Who was the first Black player to top 40 goals in an NHL season? If you said Tony McKegney, you are correct. McKegney, a Montreal native who was raised in Sarnia by his adoptive family, was drafted by the Sabres with the 32nd overall pick in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft. He jumped to the AHL’s Hershey Bears and then the Sabres, making his NHL debut in the 1978-79 season.
McKegney would remain with the Sabres through the 1982-83 season before enjoying a lengthy NHL career that took him across the United States and into Canada. He appeared in 363 regular-season games with Buffalo, putting up 127 goals and adding 141 assists. Of his 13 years in the NHL, he spent the most time with the Sabres.
Following his time in Buffalo, he spent two seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, then made stops in Minnesota (North Stars), New York (Rangers), St. Louis and Detroit before finding his way back to Quebec.
His NHL career ended with nine games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990-91, but he went on to play for the Canadian National Team, overseas in Italy with Varese HC and in the IHL with the San Diego Gulls before hanging up the skates in 1993.
Overall, his NHL career saw him appear in 912 regular season games and accrue 639 points.
For more, check out this Q&A with McKegney & Sportsnet:
Focus On the Present
While it’s we celebrate the historic achievements of Black players throughout Sabres history, it’s equally important to celebrate the Black players in the NHL today, including several with current or former ties to the Buffalo Sabres organization.
Today, we’re giving a quick shoutout to former Buffalo Sabres forward Justin Bailey. Bailey, who is biracial, currently plays for the Vancouver Canucks and is in his second season with the organization. The Buffalo native was drafted by the Sabres 52nd overall in 2013 and began his pro career with the Sabres and Amerks. Most of his limited NHL experience came with Buffalo; he also had a brief stint with the Philadelphia Flyers and their AHL affiliate.
Bailey has appeared in three games with the Canucks this season and was placed on injured reserve on February 12 with an upper-body injury.
Further Reading & Actions
Don’t forget to 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.