Since the mid 1970s, the Buffalo Junior Sabres franchise has offered Western New York’s elite hockey players a path to college hockey careers. In several cases, the franchise has also proven to be an important step toward professional careers.
The Buffalo Junior Sabres were born in 1976, upon the demise of the Southtowns Cougars, which had been in existence in suburban Buffalo for about three years prior. Joining the New York Pennsylvania Junior Hockey League in its inaugural season, the Junior Sabres competed against regional rivals including the Mang’s Niagara Falls Sharks, Rochester Monarchs and Syracuse Stars.
After the NYPJHL folded in 1979, the Junior Sabres went on to compete in various leagues including the Western New York Junior Hockey League, North American Hockey League, and Golden Horseshoe (Junior B) Hockey League.
In 1987, the franchise was renamed Niagara Scenic and competed in the North American Hockey League. In 1994, the team left the NAHL for the Eastern Junior Hockey League. After one season in the EJHL, the franchise joined the Southern Ontario based Metro Junior A Hockey League.
In 1998, as the Metro Junior A League was being absorbed into the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, Niagara Scenic was renamed the Buffalo Lightning, a name that was kept until 2005, when the franchise entered into an agreement with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres that restored the Buffalo Junior Sabres name.
In 2008, the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association acquired the junior franchise, with the Alumni taking over daily operation of the team.
Throughout the history of the hockey club, former Buffalo Sabres have offered their services as head or associate coaches. Former Junior Sabres coaches include Larry Mickey, Morris Titanic and Jim Lorentz. Ric Seiling, now the broadcast play-by-play voice of the Jr. Sabres, previously served as an associate/assistant coach for three seasons during the Niagara Scenic era.
Once again, former Sabres players are actively contributing to the advancement of the Junior Sabres franchise and its players. Larry Playfair has served as team president of the club since the Alumni took over in 2008. In August 2011, Michael Peca was named the team's new general manager. Upon the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season, he added the role of head coach to his duties.
In addition to hundreds of college-bound players, the franchise (including the Scenic and Lighting eras) has been a stepping stone to the National Hockey League for several players including Brian Gionta, Todd Marchant, Jeff Farkas, Lee Stempniak, Aaron Miller, Kevyn Adams and Ryan Callahan. Several former franchise players are also current or former minor professional league players.