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Naming the Sabres

Throughout 40 plus years of Buffalo Sabres hockey, many have wondered and questioned how the team got its name. Some took it a step further and have asked what a Sabre is and why it is spelled the way it is.

In 1969, owners Seymour Knox III and Northrup Knox wanted the team’s logo and name to be unique. “Bison” was a common choice for Buffalo sports teams, but Knox wanted something different. Because of that, the organization held a name-the-team contest, where fans could submit suggestions for the team’s name.

Sabres owner Seymour H. Knox III drops the ceremonial first puck to kick off the first ever NHL game at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium, October 15, 1970.

Sabres owner Seymour H. Knox III drops the ceremonial first puck to kick off the first ever NHL game at Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium, October 15, 1970.

The winning choice came from Harry Cole, a Toronto filmmaker, and the Sabres have kept the name ever since. Knox III stated that a Sabre was a weapon carried by a leader and could be used effectively on both offense and defense.

The dictionary definition of a Sabre is “a stout single-edged cavalry sword, having a curved blade.”

Many have wondered why “Sabres” is spelled the way it is. With Buffalo being an American team, why isn’t it spelled “Sabers”, just as the other New York teams are spelled with -er endings (Islanders, Rangers)?

Buffalo is right on the border with southern Ontario and a quick trip over the peace bridge takes just a few minutes to get from Canada to the First Niagara Center. In fact, Sabres play-by-play man, Rick Jeanneret, resides in Canada and makes the commute to call the Buffalo games.

Since the team was established, Buffalo’s fanbase has had a large portion of Canadian fans. There were enough that made the trip down to the arena that the Sabres became the first NHL franchise to perform both the U.S. and Canadian anthems before every home game, and they still do it to this day.

With the large amount of Canadian fans, Knox III decided to spell it as “Sabres.”

After the team had chosen its name and selected the jersey designs,

Sabretooth has made entrances onto the ice by coming down from the rafters, using a rope line.

Sabretooth has made entrances onto the ice by coming down from the rafters, using a rope line.

Buffalo would eventually need a mascot and what better than a Sabre-toothed tiger?

Sabretooth was born on January 1st, 1988.

“Sabretooth is one of the most mysterious mascots in pro sports. No one really knows where this bad cat came from, but rumor has it, he was discovered under the ice at The Aud during 1988-89 season.

While he may be hated by his NHL suit rivals, he is well loved by the Buffalo fans. He is a very popular mascot because he is always ready to give a hug, sign an autograph or take a picture with the Sabre faithful.” – NHL.com

After nearly five decades of hockey, many fans are still awaiting a championship for Buffalo, when the spelling of “Sabres” would really matter – when it is engraved on the Stanley Cup.

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