Sabres put on a show for the home fans

Victor Olofsson
Photo credit Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports
By WGR 550 SportsRadio
Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Sabres came to play in a big way in the home opener. Buffalo scored on its first three power plays and skated circles around the bewildered Devils, winning 7-2.

The fans started blowing the roof off the place just 2:56 in when Victor Olofsson found the back of the net. By the end of the night, they were chanting, "We want eight!"

Just like Thursday, the speed and tenacity never stopped. Watching the power play, I’d be hard pressed to find one battle that they lost. Last year, they couldn’t even get the puck in the zone.

The Sabres did all of this in front on many of their former captains, including Gil Perreault. The first player ever drafted by the Buffalo Sabres was back for the captains’ celebration. The team is honoring its 50th anniversary this year, and Perreault is a huge part of the history. He said, “It’s great, 50 years in Buffalo and the first few years the fans were great, they’ve always been great here.”

Perreault played his hockey for 17 years in the Aud. He loved games in that building, “Every game we played at the Aud was amazing, the fans were very involved.”

These days very few players play their whole career in one place. Perreault said he’s thankful he could, “I was lucky, but it means a lot, 17 years in Buffalo was great. I was the first pick and I was hoping to spend all of my career in Buffalo and it was very important to me to finish here.”

Perreault told me at the airport before the team flew to their game that night that he would not be the next captain of the Sabres. When the team took the ice, he was wearing the “C”. Perreault said it took a lot of convincing from Scotty Bowman, “Yes he did talk a long time to me about it, we had a long meeting and you know, I always had a little problem with my language, but everybody on the team accepted that.”

If you’re a Sabre, you’re probably going to be recognized when you’re out and about. Perreault said even in the early years, that was true, “The early years were crazy. The fans were a great part of the team, everywhere you go everybody was recognizing you in the restaurants and even today, I was in a restaurant today and people were coming up after 33 years.”

Many hockey experts think it’s unbelievable that the Sabres never won the Stanley Cup back then. They had the French Connection, Danny Gare and many other great players. Perreault thought for sure they’d win one.  “In ’75 we went to the final and I really thought after that for the next five years, I thought we had a pretty good chance to win the Cup.”

Perreault’s first game was in Pittsburgh, but his first home game in the Aud was against the Montreal Canadiens. It’s a night he remembers well, “We were playing against the Montreal Canadiens. I thought I was going to play against my idol Jean Beliveau that night, but I didn’t get a chance to play one shift against him, but it was a great challenge playing against the Montreal Canadiens.”

The Sabres wore their white golden anniversary sweaters and the fans loved every minute of it. It’s been a while since this building was that alive.