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By George Walters, Sabres History Correspondant
Sunday, June 13, 1999

There was this thing about a bat. Somehow a bat had gotten into the old Memorial Auditorium and was flying around the ice for quite a while during the game. Jim Lorentz, now the Empire Sports Network Sabres color commentator, decided to take matters into his own hands. He was about to take the faceoff when he saw the bat coming. He raised his stick and swatted the bat in mid-air, ending his tour of the Stanley Cup finals. Rick MacLeish picked up the dead bat and dumped him into the penalty box. The crowd loved this extra-curricular activity. The appearance of a bat should have been a good indication to the fans that this was going to be an Erie, I mean eerie night of hockey between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers in game 3 of the 1975 Stanley Cup finals.

And you thought that this year's Stanley Cup finals in Dallas was hot? On this date, May 20, 1975, it approach sauna conditions! You see, back then arenas were not air conditioned. The Aud was a very steamy place that night, and that doesn't mean it was in the blue light district. Temperatures at ice level reached 90 degrees. With the humidity, the heat and the presence of over 16,000 screaming fans, it produced the first ever fog game! Right after the bat met his untimely death at the hands of Lorentz, a fog settled on the ice. It was as if the bat's spirit decided to haunt the game in revenge. The refs had to delay the game several times because the fog had become so dense that the players could not see halfway down the ice. Players skated around in a unsuccessful attempt to clear the fog. Auditorium workers had to come out with white bed sheets to try to dispel the low cloud cover. Some of the fog dissipated, so play was resumed, only to be halted again and again because visibility was so poor. The coaches for both teams, Fred Shero of the Flyers, and Floyd Smith of the Sabres instructed their players to shoot the puck anytime they got it because the goalies would have trouble seeing it.

This was a game where the fog did have an important part. The Sabres had lost the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals in Philly. Down by two games and two goals in this game, the Sabres fought back hard. Danny Gare and Rick Martin scored for the Sabres within 17 seconds to tie it at 2. Gerry Desjardins was the temperamental Buffalo goalie. He seemed to be fighting the puck the first two Flyer goals. MacLeish put a shot on Desjardins from 40 feet away and it got past him for the third Flyer goal. During the intermission between the first and second periods, Desjardins asked to be relieved from his duties.

"After the second goal against me, I thought it was a grand time to get the hell out of there. I knew if I had stayed in, everything would have gone down the drain," Desjardins said after the game. "After all, we were only down by one goal. It was close at the end of the first period. Why waste it?"

In comes Roger Crozier, ill of health (bleeding ulcers and all) to tend the ship. Crozier was stellar in his mop-up role. He made three saves in a wild scramble in front of the net before Reggie Leach put in his own rebound to give the Flyers their fourth goal. Don Luce scored for the Sabres in the second period also, so going into the third period, the Flyers were up 4-3.

Rookie defenseman Bill Hajt pounded in a rebound of a Rick Martin shot past Bernie Parent to tie the game and send it into overtime. The fog settled on the ice for the extra session and the players settled down to what seemed to be a long night. The play had to be stopped seven times during the first overtime. But with around a minute left to play in the first overtime, Martin got the puck along the boards and passed it to Gilbert Perreault, who skated into the Flyer zone and then passed it to Rene Robert in the far corner.

"Rene yelled to me - Jill-bear - and I saw him going to the corner," Perreault said. "I was in the middle, about 5 feet over the red line. I passed to the boards in the corner."

Robert got in front of Flyer defenseman Jimmy Watson and he retrieved the pass right before the goal line.

"It's almost impossible to score from that angle," Robert related. "But I shot at the net, hoping somebody could get the rebound. It seemed to me he (Bernie Parent) wasn't ready for the shot. It went between his legs."

So there you have it! The Sabres win their most memorable game in their 29-year history in the strangest of conditions. The crowd went crazy.

"I didn't see Perreault's pass," Bernie said afterwards. "I saw Robert's shot too late for me to come out and stop it. I'm surprised the overtime took so long. It was hard to see the puck from the red line. If three men came down and one made a good pass from the red line, you couldn't see the puck. A good shot from the red line could have won it. But it was the same thing for Crozier."

Robert, who scored 40 goals during the regular season, had scored his third playoff overtime winner.

"There had been a lot of pressure on our line (French Connection)," Robert said. "People saw we scored so many goals during the season, what has happened to us now, that we're letting down, that we don't check. Philadelphia double shifts our line, you know, and they are a real good team, too. Getting a big goal like that makes you feel good. It has been tough for us."

The victory put the Sabres back into the series, being down 2-1. Fans who were at that game can remember sweating this one out, in more ways than one. It was a good way to lose weight in this huge sauna bath. And there was talk of giving players fog horns. Buffalo sports fans who have sit through snowstorms and driving rainstorms to see Joe Namath throw bloopers, had this new weather element to watch a hockey game. And they loved every second of it!