8-18-10

The First Trainer

We're goin' way back in time for today's factoid folks, but hang on for the ride. It's well worth the price of admission, which come to think of it, is free.

From the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame:

(Frank) Christie was a fixture in Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium for nearly forty years. As trainer for the Bisons until the team folded in 1970 to make way for the National Hockey League expansion club Buffalo Sabres, he watched a steady stream of players and coaches file through Buffalo on their way to greatness.

He was on hand to witness the first training camp of a youngster named Bobby Hull, and he helped ease the path to the NHL for a young, nervous goaltender named Jacques Plante. Frank saw the coaching genius of Billy Rea and Fred Shero. Later, with the Sabres, Frank bandaged the bruises of the French Connection, taped the sticks of Gare and Foligno, and imparted his wisdom to a host of players who wore the blue and gold during his tenure with the club.

No individual in Buffalo hockey history was more involved with more players on an everyday basis than Christie, and he grew to be a friend, counselor, and confidant to nearly every one of them. Players would seek out Christie for assistance in dealing not only with strained muscles, but also with strained relationships.

"It (hockey) is a hard life, and a lot of these kids are scared," Christie once remarked. "They've got to have someone they can talk to." Frank provided that sounding board for generations of players.

Punch Imlach, then the Sabres' coach and general manager, told The Buffalo News in 1970: "He has always been an asset to the sport, and his popularity with the players is well known. It would almost be unthinkable for a club representing Buffalo to take the ice without Frank Christie in attendance."
Frank toiled for the Sabres almost until his passing in 1986. His subtle, yet invaluable, contributions to Buffalo hockey were rewarded with his selection to the inaugural class of the Sabres Hall of Fame.