By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 4: December 2, 1981 – The Sabres trade Jim Schoenfeld, Danny Gare and Derek Smith to Detroit for Mike Foligno, Dale McCourt and Brent Peterson.
The Sabres had gone through two full seasons under general manager Scotty Bowman by the fall of 1981, but they still had fallen short of the elusive dream of winning a Stanley Cup. Bowman obviously thought it was time to do some major alterations in the roster. But no one saw what was coming on that fateful December day when the most stunning trade in Buffalo’s history took place.
Jim Schoenfeld and Danny Gare had been at the heart of the Sabres teams for several years, so the news that they were headed to lowly Detroit in a huge trade was a shock to all concerned. Fans weren’t the only ones to shed tears over the transaction. Schoenfeld himself broke down during an interview with a television station right after the announcement. The romantic attachment between the town and the team that had existed since 1970 in some ways broke apart with this trade.
With the benefit of hindsight, the deal worked out well in a hockey sense for the Sabres. Mike Foligno was the prize, a rugged forward with a scoring touch. He eventually became Buffalo’s best player for portions of the 1980s. Dale McCourt had an odd career from a distance – a superstar-in-the-making in junior player who put up points in the NHL, yet only played seven years. Brent Peterson became a good defensive player and one of the team’s best-ever faceoff men.
Gare never scored more than 30 goals in a season after leaving Buffalo, while Schoenfeld never played in more than 60 games in a season after the trade. Derek Smith’s career was never the same after leaving Buffalo, and his NHL career ended in 1983.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)