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Hockey Heaven: 2016 draft the latest big Buffalo event

Hockey Heaven

Buffalo is set to add the 2016 NHL Draft to its list of notable hockey moments. Here are some of the biggest events through the years.

Stanley Cup I: The Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers competed for the Cup in May 1975. The Flyers earned a 4-2 series victory, but the most memorable moments came during Game Three on May 20 in Memorial Auditorium. First, Sabres forward Jim Lorentz killed a bat with his stick. Then, with the ice covered by fog thanks to unseasonably warm weather, Rene Robert scored in overtime to give Buffalo a 5-4 victory.

Super Series 1976: The Russian hockey machine took its top two clubs to North America for eight games, and one of the stops was Jan. 4, 1976, in Memorial Auditorium. The Soviet Wings had already beaten Pittsburgh, 4-0, so NHL fans hoped the Sabres could compete. Instead, they dominated. Buffalo rolled to a 12-6 victory, the worst defeat ever for a professional Soviet team. The Sabres got a standing ovation the next night in Montreal.

NHL All-Star Game: The Sabres’ representatives made an impact Jan. 24, 1978, in Memorial Auditorium. Rick Martin scored with 1:39 remaining to tie the game, and Gilbert Perreault scored in overtime to give the Wales Conference a 3-2 victory over the Campbell Conference.

Super Series 1980: The top-ranked Red Army team came to the Aud on Jan. 3, 1980, prior to competing in the Olympics. The Sabres didn’t need a miracle. Two goals from Danny Gare and Ric Seiling during a 6-1 victory would suffice.

NHL Draft I: There was no doubt Eric Lindros entered Memorial Auditorium on June 22, 1991, as the best player in the draft. There was also no doubt he would spurn the team possessing the No. 1 pick. Quebec drafted him anyway, and the big forward simply draped the Nordiques jersey on his arm before ultimately forcing a trade.

NHL Draft: II: Building a new arena allowed the Sabres to host the draft just seven years after the previous one. Vincent Lecavalier walked across the stage first after Tampa Bay selected him June 27, 1998, in then-Marine Midland Arena.

Stanley Cup II: The Sabres and Dallas Stars competed for the Cup in June 1999. Game Six on June 19, 1999, will forever live in infamy. The Stars’ Brett Hull scored the series-winning goal in overtime, but he did so with his foot in the goal crease − which was illegal at the time. Despite a vehement protest by then-Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, the Cup went to Dallas.

Frozen Four: The final four NCAA teams arrived in then-HSBC Arena in April 2003 to decide a champion. Minnesota claimed the title by beating Michigan and New Hampshire behind the efforts of Thomas Vanek. Drafted by the Sabres two months later, Vanek was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Winter Classic: The Sabres showed outdoor games could be a success by hosting the first in the United States. More than 71,000 fans stood in snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008, and memories of the party remain more vivid than Buffalo’s 2-1 shootout loss to Pittsburgh.

World Junior Championships: Though it often felt like Canada was the home team, Buffalo welcomed the best under-20 players in the world to then-HSBC Arena in December 2010 and January 2011. Russia, in a 3-0 hole entering the final period, shocked the Canadians with five straight goals to win the gold, 5-3, on Jan. 5, 2011.

NHL Scouting Combine: The league’s showcase of the top draft-eligible players left a Toronto conference hall for sparkling new HarborCenter in June 2015. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel received most of the attention as players worked out for NHL general managers and scouts. The Sabres hosted the combine again this year and are working to extend the contract.