BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League unveiled its “original six” franchises last week, making official what local fans had dreaded: Buffalo will no longer be represented in the league.
The Buffalo Beauts, winners of the 2017 Isobel Cup, are no more. The new league’s three American teams will be placed in Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and the New York City tri-state area, joining teams in Canada’s three largest northeastern cities of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
As the Beauts join the ranks of defunct Buffalo sports franchises, here’s a look back at other former Buffalo sports teams we miss. (If you want the complete history of Buffalo’s former pro teams, check out this list on Wikipedia.)
The Buffalo Destroyers were an Arena Football League team from 1999-2003. Although they never had a winning season, the Destroyers made two playoff appearances, losing in the wild card round both times. According to ArenaFan.com, the team averaged more than 8,000 fans per game across its five seasons, playing downtown at the arena now known as KeyBank Center.
High-scoring games made for an entertaining product, even if the team wasn’t winning. Games were played 8-on-8 on a 50-yard field, with padded walls, live balls off the end zone netting and receivers allowed to run forward in motion before the snap. A wayward pass could even end up in the first few rows of seats.
Ultimately, the team was sold and relocated to Columbus after the 2003 season, following owner Mark Hamister’s unsuccessful bid to buy the Buffalo Sabres. A Buffalo group was awarded a minor-league indoor team in the af2 in 2008, but the funding never came together amid uncertainly with the league, which ended up folding the following year.
Buffalo’s only NBA team took residence at The Aud from 1970-1978. The Braves were brought into the NBA via expansion in 1970, the same year the Sabres began play.
In eight seasons in Buffalo, the Braves topped out at 49-33 in 1974-75 but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Bullets. The Braves won the franchise’s only playoff series one year later, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 2 games to 1 behind future Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, who averaged 31.1 points per game that campaign.
The team hovered around league average in attendance and had solid broadcast ratings, but competed with Canisius College for home dates in the arena. Thus, relocation rumors followed the team through its final few years, nearly leaving for Miami in 1976. Eventually, owner John Y. Brown arranged a franchise swap with then-Boston Celtics owner Irv Levin, where Brown took over the Celtics and Levin assumed ownership of the Braves. Levin moved the team to San Diego in 1978, and the franchise now plays on as the Los Angeles Clippers.
Buffalo has never been a serious candidate for a NBA team since.
Western New York Flash
The Flash only played in Buffalo for three of their nine seasons in existence, playing in Rochester for the other six. However, as you can tell by the name, the team associated itself with the entire region.
Many women’s soccer greats played for the Flash and led the team to championships in four different leagues: the USL W-League in 2010, Women’s Professional Soccer in 2011, Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite in 2012 and the National Women’s Soccer League in 2016. Star players included Marta (2011), Alex Morgan (2011), Abby Wambach (2013-2014), Carli Lloyd (2013-2014) and Sydney Leroux (2015). The team was owned by the Sahlen family, who run the meat packing company in Buffalo. Alexandra Sahlen served as team president and a defender on the team from 2009-2013.
The professional team was replaced in the NWSL by the North Carolina Courage, but the club still exists today through a youth academy and player development program in Elma.
Buffalo Blizzard and Buffalo Stallions
The Blizzard, a member of the National Professional Soccer League, played indoors at The Aud and KeyBank Center from 1992-2001. It was the second go-around of major indoor soccer in Buffalo, following the Buffalo Stallions, a franchise that existed from 1979 to 1984 and played at The Aud.
The Blizzard enjoyed popularity in the area in the early 1990s due to the game’s high-scoring nature, ranking in the top half of the league in attendance. The team had its best season in its inaugural year in 1992-93, finishing 23-17 but losing in the quarterfinals to the Cleveland Crunch.
The major stars of the team were the Pikuzinski brothers, Rudy and Randy. Randy played with the club for all nine seasons, while Rudy played eight. Rudy scored 317 goals for Buffalo, while Randy netted 182.
In the late 1990s interest in the team faded, some in part due to the increase in popularity of the outdoor game. The NPSL shut down in 2001 and several teams formed the Major Indoor Soccer League, but the Blizzard declined to be in the new league and folded.
The Stallions had one winning season in 1981-82 but went winless in three playoff appearances. Portuguese legend Eusébio, winner of the 1965 Ballon d’Or, had a stint with the team in 1979-80.
The Buffalo Wings were short-lived roller hockey team in the late ’90s that played games at Marine Midland Arena and Buffalo State. … There are a handful of defunct minor-league baseball teams from the area that we miss that weren’t considered “Buffalo” teams. … The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t a defunct franchise, but we sure wish they’d come back!
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as the Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook, Twitter and Threads. See more of his work here.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.