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Originally Published in The Buffalo News
December 11, 2019
By Mike Harrington

There was quite a surprise in KeyBank Center when the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice for practice at the noon hour Wednesday.

The seating bowl looked almost exactly like Memorial Auditorium.

Golds by the ice. Then Reds. Then Blues (in the 200 level and suites). And the “balcony” – the 300 level – was of course all orange.

The seats were actually covered by T-shirts of the corresponding color for Thursday’s ’80s Night game against the Nashville Predators. In addition to paying tribute to the team’s second decade, the game will also be a celebration of the Aud, the Sabres’ home from their birth in 1970 through 1996.

The team will be introducing ’80s alumni in a pregame ceremony, using ’80s themed music and graphics and including several other special touches for the game.

After practice, coach Ralph Krueger gathered his players on the ice for their daily post-practice chat and reporters watching could hear the word “Aud” used. Assistant coach Steve Smith, who played in the building with Edmonton, was chiming in.

“I was checking if there was anybody else that had the same level of lack of information I had,” said a smiling Krueger, who never saw a game in the franchise’s former home. ” ‘Smitty’ filled in the boys that he played here.

“Now I’ve done my research and I’m up to speed. Didn’t get any heads up on that. Now I’ve seen it, saw the colors, it must have been a passionate building for the Sabres to play in. I’m sure it will bring back a lot of memories and should add a spark to the game against Nashville for sure.”

Captain Jack Eichel said assistant equipment manager and Williamsville native George Babcock was filling the players in about the Aud and the seating arrangement.

“That would have been something to look at back at in the day,” added winger Kyle Okposo. “Now I’m intrigued and I’m going to go look up some pictures later for sure. ‘Smitty’ said it was a small rink with the crowd right on top of you so that’s pretty cool.”

The list of ’80s alumni attending is topped by Hockey Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk and former captain Mike Foligno. Also scheduled to attend are: Adam Creighton, Mike Hartman, Val James, Uwe Krupp, Phil Myre, Wilf Paiement, Brent Peterson, Daren Puppa, Dave Snuggerud, John Tucker and John Van Boxmeer.

Peterson, acquired with Foligno as part of the 1981 trade with Detroit for Jim Schoenfeld and Danny Gare, has been with the Predators since their birth in 1998 as an assistant coach, broadcaster and ambassador.