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Howard Simon's Blog

Punch pulls a prank

We're going to take a step back in time for this edition of Inside the Numbers to re-visit an incident where the Sabres pulled a fast one on the National Hockey League. They drafted a player who never existed from a team whose name they made up.


The story of Taro Tsujimoto is profiled in the December 19th edition of The Hockey News.  I was not here in 1974 but knew of the story since it was told to me by others who were here at the time.  Back in 1974, the NHL held its draft via the telephone, apparently to keep picks secret from the World Hockey Association which was signing some of its big name players away.


Bored by the slow pace of the draft, then Sabres General Manager Punch Imlach decided to have some fun so he and Public Relations Director Paul Wieland decided to create a player.  As one story goes, Wieland used to drive by a Japanese restaurant named Tsujimoto's every day so thats how they arrived on a last name.  Taro is the Japanese name for Sabre and there you have it, the 183rd overall selection in the 1974 draft was born.  Taro Tsujimoto from the Tokyo Katanas of the Japanese Hockey League.  There was a Japanese Hockey League but no such team known as the Katanas.


Imalch and Wieland didn't just let the joke die there.  For weeks they kept telling reporters that Tsujimoto would be arriving from Japan shortly.  He was listed on the Sabres training camp roster and there was a stall for him with full equipment provided.  There is one story that claims Imlach and Wieland had Taro Tsujimoto paged in the Saint Catherines hotel the team was staying at during training camp. 


But the two finally fessed up and admitted it was all a joke.  The selection of Tsujimoto was listed in the NHL record book but was eventually changed to "invalid claim".  However it is still in the Sabres media guide(I checked this season's guide just to make sure). Tsujimoto, is right there in between 10th round selection Derek Smith and Bob Geoffrion who was taken in the 12th and final round. The next time you're at a home game, take a close look at people wearing Sabres jerseys because you just might see one where the name on the back is Tsujimoto.

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : Tokyo
People : Derek SmithImlachPaul WielandPunch

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