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Celebrating Black History Month: Grant Fuhr

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Edmonton Oilers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Highlighting Black players throughout Buffalo Sabres history

When you think about Grant Fuhr, you probably don’t think first about his time with the Buffalo Sabres - and that’s understandable. The 19-year NHL veteran played only three seasons with the Sabres, and more importantly, he set a lot of firsts for Black players in the league.

In 1984, Fuhr became the first Black player to have his name on the Stanley Cup, as the Oilers defeated the New York Islanders to win the NHL’s ultimate prize. Two years later, as the only Black goaltender in the league, he became the first Black All-Star MVP as part of the Campbell Conference’s team.

In 2003 - his first year of eligibility - Fuhr became the first Black hockey player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, alongside fellow player Pat LaFontaine and builders Mike Ilitch and Brian Kilrea.

Fuhr, a native of Spruce Grove Alberta, was drafted eighth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1981. He made an immediate impact in Edmonton and would spend 10 years tending goal there, during which time he recorded a record of 226-117-54 with a .883 save percentage and 3.69 GAA. Between 1981 and 1991, Fuhr and his team won five Stanley Cups. He was a six-time All-Star and also won the Vezina Trophy in 1988.

His time in Edmonton did not pass without issue, as he admitted substance use and was suspended from the NHL for one year in 1990. Fuhr’s return to the NHL came with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he played a year and a half before being shipped off to the Sabres.

The Sabres sent Dave Andreychuk, Daren Puppa and a first-round pick in 1993 to the Leafs in exchange for Fuhr and a fifth-round pick in 1995. He spent parts of three seasons with the Sabres organization and would go on to play for the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames before hanging up his skates.

During his time in Buffalo, Fuhr shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Dominik Hasek in 1994. He eventually retired in 2000 and enjoyed a post-playing career as a goaltending coach for the Phoenix Coyotes and Flames.

Further Reading & Actions

Learn more about Fuhr and his legacy in his 2015 book, Grant Fuhr: The Story of a Hockey Legend. You can also check out the film “Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story,” available for purchase or rent on YouTube. (The film mostly focuses on his time in Edomonton.)

Don’t forget to also read the Q&A we did with several Black players who spent time with the Buffalo Sabres organization. Part one focused on diversity and race in hockey, while part two reflected back on their time with the Sabres/Amerks.

Check out the Black Girl Hockey Club, a non-profit organization that focuses on making hockey more inclusive for Black women, their family, friends and allies.

The Buffalo Sabres recently unveiled a partnership with local artist Edreys Wajed in honor of Black History Month. A t-shirt with this logo is available for purchase here, with a portion of proceeds going to Breaking Barriers.

Stay tuned to Die By the Blade over the course of the month as we continue to highlight Black players in Buffalo Sabres history.

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