Never has a mouse been more welcome in HSBC Arena.
Jim "Mouse" McNally, the long-time NFL offensive line coach with proud Kenmore roots, is among this year's inductees into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. The 18th annual Class will be enshrined on Wednesday at HSBC starting at 5 p.m. with a cocktail hour and silent auction. A crowd of nearly 1,000 expected.
McNally has always had a deep emotional connection to the Western New York community. He feels a debt to those who guided him during his playing days at Kenmore West High School and the University at Buffalo, as well as those who helped him break into coaching. For McNally, the Hall of Fame event will be payback time.
"My speech will be talking more about people in the crowd rather than giving an inspirational win-one-for-the-gipper," he said. "I look at it like I've moved 10 times, had eight jobs, been to three Super Bowls. All that about being honored is very nice, but I would rather kind of honor the people from Kenmore and UB -- the people who were my friends and took me to where I am."
The Arena will be filled with many people who fit that description. McNally has easily sold the most tickets of any inductee with 150. Following his induction, the celebration goes into overtime at the Hyatt Hotel downtown where he's rented half a ballroom for 200 of his closest friends. He's also invited 50-or-so friends and members of his Mouse Pack to his home in Orchard Park the next night.
"There was just something about living in Kenmore," he said. "Everyone lived close to the high school, we didn't take a bus, didn't need a car, we would walk to each other's houses. We always had a lot of fun in sports. For whatever reason, the guys I went to high school didn't move away."
McNally spent 28 years coaching in the NFL and 15 in college. Today he's a volunteer coach at UB and does some fundraising.
McNally isn't the only inductee with NFL ties.
Depew High School graduate Don "Majik" Majkowski is a former Green Bay Packer All-Pro quarterback. He spent six of his 10 NFL seasons with the Packers (1987-92) and threw for 10,870 yards in 68 games. He was a football, basketball and track standout for the Wildcats.
The Class also includes Buffalo Bills All-AFL defensive back and punt returner Butch Byrd, who led the Bills to consecutive AFL championships in the 1960s.
Daryl "Moose" Johnston played at Lewiston-Porter High School and Syracuse University before helping the Dallas Cowboys win three Super Bowls starting in 1991.
Two high school coaches earned seats at the head table: Pat Monti of LaSalle and Joe Shifflet of Sweet Home, Tonawanda and Niagara Falls.
Monti's basketball squads won 11 Section VI championships, including 10 in a row from 1988-1997. Shifflet's football teams won 193 games over 34 seasons at three schools. His wrestlers were 232-54-3 with 12 league titles.
Cindy Breski played two seasons of professional softball in Buffalo in 1975 and 1976 and went on to coach girls sports for more than three decades at Tonawanda High School.
"Sugar" Ray Hall played eight years of professional basketball after memorable careers at McKinley High and Canisius College.
The late Fred Hunt helped bring the NHL to Buffalo. He was the Sabres' assistant general manager when the franchise formed in 1970, and he remained until his death in 1977.
Fan-favorite Jeff Manto spent parts of four seasons with the Buffalo Bisons (1997-2000). He's the Herd's all-time modern era home run leader with 79. His No. 30 was retired in 2001.
Niagara Falls native and Bishop Duffy graduate Hank Nichols spent four decades with the NCAA, serving as Coordinator of Basketball Officials and officiating some of the sport's most historic games.
Tennis standout Jack Sunderland and high school football coaching icon Jules Yakapovich of Kenmore West will become the second class inducted into the Pride of Western New York, which honors Buffalo-area sports immortals posthumously.
Following the meal will be a two-minute video tribute produced by the Buffalo Bisons remembering NBC-TV newsman and favorite son, Tim Russert, and former Buffalo mayor Jimmy Griffin. The men died 20 days apart this summer. . . Approximately 100 tickets remain and may be purchased by calling ticket manager Melissa Gearhart at 855-4863. Cost is $85 for an individual seat or $750 for a table of 10. . . . Presenting sponsor for this year's dinner is Dunkin' Donuts. . . . Judi Caserta will sing the national anthem, 1996 inductee Sister Maria Pares will give the invocation and John Murphy, the voice of the Buffalo Bills, will be the master of ceremonies. . . . The event is being televised by Time Warner and will be rebroadcast on Nov. 6 at 8:30 p.m., Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 26 at 3 p.m. . . . For more information visit: www.gbshof.com.