|Gilbert Perreault (Buffalo Sabres)|
While the Buffalo Sabres inaugural season was full of highs and lows, there was one bright spot that kept the fans coming back to Memorial Auditorium.
Rookie Gilbert Perreault, the Original Sabre, was lighting up the scoreboard at a steady pace throughout the 1970-71 campaign. And although he was drafted first overall, and expectations were high, nobody could have predicted the amount of success the 20-year-old center would have his first year in the League.
He quickly became a household name throughout Buffalo and along with Jude Drouin of the Minnesota North Stars, was an easy nominee for the Calder Trophy with his goal-scoring ability.
Perreault, however, would surpass his competition before the year’s end. In the last 15 games, the center added seven goals to his point total including two very big milestones: The tying and record-breaking goals to capture the rookie scoring record.
Up to that point, the first-year goal record belonged to Nels Stewart, who set the bar at 34 goals in 1925.
Perreault was rapidly approaching that number down the stretch and fans awaited anxiously to see if and when he would best it.
They got their answer on March 7, 1971. Perreault net not one, but two scores in a game against the Vancouver Canucks to tie Stewart’s record at Memorial Auditorium.
His 35th goal came just over a week later in a game against the St. Louis Blues, also at The Aud, on March 18 as he skated through the defense and beat Ernie Wakely in a 5-3 Buffalo victory. Perreault went on to score three more times by year’s end and easily capture the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.