Scotty Bowman, who coached so many victories for the Buffalo Sabres in old Memorial Auditorium, has the honor of being the first visiting coach to walk out of Marine Midland Arena as a winner Saturday night after the Detroit Red Wings' 6-1 victory.
"I never even thought about that," said Bowman, who already owns so many distinctions, including more victories than any other coach in NHL history. Rather than historical significance, he claimed what he was thinking about was bouncing back from a 2-1 loss on home ice to Calgary Friday night.
The cozy Aud was among the smallest ice surfaces in the NHL. Now, visiting teams don't have as radical an adjustment to make to the playing conditions and the size of the ice surface as they used to when they visited Buffalo.
"It's a lot easier in the new building," Bowman said of the M-Arena. "It was tough in the Aud for a team to come in because they didn't play there very often. Boston always played pretty well there because they played in Boston (on another small rink)."
The Sabres will develop a home-ice advantage in the new arena in time, Bowman said. "They've got a young team, got some speed. They'll get used to it. The advantage for the home team will grow as the team grows."
In 26 seasons, Detroit won only seven times in the old Aud and the Wings' widest margin of victory here was five goals in 1992 (9-4). They equaled that margin last night.
It's a rare night when Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek allows six goals, none on the power play, but Bowman gave his team some credit. The Red Wings scored three times in 2:15 against Hasek in the third period after Michael Peca had scored for Buffalo to cut the Detroit lead to 3-1.
"They were nice goals," Bowman said. "I know how good this guy (Hasek) is. There aren't too many other goalies in the league that play like he can. . . . When you score six goals on him, you have to be on your game."