Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, known by the locals as simply “the Aud,” shook, rattled and rolled its way into the pantheon of iconic NHL arenas. Home to the Buffalo Sabres from 1970 to 1996, the Aud was loud, intimate, colorful and stuffed to the rafters with great memories for Buffalo’s passionate Sabres fans.
The Aud — Facts and Figures
- Buffalo Memorial Auditorium opened in 1940, built at a cost of $2.7 million. You couldn’t pave an arena’s parking lot for that today.
- The original capacity of the Aud was 14,337.
- The AHL Buffalo Bisons were the first hockey tenant of the Aud, playing there from 1940 until 1970. When the expansion Sabres joined the NHL and took up occupancy at Buffalo Memorial, the Bisons franchise dissolved.
- To make Buffalo Memorial Auditorium suitable for its new NHL tenants, the arena underwent a major renovation after the 1970-71 season, at a cost of $8.7 million (more than three times the cost of the original construction). Changes included installing a new scoreboard, raising the roof 24 feet, adding an upper level and increasing hockey seating capacity to 15,360.
- The Aud shut down in 1996, with the Sabres moving to Marine Midland Arena, which is now called KeyBank Center. The Aud was demolished in 2009, at a total cost of about $10 million — slightly less than what it cost to build and renovate it.
- In all, the Sabres played 1,094 games at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, with a regular-season record of 581-272-155-15 and a playoff record of 41-24-0-6. At the Aud, the Sabres scored 4,082 goals and surrendered 3,021. No wonder Sabres fans have fond memories of home, sweet home!
The Aud — Memories
- One of the greatest goaltenders of all time: Sabres Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek. Buffalo fans saw spectacular save after spectacular save by Hasek at the Aud.
- Wayne Gretzky broke Phil Esposito’s single-season scoring record with a natural hat trick at the Aud on February 24, 1982. His third goal gave him 79 on the season, Buffalo fans may remember that Sabres captain Gilbert Perreault also scored a hat trick in that game (the Oilers won the game 6-3).
- Speaking of Perreault, he scored his 500th career goal at the Aud in 1986 against the New Jersey Devils.
- May Day. In 1993, the Sabres were up 3-0 on the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During OT in Game 4 at the Aud, Brad May outskated defenseman Ray Bourque and goaltender Andy Moog to find the empty net. The win put the Sabres into the second round for the first time since 1983.
- The Fog Game. On May 20, 1975, the Sabres were hosting the Philadelphia Flyers in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The air conditioner went out, creating fog on the ice. Before the fog reached its thickest point, a bat came down from the rafters. Sabres forward Jim Lorentz “batted” it out of the air with his stick, killing it. Players then put the deceased bat in the penalty box. Henceforth Lorentz was known as Batman. Buffalo won the game in OT, 5-4.
- When the Aud was packed with hockey fans, as it usually was, the noise was loud enough to literally shake the building. This made the arena extremely intimidating for visiting teams. One fan who really got the fans going was The Earl of Bud, an Aud beer vendor who periodically performed the Pee-Wee Herman Tequila dance during Sabres games.
- No discussion of Buffalo Memorial Auditorium would be complete without mention of Milt Ellis, the Sabres public address announcer at the Aud for 27 seasons. With a booming voice but gentle personality, his presence added a final dash of character to what was one of the most fondly remembered arenas in NHL history.
(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)