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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tony McKegney

(Born on February 15, 1958) -- Tony McKegney was something of a pioneer in the world of hockey. There hadn’t been many blacks in the NHL when he arrived, but hopefully his talent made quite a few people color-blind.

McKegney was born in Montreal, but was adopted by a white family in Sarnia, Ont. He became a standout in hockey while playing junior, scoring 135 points in 66 games in 1976-77.

A year later, the left winger was ready to join the pros. He signed with the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association, but that news generated a great deal of hate mail, etc., in the South. The Bulls released McKegney from his contract, and he joined the Sabres as their second-round draft choice.

McKegney needed less than a season to join Buffalo during the 1978-79 campaign. He stayed through 1983 and was a regular almost all of the time. McKegney scored 37 goals in 1980-81. Then he was dealt to the Nordiques in a massive swap involving Quebec’s Real Cloutier.

McKegney spent less than two years with the Nordiques, and had several more stops around the NHL during the next several seasons. He even scored 40 goals for St. Louis in 1987-88. McKegney still does alumni work for the Sabres and Red Wings.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jim Kelly

(Born on February 14, 1960) -- It took some time for Jim Kelly to find his way to Buffalo. Once he arrived, he found a home.

Kelly grew up in East Brady, Pa., and was a sports standout in high school. He wanted to go to Penn State, but the Nittany Lions would only offer him a scholarship to as a linebacker. Oops. Kelly went to Miami (Fla.) instead, and helped turn the Hurricanes into a national power.

The Bills needed a quarterback at that point in their history and drafted him in the first round. But Kelly signed with Houston of the United States Football League instead. He was a standout there until the USFL folded, and Kelly finally came to Western New York in 1986.

You might have heard about how he did here. Kelly was very good and very tough, a perfect combination for a Buffalo quarterback. He was one of the team’s leaders on and off the field, and he helped the Bills reach four straight Super Bowls.

In 2002, Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you go to a Bills’ game now, you’ll still see fans wearing a replica of his jersey.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ruben Brown

(Born on February 13, 1972) --  Ruben Brown needs to work on his timing a little bit. He just missed the Bills’ glory days of the early 1990s. Instead, he had to be satisfied with an outstanding career in pro football.

Brown, a New Jersey native, played his college football at Pittsburgh. He was a dominant player there, piling up three straight Big East honors as an offensive lineman.

That made him a logical pick for the Bills in the 1995 NFL draft at 14th overall of the first round. Brown soon won a job as a regular at left guard. He was good, and he was reliable. Brown spent nine seasons with Buffalo, and was named to eight straight Pro Bowl teams. He also never missed a start until he was sent home before the last game of the 2003 season.

Brown was released by the Bills, and picked up as a free agent by the Chicago Bears. The guard stayed four more years with Chicago. He made the Super Bowl while with the Bears, and turned up on one last Pro Bowl.

Brown returned to Western New York after retirement, where he has done some broadcasting work. He was picked for the Bills’ 50th anniversary team and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mike Robitaille

(Born on February 12, 1948) -- The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been afraid to use ex-players in a new role as broadcasters over the years. Mike Robitaille is one such example.

Robitaille came up through the New York Rangers’ farm system and actually played for the Buffalo Bisons during the 1970 American Hockey League playoffs. He helped those Bisons win a championship, too. It was on to the Red Wings from there, and then he was traded to the Sabres with Don Luce for goalie Joe Daley.

Robitaille stayed with Buffalo for a little more than three full seasons. He was part of the team that made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1972-73. On the eve of the 1974-75 season, Robitaille was traded with Gerry Meehan to Vancouver for Jocelyn Guevremont.

From there, Robitaille spent two and one-half years on the Canucks’ blue line. However, he suffered a neck injury in a game against Pittsburgh in Feb., 1977. It ended his career. Robitaille won a lawsuit against the Canucks over medical treatment of that injury.

After retirement, he moved into the broadcast booth as an analyst. He has filled a variety of roles in that area with the Sabres over the years, and remains a popular figure around town.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Eddie Shack

(Born on February 11, 1937) -- Eddie Shack had a rather entertaining stay in Buffalo during his hockey career. He even contributed to the Sabres by leaving them.

Shack was born in Sudbury, Ont., and first signed with the New York Rangers. He then moved on to Detroit and Toronto. With the Leafs he achieved fame and popularity as part of some fine teams, including Toronto’s last Stanley Cup winner in 1967.

Then it was on to Boston and Los Angeles before Punch Imlach scooped him up in a trade in the 1970-71 season. He scored 25 goals in 56 games in the Sabres’ first-ever season, and he quickly became a fan favorite here as well.

Shack lost part of his scoring touch in the following season, and the Sabres had a chance to trade him to Pittsburgh. They picked up Rene Robert for him, which ranks as one of the most one-sided trades in Buffalo sports history.

Shack, meanwhile, had one more 25-goal season left in him in Pittsburgh. He finished his career with a few games as a Maple Leaf. Shack later revealed that he was illiterate for most of his life, and has become a strong advocate for literacy programs.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Daryl Johnston

(Born on February 10, 1966) -- Every so often, Daryl Johnston has to come back to Western New York to be honored. Somehow, he probably doesn’t mind the trip.

Johnston has been called the best athlete in the history of Lewiston-Porter High School. He was named Western New York’s football player of the year in 1983.

From there it was on to Syracuse University. He moved into a starting role by the time he was a sophomore in 1986. Johnston was all-Big East in 1988 and All-American in 1989. That helped make him a second round draft choice of the Cowboys.

Johnston was a good fit with some great Dallas teams. He blocked for Emmitt Smith, was a good receiver out of the backfield, and a standout on special teams. Johnston retired after the 1999 season, and made a smooth transition into broadcasting.

Johnston now lives in Dallas. He had his uniform number retired at Lew-Port, and is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

Live from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

6:53 p.m. - Opportunity is right in front of the Buffalo Bandits.

If they win tonight's game with the Rochester Knighthawks, they will gain ground over the weekend on all three of their divisional rivals. Philadelphia and Toronto both lost yesterday, and Rochester would split their two games of the weekend with a loss today.

On the other hand, Rochester would move into a tie with Buffalo at 3-3 with a win tonight. That bad start by the Knighthawks would be more or less erased.

A couple of notes for tonight: John Tavares is on the injured reserve list. That means he'll miss tonight's game and next week's contest. Jon Harasym is off the suspended list and will play.

Good news for Luke Wiles - he said he has received his green card. That means he can cross the border again. It can only help his game.

7:13 p.m. - Scratches for Buffalo - Jimmy Purves, Hayden Smith and Nick Cotter. That puts Kevin Brownell and Carter Bender in the lineup.

Old friends dept. - On the Rochester roster tonight, Angus Goodleaf, Mike Accursi and Ian Llord.

Shameless plug: I am on Twitter @WDX2BB. I am slightly behind the Kardashians in followers.

7:36 p.m. - It is Native American Night tonight, and a $1,000 scholarship was awarded before the game. We'll have a special faceoff featuring ex-Bandit Mike Thompson, and then we're off for the third straight home game.

7:41 p.m. - Joe Walters has a goal off a two-on-one break for Rochester after 27 seconds. Just before that, Chad Culp took a cross-check to the head from Dylan Evans and required some medical attention. He did walk off the field.

7:50 p.m. - Rochester still leads, 1-0, with 6:32 gone in the game. There have been a few good chances both ways, but nothing too consequential.

7:55 p.m. - The Bandits didn''t allow a power-play goal when down, five on three, but they did give up a score to Stephen Keogh. Rochester, which has had fits with Buffalo and Toronto in the last few years, leads by 2-0.

8:02 p.m. - Tough to win if you don't score any goals, and the Bandits have none through 15 minutes. They look a little out of sync and have a few turnovers. Rochester hasn't dominated, but it is been good enough to lead, 3-0.

8: 14 p.m. - Rochester has maintained its three-goal lead. Wiles just scored to cut the margin to 5-2. Bandits pulled Anthony Cosmo in favor of Kurtis Wagar in goal in an effort to shake things up a little.

8;24 p.m. -- The Bandits had two minutes of five-on-three but couldn't score. They have 1:24 left on one more power play. The offense has been a touch off the whole night. The Knighthawks have a 6-2 lead with 4 minutes in the half.

8:35 p.m. - Halftime. Bandits trail, 7-2. The shots are 34-22, Buffalo, which is rather remarkable. It doesn't seem like it should be that one-sided in terms of play.

8:53 p.m. - Anthony Cosmo back in goal for the second half.

9:01 p.m. - It hasn't helped. It's 9-2 Rochester. Cosmo let in a bouncer by Keogh (hat trick) and a straight-on shot by Cody Jamieson. The officials are now measuring Vinc's equipment for no apparent reason. We're still five-on-five, in spite of a delayed penalty, so I hav no idea whaqt happened. But Buffalo scores as I type.

9:05 p.m. - History lesson: Bandits haven't lost by seven goals at home since April 16, 2011 to Boston.

9:08 p.m. - -Current events lesson: Knighthawks lead, 10-3. Cody Jamieson just made a sensational pass to Tyler Burton across the field. Burton had no problem beating Cosmo from close range.

9:15 p.m. -- The third quarter has ended, and the Bandits have shown few signs of life all night. Rochester has an 11-4 lead. The Knighthawks had been having trouble scoring goals at times. They got 20 on Friday morning in Philadelphia, and are closing in on a dozen quickly here.  

9:26 p.m. - Rochester is ahead, 13-5, with 8:44 left. It's been a clinic, with a couple of spectacular goals by the Knighthawks in the fourth quarter.

9:39 p.m. - Looks like a 15-7 loss, one of the worst losses at home in history. Not a good night here.

11:38 p.m. - It took some searching, but there was a worse home loss. It came in 2002 to Rochester. But it was nothing to be proud about, as you could imagine.

Darris Kilgour gave a talk to the team afterwards; he said the words were "private." He and others weren't happy as you could imagine.

I asked Kilgour if this was the type of game that he had a bonfire for the video, or used it as a teaching tool: "You have to be real careful with this type of game," he answered. "You can break spirits just showing mistakes that were made."

The story will be posted shortly. Off to Rochester next week.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits Practice: Tavares to IR

The biggest story coming out of the Buffalo Bandits' shootaround this morning was that John Tavares has been placed on injured reserve. He has been nursing a calf injury. Tavares has to sit for four weeks, including the game he already has missed. That means he won't play next week in Rochester. The team has a week off after that, which also counts for the four weeks.

Jon Harasym comes off the suspended list to join the active roster. He takes Tavares' spot.

Coach Darris Kilgour has a few lineup moves up his sleeve for tonight. Carter Bender and Kevin Brownell will also dress for the game. No work on who might be scratched.

I will have a live blog from the game, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

--  Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Bill Bergey

(Born on February 9, 1945) -- It couldn’t have taken the voters in the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame long to let Bill Bergey in that shrine. He’s clearly one of the great athletes in the area’s history.

Bergey was born in Gowanda and graduated from Pine Valley High School There he was an outstanding football and basketball player, but it wasn’t enough to get him a full scholarship offer.

Still, he figured out a way to get a partial offer to attend Arkansas State. That worked out well for both sides, since Bergey was voted the greatest football player in the history of that university.

The linebacker played in the Senior Bowl and was drafted in the second round by Cincinnati. He was picked as the defensive rookie of the year in 1969. He also played for the Eagles, and was an All-Pro four different times.

At the age of 33 in 1979, Bergey became the highest paid defensive player in the league with a four-year, $1 million contract. Injuries limited his effectiveness, however, he played his last game in the Super Bowl for the Eagles against Oakland.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Derby futures pool open for business

By Gene Kershner 

It's that time of year when Derby lists start popping up in and around the interwebs. My annual participation on the Wireplayers.com website’s Derby Dozen panel kicked off this week. Volume I of the list featured five Pletcher horses and two Baffert horses amongst the inaugural dozen. It’s no different in the first Kentucky Derby Futures Wager (KDFW) pool released earlier this week wherein 11 of the 23 betting interest feature horses trained by these top two conditioners.

My initial list included Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary and Violence as my top three contenders for Volume I of the poll. In last year’s final poll my two top horses were Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another, so pay attention (that exacta paid $306.60 on Derby day). It’s still very early though, and the “All Others” betting interest in the first Futures poll will likely be the favorite when the betting pool closes on Sunday evening. There will be two other KDFW pools for Kentucky Derby 139, to be held Mar. 1-3 (Pool 2) and Mar. 22-24 (Pool 3). The current Wynn-Las Vegas Casino also lists its future book odds here and past performances for all of the horses can be found here.

If you’re interested in making a futures bet on the Derby in Pool 1, check out the fan-friendly site, Hello Race Fans, which has an in depth post on how much future wagers have paid out in the past and how to make the wager.

Flashback (9-1), last weekend’s Robert Lewis winner is the current future book favorite at the Wynn, with Violence (12-1) Revolutionary (15-1), Uncaptured (16-1) and Itsmyluckyday (18-1) not too far behind. I’ll Have Another won the Lewis last year before winning the Derby.

It was announced earlier in the week that nearly $99 million was bet on Super Bowl in 185 sports books in Nevada. By comparison, over $133 million was bet on the Kentucky Derby last year, where just less than 10 percent of that was bet at Churchill Downs. Of course, much more money is likely bet illegally on the Super Bowl in office and bar pools, it goes to show the magnitude of the Derby.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series takes a break this weekend with no races scheduled. Next weekend the last two races of the “Prep Season” portion of the schedule (10-4-2-1) will be held at Golden Gate Fields (El Camino Real Derby) and Oaklawn Park (Southwest Stakes). The first leg of the “Championship Series” portion of the Series will commence on Feb. 23 where the winner will receive 50 points. The first leg points will be awarded on a 50-20-10-5 basis to the top four finishers.

Just because the Derby trail is taking a week off doesn’t mean that there will be a falloff in racing action this weekend. The Grade 1 Donn Handicap will feature older horses Ron the Greek, Flat Out and Pool Play and the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap will signify the 2013 debut of Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry. Saturday’s Gulfstream card features four straight graded stakes races, including the two noted above.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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