Tonawanda News

Columns

July 2, 2009

HOPKINS: Final farewell to the �old friend�

The building stood vacant at the foot of Main Street in Buffalo for 13 years before demolition crews gradually reduced it to a pile of rubble. It stood there almost sadly, like someone who just watched a longtime spouse or lover walk away, arm-in-arm with a young model.

From the outside, the mustard yellow building with a brown roof wasn�t much to look at, especially with the ribbon of elevated highways surrounding most of it. But neither was the Boston Garden, which similarly stood next to highways snaking through the heart of Beantown. It didn�t help that the young model stood just a few hundred feet away, taunting the old concrete-and-steel Aud with its fresh look and plate glass-fronted atrium.

Yet, the grand old building held a lot of memories for people young-ish and old. Young-ish, because there aren�t too many under the age of 18 who likely have solid memories of the original home of the Buffalo Sabres.

The place oozed hockey. Or, perhaps �reeked� is a better word. There is no way to accurately describe the smell that penetrated one�s nostrils as you entered the front doors of The Aud. A blend of must, mildew, dirt and that smell you get when you enter Grandma�s house, the home that she�s lived in all her life. It smelled like hockey. It smelled like anticipation. It smelled like Heaven.

It looked like hell. But that was a great part of its charm. A dingy, old sports stadium, with soot-gray floors sporting mashed pieces of gum in some places. On television it was a thing of beauty, similar to Tiger Stadium, which also looked old, but nice on television. Up close it looked as bad as the burned-out Detroit neighborhood in which it sat.

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