The Most Insignificant Franchise in Buffalo History: Buffalo Destroyers

By Jon

Today marks the third of a series of posts in an effort to find The Most Insignificant Franchise in Buffalo History. Any current or former sporting franchises from the WNY area will be considered. A poll will be posted by the end of the week, and the franchise receiving the most votes will be deemed Most Insignificant.

The Buffalo Destroyers are the third nominee. We have decided to add a fourth nominee, which will be revealed tomorrow. The poll will be up on Monday.

Buffalo Destroyers

What? An Arena Football League franchise.

When? The Destroyers were in Buffalo from 1999-2003.

Where? While in Buffalo, the team played all of their home games at HSBC Arena.

Why? When the Bills’ lease was set to expire in the late nineties, Mark Hamister brought an AFL team in hopes of filling the football void if the Bills were to leave. The AFL was gaining a bit of popularity and exposure, and an expansion to a football-crazy city seemed logical at the time.

The Story: The Destroyers five seasons in Buffalo were filled by mediocrity and a lack of support. After finishing their inaugural season with an atrocious 1-13 record, and starting the next season with four straight losses, ownership fired coach Dave Whinham. In an effort to build any sort of interest in the team, Hamister and co. hired Ray Bentley, the former Bill. It didn’t help. The team did make the playoffs in 2000 and 2002 under Bentley’s watch, but lost in the first round. Bentley left for a broadcasting job soon after (because being in the booth is a more attractive gig than an AFL coaching job, which speaks volumes for the integrity of the league), and the Destroyers finished the ’03 season, their final one in Buffalo, with a 5-11 record under Ron Selesky.

If you remember, around this time Hamister had been attempting the purchase the Sabres, and right after his deal fell through, he shipped the Destroyers out to Columbus.

Record in Buffalo:
Regular Season: 72 Games Played; 23 Wins; 49 Losses; .319 Winning Percentage

Playoffs: 2 Games Plaayed; 0 Wins; 2 Losses; .000 Winning Percentage

Why the Destroyers should be Most Insignificant: This paragraph, stolen from the Destroyers Wiki page, sums it up pretty nicely:

After the 2003 season concluded, talks of a re-location began, as the Destroyers had lost $5 million over five years, went nearly unnoticed by the media (NBC had blacked out all of their games in 2003), and suffered from a lack of local support reflected in low attendance levels.

Why the Destroyers should not be Most Insignificant: A lot of people remember the fallout from the Rigas debacle and the battle for Sabres ownership that followed, and Hamister played a huge role in that, giving the team a bit of publicity as a result.