Buffalo - August 18, 2014 - Kicking off the list of the worst draft picks in Sabres history is a bit of a lighter story. Take off your serious caps for a minute and strap in for the tale of Taro Tsujimoto.
Taken with the 183rd overall pick in the 1974 NHL Draft, Tsujimoto might be the most infamous selection in Sabres’ draft history and for good reason: he never existed.
The selection was not incompetence or a lack of preparation. No, coach and general manager Punch Imlach was frustrated. Up until 1980, the NHL Draft was closed off from the general public with only general managers and league officials allowed to be present. Teams would either meet at designated hotels or the league would conduct the draft via conference call. The latter was the case in this instance.
At the time, only 18 teams made up the league and the draft was permitted to extend beyond nine rounds so long as teams continued to select players. With the arrival of the 11th round, Imlach decided he’d had enough.
Bored and exhausted with looking at players that had a slim chance to make the NHL, Imlach pulled off one of the greatest pranks in Sabres and NHL history. He sent a message to a secretary to find some common Japanese names and soon came up with the imaginary Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas. That’s right, he took a literal translation of the Tokyo Sabres (Katana is a Japanense samurai sword).
When the pick came in, there was laughter around the league. International scouting was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today and drafting a player from Japan of all places wasn’t exactly the most common thing in the hockey world.
Imlach carefully spelled the name of his creation and Taro Tsujimoto was printed in every record book and media guide in the league. Reporters spent the next few weeks asking Imlach about Tsujimoto’s arrival, only to be told that the prospect would be there soon. Finally, before the start of training camp, Imlach admitted to the gag.
To this day, some publications still list the 183rd overall pick from the Japanese Ice Hockey League. And the legend continues.
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When not inanely bantering about the Sabres, Ryan Womeldorf can be found here and at TwoPadStack.net talking all things hockey. He's usually got a lot to say, but sadly most of it is wrong. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org