February 24, 2011 - 12:19 AM
February 24, 1982 -- Memorial Auditorium may never have been as electric as it was on this
particular night. Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky had scored 76 goals already that season, tying Phil
Esposito's all-time record. It was almost inevitable that he'd get number 77 somewhere.
But where? The Aud was Gretzky's next stop on the schedule. Gretzky's family and childhood friends came down from his hometown of Brantford, Ontario, for the game, and Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn took time out from filming "Best Friends" in the Buffalo area to attend it.
Gil Perreault threatened to steal the show for a while. He had a hat trick early in the game, playing one of his best-ever games as a Sabre.
Then Gretzky went to work after having his first seven shots on goal stopped by goalie Don Edwards. Gretzky took the puck away from Steve Patrick and came down left wing with about seven minutes to go in a 3-3 game. He beat defenseman Richie Dunn, and took a shot on goal. Edwards couldn't stop this one, giving Gretzky #77 and prompting an explosion of noise. Phil Esposito was part of a brief on-ice ceremony.
The air in the building was definitely out of the balloon at that point, but Gretzky showed why he really was The Great One that night. He scored two more goals in the last few minutes to finish with a hat trick; he added two assists in a 6-3 Edmonton win.
The performance gave Gretzky 79 goals in 64 games. The man knew how to rise to an occasion. Gretzky finished with 92 goals for the season. That record still stands.
--- Budd Bailey
The conditions were anything but favorable, but organizers of the 19th Buffalo Gus Macker three-on-three tournament were able to award championships Sunday. Included among the winners were two teams in the top men's division.
The Darling Paint team of Charlie Comerford, Nick Parisi, Karl Rainey and Fran Snyder won for the second straight year, with Rainey and Snyder replacing Jason Rowe and Damone Brown from last year's team.
In the other top men's bracket, the Jamestown-area Gerald's Barber Shop team of Maceo Wofford, Justin Smith, Dusty Carlson and Josh Schauman went undefeated to win.
Unlike in2008, this year's winning teams didn't play for an "unofficial" title. Given the amount of rain Sunday morning and the conditions on the sportcourt (Miller said it was like playing on an ice-skating rink), there weren't too many verbal complaints from players after the games. The issue, however, seems to come up again and again: should the two top men's winners play each other? From my perspective, they should. Teams pay a good amount of money to play, and want to know who is the best. Not to mention fans would like to see it, too. If it takes having referees and organizers stick around for another 30 minutes while a single winner-take-all game is played, that doesn't seem like too much to ask.
On the women's side, the UB Retired team of former Buffalo Bulls women's basketball players Heather Turner, Stephanie Bennett, Allison Bennett and Brooke Meunier defeated the Rovers team of Eva Cunningham, Jen Feher, Maria Atti and Nikki Hendrix.
If you were there this weekend, feel free to share your take on the Macker in the comments section below.
One of my favorite events in Western New York takes place this weekend, as the annual Gus Macker three-on-three basketball tournament returns to Niagara Square. This will be the 19th Macker held downtown, and it seems to get better and better with each passing year. We'll have an advance of the event in the paper later this week, but until then, here's some of the details.
There are more than 960 registered teams, about 975 including the corporate division, accounting for about 4,000 players. That makes it the largest Macker in the country. Combined with spectators, about 40,000 to 50,000 people are expected. The people watching and festival-like atmosphere make the event a great time, even for non-hoops junkies.
The most controversial news about this year's Macker may be the plan to award two champions in the top men's division. With so many teams (about 35) and only so much time, organizers will hold top men's title games on courts one and two. Of course, that leads to a situation like last year, when the winning Darling Paints team of Charlie Comerford, Damone Brown, Nick Parisi and Jason Rowe waited for nearly 75 minutes before taking on Family Ties for an "unofficial championship" and bragging rights.
What's your opinion? Should there be two champions, or should the Macker find a way to let the division winners play against each other?
And if you've got favorite Macker memories, be sure to add them here in the comments section below.