The Buffalo Sabres are a professional ice hockey team based in Buffalo, New York who play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The team was established in 1970, along with the Vancouver Canucks, when the league expanded to 14 teams. They have played at First Niagara Center since 1996, having previously played at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium from the start of the franchise in 1970.
The team name, as so often, was a matter of argument and controversy. Wanting a name other than "bison," which was common among Buffalo sports teams, the owners immediately commissioned a name-the-team contest. The winning choice, "Sabres," was chosen because it was felt that a sabre, a weapon carried by a leader, could be used effectively on both offense and defense.
The team has twice advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975 and to the Dallas Stars in 1999. The best known line in team history is the so-called French Connection, which consisted of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert. All three players have had their sweater numbers (11, 7 and 14, respectively) retired and a statue erected in their honor at First Niagara Center in 2012. Tim Horton (2), Pat LaFontaine (16), Danny Gare (18) and Dominik Hasek (39) have also had their jersey numbers retired.
Let’s have a look at the profiles of some of these outstanding players. Gilbert Perreault played for 17 seasons with the Sabres. He was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990. Known for his ability to stickhandle in close quarters, he is regarded as one of the most skilful play-making centres of all time. He is the original Buffalo Sabre because he was drafted first by the team in their inaugural season in the NHL.
Rick Martin played for the Sabres for ten years from 1971-1981. His best season was the 1974–75 NHL season when he scored 52 goals and 95 points in only 68 games. Martin scored at least 44 goals five times in his NHL career.
René Robert wore a Sabres jersey from 1971 to 1979. His best offensive season was the 1974–75 season when he scored 40 goals and 60 assists for 100 points, the club's first 100 point season by an individual.
Pat LaFontaine who throughout his career only represented New York teams, played for the Sabres from 1991 to 1997. His 1.17 points per game (1,013 points over 865 games) is the best among American-born ice hockey players, active or retired.
Tim Horton joined the Sabres for the last two years of his hockey career when he was already 42 and suffering from near-sightedness. Nevertheless in 1973, his performance assisted the Sabres in their first playoff appearance.
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