January 29, 2013 - 12:18 AM
(Born on January 29, 1965) -- All right, Dominik Hasek turns 48 today. Does he think he can still play goal in the National Hockey League? Could be, and who can argue? After all, Hasek is without question one of the all-time greats.
Hasek started playing hockey at the age of six in his native Czechoslovakia. His new team needed a goalie, so that’s where he played. Hasek turned pro at the age of 16, the youngest Czech player to ever do so. He won a couple of league titles, and caught the eye of the Blackhawks, who drafted him in 1983.
In 1990, Hasek arrived in Chicago, and he served as a backup to starter Ed Belfour. He achieved some fame when he replaced Belfour in Game Four of the Stanley cup finals, playing superbly in a losing cause against Pittsburgh. That caught the eye of the Sabres, who in a complicated transaction acquired him.
Hasek didn’t start right away, but took over the position in the 1993-94 season when Grant Fuhr was injured. Hasek was terrific, and Fuhr eventually was traded. For the next several years, Hasek was worth the price of admission in Buffalo. He won the league’s MVP trophy two straight times, and piled up numerous other honors (including a gold medal in 1998).
Hasek was traded to the Red Wings in 2001, and earned a Cup there. He jumped to Ottawa and then back to Detroit. From there Hasek moved overseas for a couple of more seasons, finally retiring - we think - after the 2011 season.
--- Budd Bailey
January 28, 2013 - 12:18 AM
(Born on January 28, 1957) -- The career of Mark Napier didn’t quite turn out the way we thought it might. However, it was a long and successful one by most standards.
Napier looked like he had a chance to be one of the best players in hockey when he was a junior. He was so good that he jumped to the World Hockey Association with two years of eligibility remaining. For Toronto he was rookie of the year in 1975-76, and followed that with a 60-goal season.
The Canadiens drafted him in the first round in 1977, and lured him to Montreal. He eventually led the team in goals in three different seasons. Napier was traded to Minnesota for Bobby Smith, and lost his scoring touch somewhere along the way. In 1985, he was sent to Edmonton in a deal involving ex-Sabre Terry Martin.
In March of 1987, Napier made his last NHL stop - in Buffalo. He came here in a trade for Norm Lacombe. He played a little more than two seasons here, and was a smart two-way player who was a respected veteran on the team.
Napier crossed the ocean to play in Italy in 1989-90, and showed he still had a scoring touch. He scored 154 points in 42 games in his first season there.
--- Budd Bailey
January 27, 2013 - 12:15 AM
(Born on January 27, 1976) -- Rhett Warrener made quite an impact during his relatively short time as a Sabre. That’s not a deliberate pun on his aggressive style of play, although it could be.
Warrener was born and raised in Saskatchewan, and spent three full years with the Saskatoon Blades. He was the second-round draft choice of the Florida Panthers in 1994.
After finishing junior hockey, it took Warrener less than a year to break into the Florida lineup. He was a regular on the 1996 team that reached the Stanley Cup final, only to lose to Colorado. He stayed until March of 1999, when he was dealt to the Sabres for Mike Wilson.
Buffalo was happy about the way that came out. Warrener fit in well and helped the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup finals. He was hurt in Game Five against Dallas; maybe he could have made a difference in Game Six.
Warrener stayed in Buffalo until 2003, when he was traded to the Flames for Chris Drury. The defenseman played the final four years of his career in Calgary, and is reportedly a morning radio host there now.
--- Budd Bailey
January 26, 2013 - 12:13 AM
(Born on January 26, 1957) -- Dale McCourt was a good player during much of his career. Somehow, though, good wasn’t quite good enough.
The center was a great junior hockey player by any definition. He had at least 126 points in three straight seasons, playing less than 70 games. That helped make him the first overall draft choice in 1977, going to the Detroit Red Wings.
McCourt wasted no time making an impact. He had 72 points in 76 games in his rookie season. He worked his way up to 86 points in 1980-81, and was still around a point a game early in the next season.
Then the forward was traded to the Sabres in the huge swap that sent Danny Gare and Jim Schoenfeld to Detroit. McCourt’s production slipped under a point per game in his almost two full seasons in Buffalo, as the numbers stopped going up.
The Sabres released him in the fall of 1983, and he landed with Toronto for the rest of that season. Then it was on to Switzerland, where McCourt stayed eight years. He was such a star there that his uniform number was retired when he finished play in the 1991-92 season.
--- Budd Bailey
January 25, 2013 - 12:10 AM
(Born January 25, 1979) -- Old-timers remember the years when fullbacks got to carry the ball regularly. Look up such players as Jim Brown, Jim Taylor and Cookie Gilchrist and you’ll get the idea. Then the game changed, and Sam Gash made the Pro Bowl without carrying the ball once.
Corey McIntyre probably wouldn’t mind going back to those old days.
He was born and raised in Stuart, Fla., and earned a scholarship to West Virginia. There he was a linebacker and defensive end . McIntyre did get to carry the ball three times as a Mountaineer.
He went undrafted in 2002, but the Eagles signed him as a free agent. McIntyre popped up in the World League in between stints there. Then it was on to Cleveland, New Orleans and Atlanta.
The Bills needed a fullback in Sept. 2008, and McIntyre was available. He’s been here ever since. Corey hasn’t touched the ball much; his career high in carries before this season was seven. But, Buffalo likes what he does for it.
--- Budd Bailey
January 24, 2013 - 12:15 AM
(Born January 24, 1934) -- Hank Bullough is mostly remembered in Western New York for his losing record as the Bills’ head coach. It’s too bad that his time here in that capacity wiped out the memory of a long career in football.
Bullough was born in Scranton, Penn., and went to Michigan State. There he was a starting guard for the Spartans. Bullough was a starting guard for Michigan State when it won the 1952 Rose Bowl.
After a short playing career with the Green Bay Packers, he turned to coaching at his alma mater. Bullough spent 11 years there before landing in Baltimore as an assistant with the Colts. He moved to the Patriots in the 1970s, and is credited with helping to bring the 3-4 defense to the NFL.
Bullough moved to the Bengals, and turned up in Buffalo as defensive coordinator in 1985. Buffalo gave him the head coaching job when Kay Stephenson was fired. But it was a difficult spot, and the Bills went 2-12 in the rest of that season. Buffalo started 1986 by going 2-7, and that was enough – Marv Levy came in as a replacement.
It was back to the Packers as defensive coordinator for four seasons in 1988, and finished up his coaching career in Detroit in 1993.
January 23, 2013 - 12:13 AM
(Born January 23, 1963) -- F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, “There are no second acts in American life.” We’ll see if Marty Brown can change that belief in Buffalo this summer.
The Oklahoma native was drafted by the Reds in 1985 after playing college ball at Georgia. He played with the Reds and Orioles briefly but couldn’t stick, so it was on to perform in Japan for three years. Brown, an infielder, finished his playing days in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Brown started his managing career in Erie with the Pittsburgh farm system in 1997. He arrived in Nashville in 2001, and spent two years with that Pacific Coast League team. Then Brown landed in Buffalo, where he had a winning record in all three of his seasons. The team won the International League title in 2004.
Brown spent five years managing in Japan in 2006-10, and then came back across the ocean to manage in Las Vegas for the Blue Jays. The team went 79-64 last season.
When Toronto moved its top farm team to Buffalo, it seemed like a natural fit for Brown to come back here to manage. That’s exactly how it worked out, as he’ll be guiding the Herd in 2013.
-- Budd Bailey
January 22, 2013 - 12:11 AM
(Born January 22, 1982) -- Few football players who aren’t drafted make an NFL roster. Even fewer end up as starters. Even fewer are Pro Bowlers. Jason Peters was the exception to many rules.
Peters was born in Texas and went to the University of Arkansas. He was a huge physical specimen (6-foot-4 and more than 300 pounds), but ended up playing tight end for the Razorbacks. He was good at it too.
Peters was signed by the Bills as a free agent in 2004. They first put him on special teams, and discovered that he absolutely destroyed wedges on kickoffs. Then the Bills gave him a crash course on playing offensive tackle.
By 2006, Peters was a starter on the line, and made the Pro Bowl in 2007. That led him to holding out for a better contract for part of the 2008 season. Peters eventually turned up, but more financial problems led to his trade to the Eagles in 2009.
Peters made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2011, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout last March. Peters missed all of the 2012 season. The Eagles obviously missed him.
--- Budd Bailey
January 21, 2013 - 12:18 AM
(Born January 21, 1939) -- St. Bonaventure has had all sorts of great basketball players over the years. Two of the best were a brother act from Brooklyn.
Tom Stith and older brother Sam certainly were a dynamic duo in Olean. Sam was an all-around player who could play defense and score as well. Tom, meanwhile, was the one who collected attention. That happens to scorers.
Tom was named an All-American in 1960 and 1961. He scored more than 2,000 points in three years of varsity play. As a junior, he averaged 31 points per game.
All of that caught the eye of the New York Knicks. He went second in the NBA draft, right behind Walt Bellamy. Stith broke in to the NBA but only played a couple of seasons due to tuberculosis.
Still, the Stith name is remembered fondly. He’s a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Stith died in 2010.
--- Budd Bailey
January 20, 2013 - 12:13 AM
(Born January 20, 1977) -- Sometimes kickers have been known to bounce around the National Football League, as a couple of bad weeks can send them to the unemployment line. Rian Lindell has been the exception to the rule.
Lindell grew up in Vancouver, Washington, and was a college kicker for Washington State. There he played with future first-round pick Ryan Leaf. Lindell wasn’t picked in the 2000 NFL draft, so he started making the rounds.
After an initial stop with the Cowboys (no game action), Lindell landed with Seattle in 2003. He stayed three seasons, and then was a free agent. The Bills were losing Mike Hollis to free agent, and thought Lindell would be a good replacement. He was known for his strong leg.
Lindell just finished a full decade with the team. He only made 70 percent of his field goals in his first season, but that was his worst such season with the Bills. In 2007, he set the team record for consecutive field goals.
Lindell signed a four-year contract with the Bills last year around this time. Nothing is for certain in the NFL, but it looks like he’s found a home.
--- Budd Bailey