This week’s edition of Buffalo Sabres Throwback Thursday takes you back 29 years, to July 31, 1985.
That was the day that the Sabres signed free agent right winger Jody Gage to a contract. Although his career with the Sabres wasn’t exactly a shining one – he played just 18 games in Buffalo – his connection to the Sabres organization and work that he did with the Rochester Americans is what makes this signing extremely special.
On that fateful day in 1985, Gage was coming off a season spent mostly with the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings. He had been a member of the Detroit organization since 1979, when the team drafted him 45th overall. He’d spent those six seasons back and forth between the AHL and NHL before signing with the Sabres in 1985.
The 1985-86 season would see Gage spend most of the year in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. This would be a common occurrence, as he’d spend most of the remainder of his playing career in Rochester, until 1996. The exceptions would be those 18 games he spent with the Sabres.
In his first season with the Amerks, Gage averaged 1.36 points/game when he racked up 42 goals and 57 assists in 73 regular season games. He’d continue to spend time in Rochester every season, making appearances in Buffalo during the 1985-86, 1987-88 and 1991-92 seasons.
The 1988 season would see Gage win the Les Cunnigham Award, presented to the AHL’s most valuable player as voted by media and players.
In the end, Gage racked up 728 points in 653 games with the Amerks. He also had six points in 18 games with the Sabres and was named assistant GM of the Amerks after his playing career ended and was eventually removed from the GM position in 2009. He won two Calder Cups while in Rochester – one while playing (1987), another while in the assistant GM position (1996).
Today, he’s known simply as “Mr. Amerk,” having set many franchise records and holding many of them to this date, such as the franchise all-time leader in goals, assists, points and games played.
He was inducted into the Amerks Hall of Fame in 1999 and had his number retired by the team, then was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame (inaugural class) in 2006. He’s also a member of the Knighthawks Hall of Fame, having acted as general manager of the lacrosse team for 12 years.
He’s also back with the Rochester Americans organization, currently serving as the Director of Strategic Planning. And to think that it all started 29 years ago, on July 31, 1985, when Gage signed a free-agent contract with the Sabres.