The Sabres have a long history as they approach their 50th season. Throughout that time, there have been some crazy game moments, leaving fans with some very good, and very bad, memories.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 wildest game moments in Sabres history:
1975 Stanley Cup Finals – Jim Lorentz Kills A Bat
During Buffalo’s first Stanley Cup Finals appearance, they hosted the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3. It was an unseasonably hot day in Buffalo, which caused a fog to appear in the Memorial Auditorium. The arena at the time lacked air conditioning, making for an unusual atmosphere.
As the game progressed, a bat apparently felt like this was its’ moment to shine, swooping down and flying over the players throughout the game.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) February 7, 2019
After a stoppage in play the bat swooped down again and Jim Lorentz hit it out of mid-air with his stick.
To date, this is the only known occurrence of an animal entering the field of play in a hockey game. The Sabres ended up winning the game in overtime, 5-4, and Lorentz took on the name the “Batman”.
1972 – Jim Schoenfeld Goes Through The Boards With Wayne Cashman
The Sabres and Bruins did not like each other right from the start and games were met with a lot of physical play because of it. In this December game, Schoenfeld went into the Buffalo corner hard to check Cashman.
The doors were not locked properly and both players went flying through the boards, but the scrum didn’t stop there. They brawled into the pathway leading to the ice to the glee of the fans watching, and it would become one of the most memorable fights in NHL history.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) February 7, 2019
Two Separate Times Players Are Cut In The Neck
The Sabres have one of the cringe-worthiest scenes in NHL history. On two separate occasions, the Sabres have seen a freak accident on home ice where one player’s skate cuts another player in the neck.
The first was March 22nd, 1989 when St. Louis Blues player Steve Tuttle collided with Buffalo goaltender Clint Malarchuk. Tuttle’s skate came up and sliced into Malarchuk’s neck. Sabres trainer Jim Pizzutelli, a former Army combat medic, saved Malarchuk’s life, pinching his jugular vein until proper medical staff could help further.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) February 9, 2019
19 years later horror struck again. This time on February 10th, 2008 to Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik.
Zednik was in the corner when Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur lost his balance and went down. While doing so, his skate came up and got Zednik’s neck.
For the second time in Sabres history, Buffalo fans had to witness a player run to the bench due to a horrific injury. Thankfully with modern medical precautions, available paramedics and doctors were already ready and he was stabilized very quickly.
1996 – Matthew Barnaby Springs To Life To Pummel Garth Snow
The 1990s saw an intense rivalry between the Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers, culminating in many line brawls and goalie fights.
During this March 29th, 1996 game the Flyers were up, 4-2, with under 30 seconds to go in the second period. Matthew Barnaby was fighting hard for position in front of the net when Flyers enforcer Shawn Antoski came over and knocked Barnaby out of the way with a hard cross check.
Barnaby fell to the ice and appeared to be injured. While he was down, a trainer came to out to assist him, but a line brawl was about to ensue.
Just as things were calming down, Flyers goalie Garth Snow decided it would be an excellent time to playfully put his stick in Barnaby’s side. Well, that awoke a suddenly recovered Barnaby who wailed into Garth Snow, pummeling him until Flyers forward Rod Brind’Amor tackled them both to the ground.
For good measure, Sabres goalie Andre Trefilov decided to join the ruckus and punched Snow as he was on the ground, starting another small scale brawl.
This only further escalated the rivalry between Buffalo and Philly, resulting in a more famous fight at a later date.
1997- Steve Shields Fights Garth Snow
At times in life, circumstance is everything. By the 1997 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sabres and Flyers had already had numerous altercations and Philadelphia had taken Buffalo out of the playoffs in 1994.
The 1997 season was especially magnified because the Sabres won their first division title in a decade and the Flyers were the top seed in the East with the feared Legion of Doom line centered by Eric Lindros.
The opening game of round two between the teams saw a massive scrum late in the second. As the teams separated and the refs tried to keep control of things, Sabres goalie Steve Shields came skating all the way down from his end to go after Flyers goalie Garth Snow.
Rick Jeanneret’s call only built the moment, and finally, the two goalies started throwing at each other in an epic goalie fight between two teams who hated each other.
There may have been better fights in Sabres history, but for a young scrappy Sabres team they showed their grit and spirit to a favored Flyers, a team they would eliminate in the playoffs the following year.
1996 – The Scoreboard Crashes To The Ice
While this wasn’t an actual in-game moment, it stopped a game from being played.
The Buffalo Sabres had just moved into their new home, Marine Midland Arena, in 1996 with a brand new $4M dollar scoreboard.
On November 17th at 2 pm, just after the Sabres and Bruins had completed their gameday practices, a cable snapped as the Scoreboard was being lowered, sending it crashing to the ice.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) February 10, 2019
The Sabres didn’t get a new scoreboard until the 1997-98 season with the remaining operable video screens being set around the arena.
2015 – Fans Actively Cheer When The Team Loses To Arizona
The 2014-15 season was known as the great tank in Buffalo. The Sabres were actively positioning to lose for a shot at generational talents Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
As the season progressed, Buffalo continued on its’ quest to finish dead last with Arizona shaping up as their main competition.
On March 27th, 2015 the Sabres hosted the Coyotes in a battle of the basement.
The Coyotes led through most of the game until the Sabres tied it at 3 with just under four minutes to go, setting the stage for a dramatic overtime.
The Coyotes carried a power play into OT, which saw a Sam Gagner one-timer from the left side beat Sabres goalie Matt Hacket for a 4-3 Coyotes victory.
Whether you were at the game or watching on TV, you could hear one of the loudest cheers from the stands by Sabre fans.
This was not received particularly well nationally, but for a fanbase looking for a spark of hope, a little more pain was worth it in this instance.
2007 – Sabres vs. Senators Brawl
In relatively recent memory, the Sabres and Senators are probably the last true great rivalry the team has had before sinking into the league’s basement.
From the late 1990s into the 2000s, Buffalo had bested Ottawa three separate times in the postseason, including just recently the previous year in five games.
By the 2006-07 season, things had reached a fevered pace between the teams. On February 22nd, the Sabres hosted Ottawa in a big divisional matchup.
In the second period, Chris Neil blindsided Chris Drury with a hit to the head that sent the Sabres captain down hard. Neil was met quickly by Drew Stafford in a fight, but the referees separated everyone quickly.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Sabres sent out their 4th line of grinders – Adam Mair, Andrew Peters, and Patrick Kaleta. As soon as the puck was dropped, they proceeded to fight and hit everything they saw.
Ray Emery and Martin Biron fighting also got in on the action. Just as Emery and Biron separated, Peters skated over and started fighting Emery.
Once the fights stopped, the attention went to the middle bench partition where Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was in a screaming match with Senators coach Bryan Murray.
The Sabres ended up winning the wild affair, 6-5, in overtime in one of the all-time classic Sabres games.
1992 – A Fan Attacks The Sabres Bench
Back in 1992, when the Quebec Nordiques still existed, a mild fight stopped play between the Nords and Sabres.
That wasn’t surprising, but what was happened to be a very drunk Quebec fan who decided to jump on the ice and go after the Sabres bench. Both teams stopped their action on the ice and watched in amusement as the fan immediately regretted his decision.
Rob Ray got a hold of the fan and punched him mercilessly until security was able to get him.
1976 – Sabres rout the Soviet Wings, 12-6
At a time when the Cold War was at its’ full height, the Sabres scored the first historic, politically-charged win over the Russians for the NHL on January 4th, 1976.
At the time, the Russian hockey teams were seen as an unstoppable force that replicated the view of the Soviet Union as a cold, ruthless, and efficient force that rolled through any opposition. The United States had shaky morale at the time thanks to Watergate and a fledgling presidency under Gerald Ford that did not inspire much confidence while the economy was in a full-board recession.
Needless to say, American confidence was not high and when the United States faced the Russians in any sporting event, the tension was high to beat our rivals.
In 1976, the NHL started a Super Series competition, taking the best NHL teams at the time to face the top Soviet club teams, which were made up of the national players for the Russian hockey machine.
Jan 4, 1976. Sabres 12 Soviet Wings 6. I believe this is the only unused ticket in existence from this historic game. And before the puck drop the Sabres gave these souvenirs to the Russian players. A rare Sunday afternoon start. @ByMHarrington pic.twitter.com/uvz6znLsIB
— John Boutet (@JohnBoutet) January 5, 2019
The first three games of the series saw the NHL teams lose badly in two of the games (Montreal and Pittsburgh) with the New York Rangers managing a tie.
The Sabres victory on January 4th marked the first win by any NHL team during that time and what a victory it was.
Buffalo trounced the Soviet Wings, 12-6, in a game where the Sabres rolled through the Russian zone with speed they could not match, and any time the Soviets made it into the Buffalo end, they were pummeled by the Sabres defense.
Jerry Korab has remarked that the Soviets were a cold, emotionless bunch and he wanted to just beat them down anytime they came into the Buffalo zone.
The energy in the Aud was at a frenzy with the crowd on their feet throughout the game and they gave the Sabres a standing ovation at the end.
For the great Sabres teams of the 1970s (other than the Cup Finals), this was certainly their finest hour and one of the wildest settings a Sabres game would ever be played under.