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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Donald Audette

(Born September 23, 1969) -- It’s easy to split Donald Audette’s career in pro hockey up. There was the first time he played for Buffalo, and there was the time he played for everyone else.

The right winger was only 5-foot-8, but he had a scoring touch. Audette had 76 goals in 70 games in his last year of junior hockey. A scorer like that is always worth a look, and the Sabres took him in the ninth round of the 1989 draft.

Audette scored 42 goals in Rochester in his first year as a pro, and then moved up to the Sabres. He stayed there through 1998. He had 31 goals in 63 games in 1991-92, his first full season in Buffalo.

Audette scored 20 or more goals four more times with the Sabres. Then he was involved in a contract dispute and was traded to Los Angeles. The forward’s career was never quite the same.

Audette did have a breakout season in 2000-01, which started in Atlanta and finished in Buffalo. He also played for Dallas, Montreal and Florida before retiring. Audette recently was named a scout for the Canadiens.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Wally Backman

(Born September 22, 1959) -- In most places, Wally Backman will be remembered as the second baseman on a world championship team. In Buffalo, he’ll be remembered as a manager of the 2012 Bisons.

Backman was born in Oregon and was a first-round pick of the Mets in 1977. He worked his way up through the minor league system, arriving with the Mets in September 1980. He drove in a run with his first big-league hit.

It took a few years, but Backman became a major league regular in 1984. Two years later, he was part of a platoon with Tim Teufel, another Bisons’ manager down the road. They helped jump-start the Mets’ lineup, which won 108 games this season and took the Series in seven games.

Backman stayed through the Mets’ trip to the playoffs in 1988, but then was traded to the Minnesota Twins. After a poor year in 1989, he jumped to the Pirates in 1990. Then it was on to the Phillies and Braves before his playing career ended in 1993.

But Backman didn’t want to take the uniform off. He managed in the minors until some personal problems sidetracked him for a while. Backman bounced back in 2010, and was promoted to the Bisons’ job earlier this year.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Going the distance

The summer weeknight running season is about over; it was odd to not have a race this past week. But there is plenty going on this weekend. Those who want to run more than 10 miles will find plenty of opportunities.

Here's the schedule, courtesy of

* Hospice Dash 5K, Porter-on-the-Lake Park in Youngstown, 9 a.m. Saturday, 998-5777.

* Mighty Niagara Half marathon, Lewiston to Youngstown, 9 a.m. Saturday, 998-5777. This race got off to a good start last year, and returns with a new name and some improvements.

* Lake Erie Regional Health System 5K, 12644 Seneca Road in Irving, 9 a.m. Saturday, 951-7000. It's nice to see a company fully sponsor a race. But this is one long race name.

* Tails on Trails, 2.5 miles, Birdsong Park in Orchard Park, 10 a.m. Saturday, 662-6450 x2. This is a trail run in which runners are welcome to bring their dogs. Woof.

* Meghan Memorial 5K Cross-Country Run, Frontier Central H.S. in Hamburg, 10 a.m. Saturday, 926-8805.

* Lighthouse Baptist 5K, 383 Wheatfield St. in North Tonawanda, 2 p.m. Saturday, 998-8057. One of the few afternoon races of the year. An hour earlier, and I would have run it (work comes first).

By the way, the Rochester Marathon is Sunday, as is a half-marathon in St. Catharines.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Million dollar races highlight Parx card

By Gene Kershner

As a young boy whose grandparents lived just outside of Philadelphia, I never made it the 5.4 mile distance from the backyard where I hit wiffle ball home runs as a faux Greg Luzinski to Keystone Race Track. It’s still a track on my wish list to visit, now known as Parx Casino and Racing (formerl Philadelphia Park).  My grandfather did take me to see the first football game at Veterans Stadium (versus O.J. and the Bills) in 1971 and to see Hank Aaron play the Phils in 1974, but never to see the ponies.

Keystone opened in 1974, wherein thoroughbred racing ceased at Liberty Bell Park and commenced at the Bensalem, Pa. track. On Saturday afternoon the slots-fueled racetrack will deliver one of the best racing cards in its history with two $1 million races scheduled, not something you see everyday, even at the major thoroughbred tracks around the country.

The two races feature a rematch of the Travers dead heat competitors, Golden Ticket and Alpha in the Pennsylvania Derby as well as a much-awaited showdown between Questing and My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion Handicap.

The Cotillion only drew four fillies to run in the big race, including the Prince of Wales champion, Dixie Strike (4-1) who won the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown in July at the border oval for trainer Mark Casse.  New York’s top rider and Saratoga meet champion Ramon Dominguez will ride Dixie Strike for the first time.

The big matchup is between last year’s 2-year-old champion My Miss Aurelia (8-5) who is trying to return from an injury running in her second race of the year after winning a $100K non-graded stake at Saratoga. Corey Nakatani gets the mount back from Julien Leparoux who rode her at the Spa. She’s won all five of her career races, but will face the test of her career in the talented Questing.

Questing (1-1) comes into the race off a monster performance in the Grade 1 Alabama at the Spa, where she swept the two big 3-year-old filly races winning the Coaching Club American Oaks on opening weekend with young rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard. She won the Alabama by nine lengths in commanding fashion and should have no issues shortening up to the 8 ½-furlong Cotillion. She’s the pick based on her recent efforts and that My Miss Aurelia is still working her way back off the long layoff.

Moment in Dixie (6-1) will complete the four horse field for trainer Jimmy Toner.

The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby has attracted six colts and two ridglings, including the two horses that dead-heated in the Travers. Alpha (9-5) drew the four post and has been a killer everywhere he’s ridden except for Churchill Downs where he bombed in both the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Kiaran McLaughlin is looking to complete a Questing-Alpha double and take home all the cash back to New York.

Alpha has worked well off the Travers victory where he had to extend to catch the longshot Golden Ticket (5-2) at the wire. David Cohen will return in the irons on the Speightstown colt who shocked the Spa crowd with his effort in the Travers at 33-1 odds.

The race has also attracted the West Virginia Derby winner Macho Macho (4-1), who took advantage of a hot pace duel at Mountaineer to pick up the pieces late where he defeated talented horses such as Bourbon Courage and Hansen for trainer Steve Asmussen.

If you’re looking at a possible upset winner, Csaba (5-1) looks to be on the improve and may succeed returning to dirt after several solid efforts at Calder and on an off track in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga.

Alpha appears to be the one to beat on paper and McLaughlin continues to be very high on him. I’ll probably key him on top of the other three horses in the exotics.

Post Time Outlook – 1) Alpha; 2) Csaba; 3) Golden Ticket; 4) Macho Macho

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

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Darris Kilgour

(Born September 21, 1970) -- If John Tavares will be considered the all-time greatest Buffalo Bandit, then a new title is needed for Darris Kilgour. He’s been with the team in one capacity or another for most of its existence. How about “the face of the franchise?”

Kilgour grew up in Niagara County and went to Niagara-Wheatfield High School. He was an original Bandit in 1992, and scored 23 goals in eight games in that rookie season. Kilgour and the Bandits won a championship that year.

It was more of the same a year later, and in 1996. The forward stayed with the team through 1999, when he was traded to Rochester. Kilgour spent one more year in the game for Albany, and then retired.

A year later, Kilgour was picked as the coach of the Washington Power. He spent two seasons there, and then came back to Buffalo. With the Bandits he has served as coach of the team since 2003, and has served as general manager at times as well.

Kilgour is the league’s all-time leader in coaching wins, and is in the league’s Hall of Fame and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Butch Byrd

(Born September 20, 1941) -  Did Butch Byrd return everyone of his interceptions for a touchdown while playing for the Bills?

Actually, no. He had 35 that he didn’t return for a score. But five did go for six points, as one of Buffalo’s best-ever cornerbacks was dangerous when he got the ball.

Byrd played college football at Boston University, where he ran the football, caught passes, and returned punts and kicks. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Bills in 1964, and broke right into the lineup as a rookie.

Byrd started all 14 games as a first-year player, and had seven interceptions. His addition helped a defense that led the Bills to an AFL championship that season. It was more of the same in 1965 - 14 starts, five interceptions, one championship.

Byrd stayed with the Bills through 1970. He made five All-Star Games, and was named to the AFL’s all-time second all-star team. Then he finished his career in Denver.

Byrd went on to a long career as a loan officer before retirement. He came back to Buffalo to be inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: J.R. Bremer

(Born on September 19, 1980) -- J.R. Bremer has gotten to see a lot of the world through the sport of basketball. That list of destinations includes Olean.

Bremer turned up in a St. Bonaventure uniform in 1998-99, and a season later he helped the Bonnies reach their first NCAA tournament in 22 years. He had 17 points in 35 minutes in the memorable overtime loss to Kentucky in the first round. Bremer then was a big part of the Bona teams that went to the NIT in the next two seasons.

All of that didn’t help Bremer get drafted by an NBA team. But he signed with the Boston Celtics as a free agent. He averaged more than eight points per game and made the all-rookie team in 2002-03. Bremer bounced to Cleveland and Golden State in the next season.

Then in 2004, it was on to Europe. Bremer played in Spain, Italy, Greece, Bosnia and Russia over the next several years. He was considered one of the best point guards in Europe at one time.

By the way, his full name is Ernest Lenell Bremer. His father is also named Ernest, so he became J.R. along the way.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Scotty Bowman

(Born on September 18, 1933) -- By just about any definition you’d like to use, Scotty Bowman is the best coach in hockey history. From a Buffalo standpoint, it’s too bad that he didn’t do his best work here.

Bowman was a minor league player when he suffered a fractured skull from a slash by Jean-Guy Talbot, a future Buffalo Sabre. He moved into coaching shortly after that, and won a Memorial Cup in 1958.

Bowman worked up the ladder and eventually made the NHL with the St. Louis Blues in 1967. He took over as head coach in midseason, and helped the Blues reach the Cup finals that year. It was on to Montreal in 1971, where he was the coach of one of the great dynasties in hockey history. Bowman won four straight Cups from 1976 to 1979.

Then it was on to Buffalo as general manager and coach. He took over a team that was in transition, and despite several big player moves couldn’t get the situation straightened out. The Sabres fired him in 1986.

Then it was on to the Penguins and Red Wings, where he won four more Cups to bring his coaching total to a record nine. He retired on top in 2002, skating around the ice with the Cup over his head. Since then, Bowman has stayed in Western New York and consults with the Chicago Blackhawks.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Scott Arniel

(Born September 17, 1962) -- The city of Winnipeg probably can claim Scott Arniel as one of its favorite hockey sons, as he’s been closely associated with it for much of his career. Buffalo is right behind Winnipeg in his rankings.

Arniel was born in Kingston, Ont., and started his junior hockey career there. But he jumped to the Cornwall Royals, where he and Dale Hawerchuk helped that team win a Memorial Cup in 1981.

The two players joined the Jets the following season. Arniel stayed there through 1986, and then it was on to Buffalo in a trade for Gilles Hamel. Arniel stayed for four seasons, and was a solid enough regular during that time. Then he went back to Winnipeg in a trade that brought Hawerchuk to Buffalo.

Arniel spent one more year in Winnipeg, and then bounced around the minors for several years. He joined the Sabres as an assistant coach in 2002, and stayed for four years. Eventually he landed as the Blue Jackets’ head coach in 2010, and lasted in that difficult situation for a year and a half or so.

Arniel is back in the coaching business this year. He’ll guide the Chicago Wolves of the AHL; that team is affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mitch Korn

(Born September 16, 1957) -- This is a name that some fans might not know off the tops of their heads. Only big fans can rattle off the name of a goalie consultant with ease. Yet Mitch Korn played a big part in the Sabres’ good times in the 1990s.

Korn won a national championship in junior hockey with Springfield and went on to play goal at Kent State. He also picked up a BS and MBA degree there. Korn landed at Miami University (Oh.) in 1981 as an assistant coach.

The Sabres hired him in 1991, and the move paid big dividends. He worked extensively with Dominik Hasek, and certainly played a role in Hasek’s run of great success in Buffalo. Hasek won two Hart Trophies as the league’s most valuable player.

Then Korn jumped to the Nashville Predators in 1998. He had some good success with the netminders there. In fact, Korn in his NHL career has worked with such goalies as Grant Fuhr, Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason and Martin Biron.

Korn is one of the great goaltending teachers in the business, with several disciples. It’s all part of the reason why he was picked by The Hockey News as one of the geniuses of the game.

--- 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.