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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Punch Imlach

   (Born March 15, 1918) -- There are few beloved hockey figures in both Toronto and Buffalo. Punch Imlach is certainly on that very short list.

   After some time working in management in senior hockey and the pros, Imlach joined the Maple Leafs' organization in 1958. He eventually worked his way to general manager and coach. All he did there was win four Stanley Cups, including three in a row.

   However, Imlach feuded with Leafs' ownership and left in 1969. It didn't take long for the Knox brothers to reach out when they were creating the Sabres for their inaugural season in 1970-71. Imlach took over as coach and general manager in Buffalo.

   Heart problems pushed him off the bench in 1972, but Imlach remained the team's general manager through 1978. He put together a Sabres team that went from expansion squad to Stanley Cup finalist in five years, an impressive achievement by any standards. Imlach's teams also were exciting and entertaining, which help sell NHL hockey to a new market.

   Health issues probably took their toll on Imlach during his final years in Buffalo. When the Sabres turned sour in the fall of 1978, Imlach and coach Marcel Pronovost were both fired. Imlach landed in Toronto for a second stay, but this stop didn't work out so well. He had disagreements with players and suffered from more heart problems.

   Imlach died of a heart attack in 1987. He is a very worthy member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Sabres' Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey


Basketball | History
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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.