Between 1954 and 1956 Paul Snyder was a running back for the UB Bulls, leading the Bulls in scoring and rushing in 1954. After graduating from UB, Snyder made a fortune with Freezer Queen frozen foods. In 1970, Snyder sold the brand to Nabisco for 22 million dollars (over 130 million adjusted for 2014 inflation). That same year, Snyder brought the Braves to Buffalo, one of three NBA expansion teams along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Buffalo drafted Bob McAdoo in 1972. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year and the 1975 NBA MVP. The Braves made the playoffs three consecutive years falling twice to the Celtics who won the championship each year, and once in seven games to the Bullets who were NBA runner up in the year they defeated Buffalo.
In the spring of 1975, the Sabres and Braves won 10 straight games at the Aud over 35 days, only losing the first playoff game, game 2 of the Braves Bullets series, and unfortunately the last playoff game, the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final. Buffalo's teams were excelling, and very close to delivering a championship to Buffalo.
|12-Apr||Braves 106 - Washington 120||Series tied 1-1|
|13-Apr||Sabres 4 - Chicago 1||Sabres lead 1-0|
|15-Apr||Sabres 3 - Chicago 1||Sabres lead 2-0|
|18-Apr||Braves 108 - Washington 102||Series tied 2-2|
|22-Apr||Sabres 3 - Chicago 1||Sabres win 4-1|
|23-Apr||Braves 102 - Washington 96||Series tied 3-3|
|27-Apr||Sabres 6 - Montreal 5 OT||Sabres lead 1-0|
|29-Apr||Sabres 4 - Montreal 2||Sabres lead 2-0|
|6-May||Sabres 5 - Montreal 4 OT||Sabres lead 3-2|
|20-May||Sabres 5 - Philadelphia 4 OT||Flyers lead 1-2|
|22-May||Sabres 4 - Philadelphia 2||Series tied 2-2|
|27-May||Sabres 0 - Philadelphia 0||Flyers win 4-2|
However, for Snyder it was still a business, he invented playing regular season games in Toronto playing 16 regular season games at Maple Leaf Garden between 1971 and 1975. In 1976, it was time to cut expenses. Snyder gave McAdoo an ultimatum, sign for $500,00 or be traded. The highest paid player in basketball at the time was a rookie in the ABA making $800,000. McAdoo was the reigning MVP, however he was too expensive and traded to the Knicks. If you want to anger Buffalo, trade your all-star to New York City for financial reasons (see Peca, Mike). The move made the Braves feel like the farm team for the big brother Knicks.
Snyder was familiar with dealing with commodities, frozen food, businesses, real estate, and he even owned amusement park Darien Lake. However Sports is not just an asset, to be profitable you had to win AND have good public relations. With McAdoo a fan favorite gone, fans lost interest in the Snyder-run Braves. It was a moratorium on Snyder, not an indication of lack of love for basketball or a sign of a declining economy incapable of supporting three major teams. Of course Snyder blamed the city and the people in it, decided to cut his self-inflicted losses and sell the team to Miami.
The City of Buffalo sued Snyder and the NBA, which resulted in Snyder selling half the team to Kentucky Fried Chicken czar John Y. Brown and the Braves signed a new 15-year lease to stay in Buffalo until 1991. After the 1975-76 season, Dr. Jack Ramsey left the team, and the Braves would never return to the playoffs.
Snyder's actions ensured no Buffalonian would support the Braves.
Snyder left the sports business, and has continued to excel at making money while not having to deal with people. His company developed the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Buffalo and the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He watches as Terry Pegula, new Buffalo Sabres owner and Bills ownership candidate, does what he failed to do in the 70's, use sports to revamp downtown Buffalo and inspire the city as a whole. The former Buffalo football star, is somewhat of a Buffalo sports villain, joining John Rigas and Tom Golisano as owners in that Hall of Shame.
After the 1978 season, John Y Brown traded ownership of the Braves for ownership of the Celtics. Within a year he would be out of the basketball business and the Governor of Kentucky.
The new owner of the Braves Irv Levin, a California film producer, moved the Braves to San Diego before selling two years later to Donald Sterling. In 1984, the Clippers moved to Los Angeles. It took the Braves/San Diego/LA Clippers 16 years to get to the playoffs again, ironically the first year after the 15-year lease between the Braves and the Memorial Aud.
The curse of the Braves.
A greedy owner takes away our Basketball, and injures take away our chance at the 2006 Stanley Cup. Buffalo sports fans have had a lot taken from us over the years. But which was worse? Vote Below.
Up Next: Yea, about that magical spring of 1975.