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Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports

It’s tough being a Buffalo sports fan these days, that is for sure. But Buffalo has had some glory days when it comes to The Bills, The Sabres, and other teams and sports figures as well.

On Tuesday, November 14, The Buffalo History Museum debuted a new exhibit dedicated to Buffalo sports icons of the past (because there are no current players to mention at this stage of the game). The current exhibit is considered “Western New York’s first-ever, comprehensive exhibition of Buffalo’s professional sports history from 1880 through today.” 

Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports takes a close look at the history of the players, the fans, the city’s love of professional sports, the titles, the stadiums and arenas, the heartbreaks, and the memorabilia associated with it all.

The newly-restored gallery space at the museum is being named after the late iconic Buffalo sport’s hero, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Wilson’s wife, Mary Wilson, was on hand at the announcement, to acknowledge The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s $600,000 contribution to the museum’s ongoing “Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect” capital campaign. The funds have been allocated to the rehabilitation of the second floor West Gallery of the museum, which is where the new exhibit is located. 

“It is fitting that it was Mr. Wilson’s love and passion for football and his beloved Buffalo Bills that ultimately made this grant opportunity possible,” said David Egner, president & CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “We’re thrilled that the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Gallery will be the home for the Icons exhibit over the next five years and look forward to the continued transformation of this historic landmark.”

Mary Wilson on right

“The history of the Buffalo Bills belongs to all of us here in Western New York, and I have confidence in the museum to steward my collection for generations to come,” said Greg Tranter, museum board vice president, who loaned artifacts to the museum for the 50th Anniversary of The Buffalo Bills exhibit nine years ago, and has since donated his entire collection of more than 6,000 pieces of Buffalo Bills memorabilia to The Buffalo History Museum. “For the collection to have a permanent home here and to share it with the community and have part of it on display in Icons, is truly a dream come true.”

Icons is tailor-made for Buffalo, by Buffalonians.

“Sports are a popular theme at The Buffalo History Museum,” said Melissa Brown, executive director. “Memorabilia evokes nostalgia. Icons broadens our demographic, welcoming sports fans to experience our region’s rich story.” 

The sections of the exhibit were compiled with the help of surveys by Buffalo sports fans who took the time to pick out their favorite items to be included. A few of those items are:

  • Ralph Wilson’s Hall of Fame blazer
  • Scott Norwood’s Super Bowl XXV helmet
  • French Connection’s game-used hockey sticks
  • The only known remaining original 1959 Bills jersey

“The most exciting part of Icons is that it’s community-driven,” said Steven McCarville, president of The Buffalo History Museum’s board of managers. “We want the community to come inside our museum and become collaborators.”  

The exhibit also highlights the founders of the Buffalo sports teams, and the stories about how they got off the ground. The featured founders include The Wilson, Knox, Rich, and Jacobs families. If it was not for the monumental support by these families, Buffalo’s history would look a lot different. Sports have helped to change the face of the city, in ways that we could never possibly imagine.

Hadley exhibits created the new exhibit at a 180,000-square foot facility on Elmwood Avenue, around the corner from The Museum. The interactive technology was developed by Cortina. The lead image shows a rendering of what fans can expect to find.

A series of one-of-a-kind interactive experiences include favorite sports moments and heroes with incorporated film clips, and a test of broadcasting prowess in, ‘You Call the Play,’ which mimics game announcers and features game footage.

This super family friendly exhibit is something that all Buffalo sports lovers will want to visit. It’s a great way to relive all of the exciting memories that have helped to develop this city as a true “sports city”. Some tears might also be shed along the way.

Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports, opens to the public on Friday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free, courtesy of M&T Bank and M&T Third Fridays.

Icons is made possible through the generosity of The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, The Buffalo News and M&T Bank.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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