From the original crossed swords logo to the ‘Goat Head.’ From the ‘Slug’ back to the classic and to whatever the new third jersey is supposed to represent. Over 43 seasons, the Buffalo Sabres have gone through plenty of sweaters and several different designs that covered two distinct color schemes. There’s also been some special sweaters and patches that have popped up along the way. ¶ Some are beloved, some are reviled. Here’s a look back at the team’s uniform history:
The Sabres hit the ice in 1970 with their classic crossed swords and swashbuckling buffalo. The home jerseys were white with blue on the shoulders. The lower stripes were blue accented by gold and the sleeve stripes were gold accented by blue. The road jerseys were blue with gold stripes. Both had drawstrings at the neck.
With only a few tweaks, the design changed little in the next 26 years.
Names were not added to the backs of the jerseys on a full-time basis until the 1977-78 season, although the team did have nameplates the four seasons prior each time they appeared on an NBC telecast.
In 1978, the circular logo was added to the shoulders and the drawstrings were replaced by a V-neck.
The Sabres were in Blue & Gold for the entire careers of the French Connection, for all the glory days of the 1970s that included the trip to the 1975 Stanley Cup final. Also through all the struggles of the ’80s, through the memorable 1992-93 season that featured the exploits of Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny and the May Day goal that beat Boston in 1993, and for the memorable final season in Memorial Auditorium in 1995-96.
The Goat Head
It was long assumed the Sabres would issue new uniforms to coincide with the opening of the new Marine Midland Arena. But no one knew the splash they would make when the players skated on to the Aud ice for practice wearing their new black and red duds on April 11, 1996 – three days before the final game in the old downtown barn.
It was a show, with the new logo splashed on the ice with a laser show and a giant banner raised from the ice to the roof at one end of the Aud. And while the team expected around 2,000 fans to show up, they were stunned by a crowd approaching 18,000.
Initial reactions to the uniform were hugely positive, but support quickly started to wane among fans who missed the old Blue & Gold. The late Jim Kelley, the Hall of Fame writer from the Buffalo News, was among the most prominent voices who dubbed the chest logo a “goat head” and the name stuck.
Nevertheless, the Black and Reds saw plenty of success in their years, topped by the 1999 run to the Stanley Cup final and the 2006 run to Game Seven of the Eastern Conference final at Carolina. There was the 1997 Northeast Division championship and Game Seven overtime victory over Ottawa on Derek Plante’s slap shot and the 1998 run to Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals against Washington.
To this day, black and red banners with the goat heads hang from the rafters at First Niagara Center to commemorate those seasons.
There was also a bright red alternate added in 2000. It had silver swords across a black chest logo, the word “Buffalo” across the bottom on a black plate, and a goat head on the shoulder. It never proved very popular.
The Tribute to New York
On Oct. 7, 2001, the Sabres and New York Rangers staged the first regular-season sporting event in Manhattan since the 9/11 attacks. The game, a 5-4 overtime win for the Rangers, was preceded by a 25-minute ceremony honoring police, firefighters and rescue personnel.
Both teams wore sweaters based on their normal colors, but “New York” was spelled out diagonally on the chest for both. No goat heads. The jerseys were later auctioned to the Twin Towers fund, as they were the only time the Sabres wore them.
Rangers GM Glen Sather brought the idea to the Sabres, and they quickly jumped in to participate.
“It took off right away,” GM Darcy Regier said the day prior to the game. “I think people are looking for ways to help out, and I thought it was a nice gesture. I think it’s great when you look at the jersey, knowing the reason why it was designed and manufactured.”
The Goat Head is largely associated with the ownership era of John Rigas. New owner Tom Golisano, who took the team from bankruptcy in 2003, and minority owner Larry Quinn, took the team back to blue and gold for the season finale on April 6, 2003 – stunning the arena crowd by ditching the goat heads after the pregame warm-up and returning to the classics.
It takes a long time to apply for a uniform change, often close to two years, and then there was a lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. The Sabres finally went back to blue and gold for the 2006-07 season, but fans were mostly disappointed by the design.
Instead of the classic crossed swords, there was an off-key buffalo with horns. It was dubbed “the flying shrimp” by some, but the names “Slug” or “BuffaSlug” became the most commonly used terms.
A shoulder patch with a sabre slashing through a ‘B’ actually proved more popular and most people wondered why it was not the primary logo. In part to appease fans wanting the old look, the blue road jersey from the ’70s and ’80s was used as a third alternate jersey beginning in 2006 and the color was then changed to the new darker blue in 2008.
The Winter Classic
When the Sabres and Penguins met outdoors in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008, the teams turned back the clock on their sweaters to the 1970s. The Sabres returned to their original whites while the Penguins donned their 1970s powder blues, and both teams had patches on the front. The 2-1 shootout loss marked the final time the Sabres wore the original whites.
Familiar look returns, but with a little twist
In the summer of 2010, the Sabres finally gave the fans back what they always wanted – the crossed swords and swashbuckling buffalo logo. There were still variations, with numbers on the front of the jersey, some silver striping and the lower striping reversed, with gold as the primary and blue as the accent.
The 40th Anniversary alternate
In 2010, the team brought back the original blue color with a popular alternate jersey that featured the script word “Buffalo” on the front above the small classic circle logo. The sweater conjured images of the old Bisons Pepsi bottle-cap jersey from the 1960s, and it was worn for two years before being dropped after the 2011-12 season.
The newest alternate
The team did not have an alternate jersey during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. It unveiled its new, mostly gold one for the 2013-14 season in bizarre fashion earlier this month, earning the derision of its fan base for showing swatches all summer on Twitter and then getting killed by hockey blogs and media when the jersey was finally unveiled through a Twitter ruse that featured winger Steve Ott. The team is scheduled to wear the jersey around a dozen times this season. The real reaction awaits.
Lake Placid Olympics – To commemorate the games taking place a few hours away that produced the Miracle On Ice, the Sabres wore the official logo during the 1979-80 season.
20th Anniversary – The Sabres wore a large Gold “20” during the 1989-90 season, when their slogan was “Celebrate The Tradition”.
NHL 75th Anniversary – 1991-92 season
Stanley Cup 100th Anniversary – 1992-93 season
25th Anniversary – The team wore a white 25 with two crossed swords during the 1994-95 season.
No. 1 – A No. 1 was worn in 1995-96 to mourn the death of former goaltender Roger Crozier.
SHK III – A black circle with those letters in red was worn in 1996-97 following the death of owner Seymour H. Knox III.
30th Anniversary – Sporting black and red, a sword slashed through the zero for the patch worn during the 1999-2000 season.