THERE USED TO BE AN ARENA – “THE AUD” BUFFALO, NEW YORK
Here is another story about an arena in which I broadcast Kings’ hockey but has since been demolished.
“THE AUD” BUFFALO, NEW YORK
The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium was simply referred to as “The Aud” by those fans living in Buffalo. The building opened on October 14, 1940. It was built for $2.7 million, which in 2012 money would be $45.1 million. It was the home of the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League from 1940 -1970, the Buffalo Bisons of the National Basketball League in 1946, the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL from 1970-1996, and the Buffalo Braves of the NBA from 1970-1978.
The Buffalo Sabres played their first game in The Aud on October 15, 1970, and their final game there at the end of the 1995-96 season, a 4-1 victory over the Hartford Whalers.
Like most arenas of the time, seating was steep and provided an outstanding, close-up view of the action. Talk about a crowd “raising the roof,” in 1971 the roof was actually raised 24 feet, making room for a new upper “orange” level,” making the capacity 15,858 for hockey. The Aud was located in downtown Buffalo, at one end of what was once the Erie Canal. It became the center of entertainment in Buffalo and was also the last of the NHL arenas in which the ice surface was not the regulation size of 200 by 85 feet.
The Aud was 196 by 85 feet, Boston Garden was 191 by 83 feet, Chicago Stadium was 188 by 85 feet and the Detroit Olympia was 200 by 83 feet.
Hockey fans were treated to a lot of thrilling games in The Aud, including one on February 24, 1982, when Wayne Gretzky of the visiting Edmonton Oilers scored a “natural” hat trick in the final seven minutes to defeat the Sabres, 6-3. The first goal of that hat trick was Gretzky’s 77th of the season, breaking the record of 76 held by Phil Esposito. I did not see that game, but here are some of the things I do remember about working in The Aud:
The most exciting line in hockey at the time, the “French Connection Line” of Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin. Until the L.A. Kings Triple Crown Line came along in the early 80s, the French Connection Line could bring you right out of your seat. I always said when Perreault stick-handled up the ice it was like listening to someone using a typewriter as he deftly handled the stick and puck.
The television location was in an area called “The Bucket.” It was a small platform hanging off the ledge of the upper deck. It had a great view of the game, but you had to walk down through the crowd, climb over the railing and down a short ladder to get to your spot. The main press box was located at the top of that section.
In those years, we did Kings’ hockey on a simulcast, meaning radio and TV at the same time. One night, the radio lines were mistakenly put in a booth in the main press box, but my partner, Nick Nickson, and I were located in “The Bucket.” Since during the intermissions we did separate radio and TV audio, this posed a problem and we didn’t have time to change it. Therefore, at the end of each period, Nick would go downstairs to do a TV interview, and I would go up to the radio booth. When Nick finished the interview, he would come back to “The Bucket” and I would lean over the press box railing to cue him for the television portion and I would do radio. At the end of that segment, during a commercial, I would go back down to “The Bucket” for the next period and at the next intermission we’d do it all over again.
Buffalo has a reputation for snow…a lot of snow, and sudden snowstorms. On January 10, 1982, the area was hit by a sudden blizzard. Over 15,000 tickets had been sold for the Kings-Sabres game but only 2,079 brave souls made it to The Aud. In fact, on the bridge behind the auditorium, people had to abandon their cars and be led off the bridge holding on to ropes. During the game, the Sabres announced that fans that were stranded and couldn’t get home could spend the night in The Aud or in the Sabres offices. The next morning a photo in the Buffalo newspaper showed a fan sleeping in the penalty box.
After that “blizzard” game, all Kings’ personnel were told to go to the back door of the arena where a four-wheel drive vehicle would take them back to the hotel which was only about a quarter of a mile away. When I got to the back door, about 50 people were ahead of me, the vehicle was able to take only three people at a time, and it was taking about 45 minutes for the round trip. I decided to walk. I used my broadcast headset as earmuffs and started in the general direction of the hotel because you couldn’t see anything in the complete “white out.” During my walk I thought, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ When I finally got to my room, I noticed a quarter-size area of skin on my face that looked like the beginning of frostbite. By the way, the Kings lost that game, 6-4.
The Aud, and Buffalo, were not favorite spots on the road for most NHL teams. The Aud closed in 1996 and demolition was started in January of 2009, and by early July of that year The Aud, which was at one time the showplace of Buffalo and which held so many memories for Sabres fans, was completely gone.