By Conor Thompson
As we continue to look at each decade of the Sabres, this week we will be covering the 1980s. When it comes to the play on the ice, the Sabres would regularly make the playoffs but only to receive a first or second round exit in the difficult Adams division. However, the 80s gave us some memorable players and some historical moments.
Right off the bat the Sabres became favorites of many North American hockey fans after they played the Red Army in the NHL Super Series. Before Russian hockey players were allowed to play for North American teams, they could only play for their country. Regarded by many as the greatest hockey team in the world, the Soviets would come to North America to play NHL opponents and beat most of them as well.
The Sabres would face the Soviet Red Army in 1980. While the Soviets handled other NHL competition with ease, it was the Sabres who dominated the Soviets at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium by defeating the Red Army 6-1. Another Sabres historic moment with regards to the Soviet Union was the defection of Alexander Mogilny.
In the 1988 draft the Sabres took a gamble and drafted Alexander Mogilny. If Mogilny was American or Canadian he would have easily been a high first round pick. But being a member of the Soviet Union, the chances and difficulty of Mogilny joining the Sabres seemed slim to none. At the World Junior Championships in Sweden, Mogilny gave Sabres executive Don Luce a call, stating he wanted to be a Sabre.
At a local shopping mall, Mogilny ran towards Luce’s car and the circus began. From changing hotels every 6 hours, to constantly keeping a lookout from the KGB, however the biggest challenge was boarding the plane back to New York. With help from George H. Bush, Mogilny was granted political asylum and spent 17 seasons in the NHL.
While the Sabres didn’t have any close runs to the Stanley Cup in the 1980s, they still made impacts in the hockey community and were building to many successes in the 1990s.