Sunday

Don Luce

The first thing most fans think of when reminiscing about the Buffalo Sabres of the 1970s is the fantastic play of the French Connection. Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert grabbed most of the spotlight with their creative artistry and production.

While they were the stars of the show, no team can achieve success without elite role players. The Sabres acquired one of those from Detroit in 1971, trading for Don Luce. In Buffalo Luce would develop into one of the best defensive centers and penalty killers of his era. Luce, who only missed 14 games in a decade of service with the Sabres, would often work with equally reliable left winger Craig Ramsay and sniper Danny Gare to form one of the best checking lines of the 1970s. The Sabres had perhaps the best #1 line and best #2 line in the entire league.

Luce was not so one dimensional that he could not score himself. He showed his versatility by becoming an important part of the Sabres power play. His offensive production was steady and significant, and he'd often push the 70 point plateau in his prime. In 1973-74 he bulged the twine 26 times, better than any Sabre other than Rick Martin. And in 1973-74 Luce achieved a career high 33 goals and 76 points. Eight of his goals came while shorthanded, then a NHL record. That was a magical season for Luce and the Sabres. Luce was named as the team's MVP, and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey. But more importantly Luce helped the Sabres get all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before bowing to the defending Cup champs from Philadelphia.

It is unfortunate that the NHL did not award a trophy for best defensive forward until 1978, as Luce likely would have won the trophy at least in 1974-75, if not in other years.

After brief stops in Toronto and Los Angeles, Luce retired after the 1982 season. In 1986 he was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame. He has continued to work for the Sabres in a variety of coaching and scouting assignments in his retirement.

2 comments:

azmeatball 8:10 AM  

He was one of the Sabres best. You couldn't forget his hair.

SabresFanInFlorida 2:59 PM  

One of my favorite pasttimes was to listen to Sabres' home games on WGR55 (that's what it was known as then). I remember when Luce took the ice the entire crowd would yell, "LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOCE!!!!!" He was awesome out there. A two-way tour de force, along with Craig Ramsay and Danny Gare. That was one helluva team.

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