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Buffalo Sabres History:
Based in Buffalo , New York , the Buffalo Sabres are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League. The Sabres joined the NHL in the 1970-71 season and played their first of many seasons at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The Sabres got off to an excellent start because they won the NHL draft lottery and their choice was future Hockey Hall of Fame center Gilbert Perreault. Perreault scored 38 goals in his rookie season which, at the times, was a record for the most goals scored by a rookie in the NHL, and he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year. Even though they had the incredible performance of Perreault on their side, the Sabres did not make the playoffs.
The following season, 1971-72, rookie Rick Martin was drafted fifth overall by Buffalo and Rene Robert was acquired in a late-season trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Combined with Perreault this trio would become one of the league's top forward lines throughout the 1970s. They would be known as the 'French Connection'. The Sabres made the playoffs for the first time in 1972-73 season, a feat considering it was just the team's third year in the league. At the end of the 1974-1975 regular season the Sabres finished in a tie for the best record in the NHL and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in team history where they were matched up against the Philadelphia Fylers. This series included the infamous 'fog game' where, due to unusual heat in Buffalo , portions of the game were played in very heavy fog. Players, officials, and the puck were sometimes nearly invisible to viewers. Through the fog, Sabres center Jim Lorentz saw a bat flying across the rink so he raised his stick and killed it. As a side note, it was the only time that any player killed an animal during an NHL game. Philadelphia ended up winning the Stanley Cup in a series that ended 4 games to 2. The French Connection, Perreault, Martin, Robert and Gare, continued to do well throughout the late 1970s but the Sabres were unable to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for several years. They do hold the distinction, however, of being the first team to beat the Soviet Olympic team when they toured the United States .
New life was infused in the mid nineties for the Sabres when new head coach Ted Nolan came on board for the 1995-96 season. Throughout his coaching tenure, the Sabres, under Nolan, were referred to as the "hardest-working team in hockey". Even though the Sabres failed to reach high levels of success the fans fell in love with Brad May, Rob Ray and Matthew Barnaby. Also, that season featured the debut of the addition of veteran player Randy Burridge. Burridge attended training camp on a try-out basis and earned a spot on the roster. He scored an astounding 25 goals that season and was second in team scoring to Pat LaFontaine and he also earned the Tim Horton Award was voted as the team's Most Valuable Player.
The Sabres turned things around in the 1996-1997 season when they won the Northeast Division which was their first division title in sixteen years. Nolan won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach, Dominik Hasek winning the Hart and Vezina Trophies, being the first goaltender to do so in over thirty years, and Michael Peca won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL.
Also, in 1996, the team had a new owner, Tomithy Rigas. Rigas fired general manager John Muckler and when negations came to a standstill he also fired Nola. After Nolan's departure, former Sabres captain Lindy Ruff was hired as head coach on July 21, 1997. Within a matter of months the Sabres organization, after having its most successful decade in over 20 years, lost their top executive and coach of the year. But with the help of left-winger Miroslav Satan, right-winger Donald Audette, center Michael Peca, and Matthew Barnaby, the Sabres made it to the Conference Finals in 1998. In 1999, the team finally returned to the Stanley Cup Finals and they were matched up against the Dallas Stars. In the sixth game, triple overtime, Dallas Stars winger Brett Hull scores a goal and the Stars were awarded the Cup. This goal has been hotly contested however because in 1999, it was illegal to score a goal if an offensive player's skate entered the crease before the puck did. It has been ranked as the fifth worst officiating call in sports history. After a few disappointing seasons, mixed with failed negotiations, Hasek was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 2001.
In 2002 owner Rigas and his famiy were arrested for embezzlement and the league took over the team. With no interested buyers it was feared that the team would have to shut down. After the two years of uncertainty, the Sabres were sold to billionaire Tom Golisano. After several seasons of missing the playoffs, in 2005, the Sabres finished with their best season in over twenty years. They finished with the fifth-best record in the league and went on to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs in six games. In the second round of the playoffs, the Sabres also beat the top-seeded Senators in five games which sent them to the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes were they were defeated. The Sabres' better than-expected season was capped when Lindy Ruff was awarded the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year. The Sabres started the 2006-07 season 10-0, and set a new franchise record for consecutive wins to start a season. They won the Northeast Division and had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Hopes are high for the next year as the Sabres come off a strong season.
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