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Seeking the Holy Grail of Buffalo sports memorabilia

You might not know the name John Boutet - then again, you might - but you might have seen him displaying some of the items in his impressive collection of Buffalo sports memorabilia.

Boutet, the site and exhibit chairman for the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, owns thousands of artifacts, stuff guaranteed to make even the most casual sports fans stare at it open-mouthed and ask, "How in the name of God did you get THAT?"

But he doesn't have it all. A chance encounter with former Buffalo Bills kicker Steve Christie recently led him to post an item on Facebook earlier this week about the stuff he doesn't have that he really wants. It seemed worthy of a wider audience so he agreed to let me post an item here.

(In the interest of full disclosure, John is my cousin, my Ken-Ton Little League baseball teammate - St. Paul's, 1973-1974 - and one of my favorite people.)

This is his Buffalo sports memorabilia bucket list:

These 10 items are in no particular order as I believe they all hold a special place in not only my heart but also in the heart of most every Buffalo sports fan.

1) The ball Buffalo Bison Luke Easter hit over the Offermann Stadium scoreboard on June 14, 1957

I do know the name of the family whose window it crashed into but sadly they told me they threw it away decades ago. What a shame.



2) The Steve Christie football from the Comeback game vs. the Oilers in 1993

I mean really, it may be the most important game in the history of the franchise. Whoever has that ball now (and shame on them for trying to sell it back to Steve for $10,000) needs to realize it belongs to the fans of Western New York and deserves to be shared with them.



3) The Calder Cup winning puck from the 1970 Buffalo Hockey Bisons

It was the last game in the storied AHL franchise history. The Sabres would replace the Bisons a few months later but true old-time hockey fans know that on the scoreboard the Bisons have a 5-0 lead on the Sabres (the Bisons won five Cups to the Sabres none). Why on earth the Bisons don't have a banner hanging in First Niagara Center is beyond me.


4) The jersey that Mike Stratton wore in the 1964 AFL Championship game

Yep, it was the one he was wearing when he obliterated Keith Lincoln and singlehandedly changed the momentum of the game, throwing the high octane Chargers into reverse and claiming the City of Buffalo its first ever major sports title. It's gotta be pretty smelly now but it would smell so sweet to me.



5) The Aud scoreboard

Whomever was in charge of the Aud's destruction cut that down and let it smash into a million pieces. Boston, unlike Buffalo, cherishes its sports history and saved the scoreboard from the Boston Garden, put it in the atrium of the new Garden and refurbished it so it still works. What a shame our leaders don't hold our history with the same respect.

Paying last respects to Memorial Auditorium before its demolition in 2008. (Buffalo News file photo)

Paying last respects to Memorial Auditorium before its demolition in 2008. (Buffalo News file photo)


6) Randy Smith's Buffalo Braves jersey

Any one, his first, middle or last one. I don't care. Bob McAdoo was the best Brave talent wise but there's only one that we can call our own and that was Randy. He chose Buffalo State over any other college and was an All American in track and soccer as well as basketball. He made us forget that the Braves passed up Calvin Murphy the year before.

Randy Smith


7) Tim Horton's skates

The only Buffalo Sabre to die a Buffalo Sabre. He gave our young team credibility. Every player on that 1972-74 team idolized that guy. Mike Robitaille told me he used to follow him around like a puppy dog. He and Jim Schoenfeld used to imitate him as he stood on the blue line for the anthem. He was the soul of that team. Gil Perreault was the talent but Timmy was the heart. How many shots did those skates block?

Tim Horton


8) Johnny Bench's Bisons jersey from his year plus with the Bisons

Not many people know that Bench played a year and a game for the Herd in 1966-67. He is arguably the most famous player to ever suit up for the Bisons. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer and is regarded as the greatest catcher of all time. Another bit of trivia you may not know is he didn't wear his familiar No. 5 as a Bison - he wore 19. I want it.

Johnny Bench


9) The NHL Draft wheel from 1970

June 1970. The NHL conducted its amateur draft and with two new teams in the NHL they had to decide who would get the first pick, the Sabres or the Canucks. They used a giant wheel to decide. I want that wheel wherever it is. That wheel was spun and initially NHL President Clarence Campbell thought it landed on 1 which would have given the Canucks the pick.

Punch Imlach jumped up and screamed "It's 11!" Campbell admitted the error and a young man became the face of the franchise for more than 16 years, Gilbert Perreault. The Canucks took Dale Tallon, advantage Sabres ... by a mile.



10) Norm Wullen's organ and the Joe Byron/Milt Ellis microphone

My entire youth I listened to those three guys. Their music and voices are burned into my brain. I still find myself humming to the organ and thinking about Wullen and Byron everytime a Sabres home game is on.

And what can you say about Milt Ellis? They say NFL Films guy John Facenda is the Voice of God but Milt was the Voice of Buffalo. Those three men helped make The Aud what it was.

Milt Ellis


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