The Buffalo Sabres were formed in 1970 by local businessmen Seymour
and Northrup Knox. The Knoxes hired former Toronto Maple Leafs coach and general manager Punch Imlach, as the coach and general manager. The nickname "Sabres" was selected in 1969 in a local contest that saw over thirteen thousand suggestions. The team would play in a revamped Buffalo Auditorium, "The Aud" - which was enlarged to hold the larger crowds. The Sabres won the first overall pick in their inaugural amateur entry draft, and selected highly coveted Montreal Jr. Canadien, Gilbert Perreault. In their first season the Buffalo Sabres finished with 24 wins and 63 points with Gilbert Perrault leading all rookies with 38 goals and 72 points - good enough to earn him the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie.
The Sabres went on to draft Rick Martin and trade for Rene Robert, thus creating the famous "French Connection" line of Martin- Perreault-Robert. The Sabres made their first playoff appearance in 1973, losing to the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens to a spirited six game series. Floyd Smith replaced Joe Crozier as coach the following year and led them to a club record 49-16-15 record for 113 points. Buffalo defeated Chicago in the first round of the playoffs followed by a second round victory over Montreal to earn its first-ever berth in the Stanley Cup finals. There they met the Philadelphia Flyers, who went on to defeat the Sabres in six games. In 1976 the Sabres lost to the New York Islanders in in the second round of the playoffs, four games to two. That year, they also played one of the more memorable games in international hockey. Buffalo hosted the Soviet Red Army team and handed them their worst loss, an emotionally charged 12-6 decision. Back in the NHL, the Sabres were becoming a regular contestant in post season play. But they were unable to crack into the elite, losing in the second rounds in 1978 to the Flyers, and the first round in 1979 to the Pittsburg Penguins.
In 1979 the Buffalo Sabres hired Scotty Bowman as coach and general manager. Bowman had just coached the Montreal Canadiens to four straight Stanley Cup victories, and bore an immediate impact on the Sabres. In his first year the team finished with 110 points as Bowman led the Sabres to the Wales Conference Finals before they lost 4-2 to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders. Bowman spent the next couple of seasons adding many important pieces to the hockey puzzle in Phil Housley, Mike Ramsey, Lindy Ruff, Mike Foligno, Dave Andreychuck, and Tom Barraso. The Sabres continued to have success, finishing with over 90 points and making several playoff runs up to the division finals. As some of the veteran Sabres retired or left through trades, the younger core would soon add to the excitement in Buffalo. In 1987 the Sabres selected Pierre Turgeon as their first round pick. Turgeon quickly proved to be a solid NHLer, but was traded in 1991 to the New York Islanders for Pat Lafontaine. LaFontaine teamed with Russian sniper Alexander Mogilny to form a dynamic duo that combined to score 129 goals in 1992-93, including a franchise-record 76 goals for Mogilny. With John Muckler calling the shots in the front office, the Sabres added goalie Grant Fuhr in a trade with Toronto. In the postseason the Sabres breezed by Boston in the first round, sweeping the Bruins in four. In the second round, Mogilny suffered a broken leg and the Sabres lost to the Montreal Canadiens.
The 1990s also saw Buffalo herald the emergence of Czech star Dominik Hasek as one of the most dominant goalies in NHL history. The "Dominator" became the Sabres number one goaltender in the 1993-94 season, recording a 1.95 goals against average. Hasek's unorthodox style was on display in the 1994 Eastern Conference quarter finals versus the New Jersey Devils. Buffalo won a game 1-0 in the fourth overtime and Dominik Hasek posted an incredible 70 saves in the victory. Hasek would go on to win his first of two consecutive Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s top goaltender. The 1994-95 Sabres were ousted in the preliminary round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers. Changes contined as Alexander Mogilny was traded and Pat Lafontaine continued to struggle with concussion related injuries. The coaching reins were handed over to Ted Nolan and the team moved to a brand new Marine Midland Arena (now called HSBC Arena). The 1997 playoffs saw a Ted Nolan led Sabres persevere through an injury to Dominick Hasek in the first round, but lose to the Flyers in the second round. Though the team was enjoying success on the ice, there were wholesale changes in the front office with Darcy Regier taking over as general manager and ex-Sabre Lindy Ruff behind the bench. The team reacted positively, making it deep into the 1998 playoffs. They defeated the Flyers in the first round, swept the Montreal Canadiens, but lost to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference final.
The next season, the Sabres did not miss a beat as they continued to find success in the playoffs. They swept the upstart Ottawa Senators and finished off the Boston Bruins in six. Back in the Eastern Conference final for the second straight year, the Sabres faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They would go on to beat the Leafs in a short five game series, and reached the franchise's second ever Stanley Cup final. Facing a defense minded Dallas Stars squad, goals were at a premium and the Sabres lost in a six game series with Brett Hull scoring the controversial Cup winning goal for the Stars. The following year the Sabres were back in the playoffs, but lost to the Flyers in the first round. The 2000-01 campaign turned out to be one of the most successful seasons in Buffalo as the Sabres won the fourth most games in team history (46). The offense was led by Miroslav Satan and Dominick Hasek won his sixth Vezina Trophy, as the best NHL goaltender. But it was not long before Hasek would be gone from Buffalo, finding a new home in Detroit. As the Sabres struggled with economic and ownership issues, the team has marked somewhat of a new start by beginning to build around a core of young players.
Buffalo Sabres Overview:
Arena: HSBC Arena
Stanley Cup wins: 0