Center, b. 1971
Drafted by the Sabres, 1989
Derek Plante, a Minnesota native, played four years of college hockey before making the jump to the NHL. The Sabres drafted him in 1989, 161st overall, but he didn’t see his first NHL action until 1993.
Once he started in the NHL, Plante spent the next six and a half seasons in Buffalo. He had 56 points in his rookie season, which would be his career-high points total for a single season in the NHL. (He’d tie it in the 1995-96 season). He had three 20-plus goal seasons in Buffalo.
Perhaps one of the most vivid memories of Sabres fans regarding Plante may be surrounding the events of April 29, 1997. It was game seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators. A tied game at Marine Midland Arena goes to overtime……….. and Plante scores the game- and series-winning goal. I’ll never forget it – mom spent our last money on tickets for that game, and boy, was it worth it. I remember going home and eventually hearing Jeanneret’s call of the goal, seeing Ron Tugnutt‘s face when he turned and saw that puck rolling in behind him, and knowing there was nothing he could do to stop it in time. And just like that…… Derek Plante was the hero, and “ARE YOU READY, LEGION OF DOOM? HERE COME THE BUFFALO SABRES!” will forever be a call I’ll associate with Plante and those memories.
The Sabres never made it much farther that year, losing out to Philadelphia in the next round in five games, but that Plante game-7 OT winner…. it doesn’t get much sweeter than that. Plante stayed with the team through most of the 1998-99 season, until the Sabres sent Plante to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a 1999 2nd-round pick that would end up being Mike Zigomanis.
He played just ten games with the Stars, notching two goals and three assists. Then, on February 8, 2000, the Stars sent Plante, along with Kevin Dean and a 2001 2nd-round draft pick, to Chicago in exchange for Sylvain Cote and Dave Manson. Plante split the 1999-2000 season four ways, spending time with the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Chicago Wolves (IHL) and Michigan K-Wings (IHL). He’d eventually wind up with the Philadelphia Flyers organization for the 2000-2001 season, and that was the end of his North American career.
Plante went on to play in the DEL with the Munich Barons and Mannheim Eagles. He also played in the Swiss-A and Swiss-B leagues with Zurich and Langenthal before beginning his coaching career as an assistant at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, his alma mater.
Other players to wear #26 for the Sabres: Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek, Eric Boulton, Keith Carney, Dean Kennedy, Darrin Shannon, Richie Dunn, Bob Logan, Phil
Russell, Pat Hughes, Dave Maloney, Steve Patrick, Val James, Ken Breitenbach, Alex Tidey, Derek Smith, Randy Wyrozub, Larry Keenan