|Gilbert Perreault (Getty Images)
By the time the 1970 NHL Draft rolled around it was evident that Gilbert Perreault, a young phenom playing for the Montreal Junior Canadiens, would be the first player selected overall. What was less certain was where he was going to play his first NHL season.
Vancouver and Buffalo, as the NHL’s newest franchises, were going to be the teams vying for the No. 1 pick after a draft lottery in Montreal.
Head Coach Punch Imlach headed North to ensure that his new team got all they could.
NHL President Clarence Campbell spoke to both the Canucks and the Sabres as to how the order of the amateur draft would be determined. A makeshift roulette wheel of sorts was at the forefront in the Grand Salon of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Campbell informed the teams’ representatives that each party was to select a set of numbers, the wheel would be spun and the winner would get the No. 1 pick.
Imlach chose to go the high route selecting 8-13 - as No.11 was his lucky number - leaving Vancouver with the numbers 1-6 (as it was announced that the No. 7 would be a wash).
When Campbell spun the wheel, the Canucks rejoiced as the League offered its congratulations: The wheel had stopped on No. 1.
However, Imlach caused some commotion at the Buffalo table when he asked the League to look again. After taking a closer look it was obvious that Imlach had reason to doubt the results. The pointer had actually landed on No. 11, and Perreault was officially the Original Sabre.
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