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Forty Debuts at Albright-Knox

A look back at 40 years of Sabres hockey

Buffalo Sabres fans wishing to take a dramatic and poignant stroll down memory lane should not pass up the opportunity to attend the exhibit titled Forty, which debuted this past weekend at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

This exhibition of more than 200 photographs and film showcasing the on-ice and behind-the-scenes drama of Buffalo Sabres hockey also includes a video production titled NHL in 360, a first-hand, multimedia glimpse from the players’ perspective which displays the elegance, playmaking, and violence that shapes the game. The exhibit is made possible through the contributions of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.

Last Friday, the Albright-Knox hosted a media preview of the exhibition, and introduced the two primary photo journalists whose talents and hard work have chronicled the Sabres in photographs throughout their forty year history, Ron Moscati and Bill Wippert.

Gallery director Louis Grachos explained that the whole concept of this exhibit began through conversations with Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn. “The Sabres have had an outstanding history in our community,” Grachos said. “It is a sports organization that has brought a lot of excitement, joy, and sometimes a little bit of agony to our community, and now for us to be able to celebrate this great history, four decades, here at the Albright-Knox, through this beautiful visual presentation of photographs and outstanding film and video, I think will delight our audiences in Western New York and our Canadian visitors who will come here through the end of the year.”

Yes, Canadian visitors. The exhibit is set to run through the early part of January, and that means that fans attending the World Juniors Championships will have the opportunity to check all this out. As a bonus, from January 2 to January 5, the Stanley Cup and a selection of trophies from the Hockey Hall of Fame will also be on display at the gallery.

Moscati’s work in particular jumps out amidst the many black-and-white images which bring back the early years of the team. A former photojournalist with the Courier Express, Moscati admits that the media, and in particular the role and the challenges of photographers, has changed drastically since the early days. “What made photographers before that they were more mechanical in what they did. They would figure out to use that press camera and just go with it,” says Moscati. “They had parts of flash powder that they would use when I began in this business, and now I see what they have electronically. It is unbelievable.”

Talking about shooting photos back in the 1970s, Moscati says, “I would have black-and-white grainy photos which would need a certain kind of light. You would have to focus while the guys were playing across the ice, you would have to focus on players within three or four feet of each other. It was the most difficult thing to do that you would want. Now we have the digital technology, it is so much easier. These guys transmit right from the bottom of the rink and sending them out. I would have to go after the game, develop film, do this and that it would take an hour, work with chemicals in the dark. It’s like night and day. And who knows what the future is going to bring.”

Moscati had a difficult time pinning down one particular memory from the thousands of sporting events he has covered. His favorite Sabres moment? “Rene Robert scoring that overtime goal in the Montreal Forum, that historical place [1973 Stanley Cup playoffs, Game 5]. I sent the pictures back from that one. I have the pictures of Robert and Perreault celebrating that goal. And [Ken] Dryden on the ice in the background on his back. The fans here were so excited. I can still hear ‘Thank You, Sabres. Thank You, Sabres’ ringing in my ear.”

The entire Buffalo Sabres team was in attendance for the opening day of the exhibit this past Sunday, mingling with the first patrons who got a chance to visit. They got to stroll through the halls of the gallery and relive the teams’ past great moments, no photo more iconic than one taken back in February 1971, where airborne Sabre Eddie Shack is collaring a bewildered-looking Gerry Ehman of the California Golden Seals. That photo was taken by Robert Shaver, who just passed away this past September.

“We are so proud to have his work in this exhibition,” Grachos says. “We know that his work and the quality of his images are well regarded. This image of Eddie Shack climbing on the back—it’s probably one of the most remembered images in all of hockey and is one of Rob’s great achievements.”

While still playing hockey in a senior league, Bill Wippert began taking photos for the Sabres at age 17. “I never would have thought that some of my black-and-white photos would wind up on the walls and the halls of the Albright-Knox. It is amazing,” says Wippert.

Patrons wishing to purchase tickets to the exhibit can do so online at or stop by the gallery’s admission desk. Forty runs through January 9. The museum is closed Mondays and holidays.

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