus, the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame was born. The Class of 1980 entered in a pregame ceremony, and they brought back some memories.

     Punch Imlach was an obvious choice. He was hired as coach and general manager before Game One, and stayed on as GM through 1978. Imlach came back a little more than a year after his departure to take a well-deserved bow.

     Then there was Roger Crozier. The goalie didn't have much help on defense at times in the early years, but ranks as one of the most spectacular goalies in Sabre history. Between Crozier and Gil Perreault, who was still playing for the Sabres on that night, the team always had a chance to be entertaining.

     The final pick was Frank Christie. He started working as a stick boy for the New York Americans in 1933, and landed a job as a trainer for the AHL Bisons after World War II. Christie stayed on in that position when the Bisons turned into the Sabres in 1970. He worked for the team until his death in 1986.

    The Sabres have inducted many more people who were part of Buffalo's hockey legacy. These three started that tradition.

--- 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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