Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
Buffalo, New York
This past summer I came upon exploring pictures of the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (The Aud). Since an old hockey arena has long been number one on my list of things to see, I called my boy Canukr and organized a meet-up with Buffalo's Zenjaphy so that we could see it in person.
I met Canukr early morning at the BR 401 car pool. He hopped in my car and we were off on our trek. For two dudes that had only met once while playing abandoned building hockey, we kept up conversation quite well. It's funny how a common interest will do that.
Eventually I was in the state of New York for the first time, sitting in a Buffalo Tim Horton's waiting for Zenjaphy. This was my first time meeting Zenjaphy in person, so we sat unsure of what we were even looking for.
Zenjaphy eventually showed and gave us the option of seeing either an orphanage or a church since we had to kill daylight before making our way over to The Aud. We decided on the church and it was probably the best church I've ever seen. (It's not on BRN solely because it gets a ridiculous amount of coverage from photographers with a ridiculously greater amount of talent than myself)
Into the evening we finished up at the church, picked up ihatesnow, and parked downtown near The Aud. Night hadn't completely fell yet, so we killed a little more time by the shore of Lake Erie; taking pictures while discussing Buffalo and Detroit.
Finally we made our way over and into the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.
Groundbreaking for the arena occurred on November 30, 1939. The arena was a Works-Progress-Administration project; which was the use of federal money to fund numerous projects throughout the United States in an attempt to halt the Great Depression. The construction of the arena occurred to replace the aging Broadway Auditorium; which was Buffalo's only conventional hall at the time. The $2.7 million dollar, 12,280 seat stadium opened officially on October 14, 1940 to a crowd of 3000 where the arena was officially dedicated to the memory of those lost in World War combat.
The stadium originally played home to the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League until 1970 when the team folded after the National Hockey League granted Buffalo the Sabres. It was at this point that the arena was expanded at a cost of $8.7 million by lifting the 2,200 ton roof and the addition of a orange level of seating which brought the arena capacity to 16,433 for hockey and 18,000 for basketball (for the Buffalo Braves of the NBA - now the Los Angeles Clippers).
When we first got in, you could tell that Zenjaphy and ihatesnow had been there before. They were in no rush, just sort of putting around in the garage and concourse.
Canukr and I were a good ten to twenty paces ahead of them, gitty like the popular girls headed to the local high school dance - we wanted to get out on the floor. When we finally escaped from the zamboni hole onto the former ice surface; it floored me. My knees actually felt weak and I stood in awe of the rink's history.
While Zenjaphy, ihatesnow and Canukr stood and talked, I just made my way over to some first row seats and took it all in.
The advertisements on the boards were encapsulated in time. It was as if I was back living on the lake, parked in front of the television watching Cam Neely blow by the insufficient Sabre defense.
I should state that most of these pictures aren't of the best quality - I had to almost always use a flash because I don't have a dSLR camera and can only lightpaint for 2 seconds at most.
We began ascending the stairs into the various sections. The gold section of seats was the lowest set of rows and the best seats. A common place for Canadians to come and see the game because they could never get similar seats at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The blue and red seats were greatly similar to the gold level seats except in their distance from the ice. The surprising part came at the orange level when the stairs and entire level rose at quite the incline. Having never been to the Aud during an actual game; I was shocked at how steep the level actually was. How did the drunks not get injured here?
I was baffled.
Another interesting part of the orange level was the presence of television sets where the seats were so far away from the ice surface that the view was obstructed. High up in the nosebleeds!
From the orange level seats, we made our way into the owner's box - overlooking the orange seats and the entire arena.
We sat in the owner's seats, taking in what surrounded us. At one point, we all turned off our flashlights and sat in the darkness. There was zero light, pitch black, you could see nothing. It was interesting to think about where I was and what was actually before me; it looked exactly like sitting in a small room, but as soon as you illuminated the surroundings - you were reminded of the vast vacancy.
Zenjaphy had informed us about the serious lack of light in the Aud. Knowing this, I tried to borrow Canukr's girl's camera; but that didn't turn out.
Speaking of not turning out - here was my attempt at lightpainting a small section of the seats.
(Photo Courtesy of Canukr (Team Lazy).)
Canukr's picture turned out amazing. I was going to just press the shutter and lightpaint like he did for 10 minutes...but what's the point? That's like cutting one line in a KOSEK and claiming it as your own; it was Canukr's work and he deserved the credit.
While Canukr was performing his 10 minute lightpainting, I sat back in awe and thought about all the great players that had played within these storied walls...Gretzky had played here, Bure, Selanne, Jagr, Lang, Krivokrasov, Fedorov, Steen, Neely, Bourque, Verbeek, &c.
Hell, Jean Beliveau was the opposing team faceoff man when the ceremonial puck was dropped for the first Buffalo Sabres game.
And there's musicians too, Chuck Berry, Barry Manilow, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Jimmy Hendrix, Phil Collins, AC/DC, Diana Ross, BOB SEGER, Chicago, Foreigner, &c, &c. Even some great basketball players during the 8 years of the Buffalo Braves - Walt Frazier, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar...&c, &c.
Canukr eventually finished his lightpainting while I finished my reminiscing about former greats. We left the owner's box and went to the roof. After a climb up that I would have never made pre-exploring; we took a breath of fresh air and relaxed in the shadows of the Buffalo cityscape.
Just like previously on the shore of Lake Erie where the three others talked about dSLR cameras, a conversation started up about cars and I had zero input. I took this time to make my way over the oval roof to the western edge which overlooked the highway networks rushing by.
This trip was seriously increasing my desire for a better camera.
I was quite nervous on the Aud's roof because all of the roofs I had been on before didn't have much more than a 8 or 10 foot drop beneath them...if you fell through here, you were falling quite the distance to the cement floor.
Nevertheless, I slowly made my way to the southeastern roof corner where you could look down upon the Aud's replacement - HSBC arena.
I also got a kick out of the highway sign for Boston. Having never been east of Pittsburgh; it was interesting to see freeway signs for the east coast localities.
After entering back into the Aud's stale air; we checked out the Aud Club. The Aud Club was a ritzy bar inside of the Aud. Never having been to the Aud when it was open...I can't really tell you much more. I did read on the internet that if you went to the Aud club they would give you a jacket if you didn't have one.
The wood and carpet resulted in a bar that was quite dated nowadays, but was probably nice in 1979.
We walked the concourse some more and over to the ticket window. Canukr and Zenjaphy spent numerous minutes taking pictures and I just wandered about.
I wanted to wander off even more than I was; but we decided to stay close to the group because of the enormity of the Aud.
Next up after the ticket booth was the locker rooms. Here you see the mailboxes where numerous females (and probably even some males) proposed to the great Alexander Mogilny.
The locker rooms were surprisingly bland and boring. It was neat to sit where greats have sat; but that didn't make it anymore interesting.
The most interesting part of the locker rooms was probably the painted sabres logo in the upstairs meeting room.
The last stop on the schedule was the basement storage to check out this bomb robot that the police were storing there.
Unfortunately, the bomb robot was missing and all we found were some gas masks and lame phones with fbi stickers on them.
We continued through the remaining artifacts in the basement.
Zenjaphy had told us prior that it's very difficult to see the entire Aud in one day and that was definitely fact. We had spent 7 hours in there by this point and we were all tired and hungry. We made our escape from the Aud around 2:30 am and Zenjaphy brought us over to this famous steak sandwich place directly downtown in Buffalo (which I later heard Al Michaels talking about on Monday Night Football!) The steak sandwich was unreal and we sat on the downtown street until nearly 3a.m. when Zenjaphy dropped us off at our car and provided us well wishes on our trip back to Ontario. We thanked him for the Buffalo tour and parted ways.
It was a tiring drive home, but for a good portion (probably 2+ hours), Canukr and I went back and forth with "Lemieux played there", "Gartner played there", "Janney played there"; just reminiscing and thinking of all the history in that place.
We got back home around 7 a.m. and somehow Canukr drove to his home in Detroit and made his way to work for 9a.m.
I slept until dinnertime.
Thanks again Zenjaphy and ihatesnow. It was unreal and probably up there with one of my favourite days exploring.
3. All of the websites which I linked to.
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