Since the Rochester Americans are celebrating their 60th anniversary season in the American Hockey League, it’s only fitting that this year’s Hall of Fame Class features two of the most iconic players to ever wear the sweater and an organization that has provided unwavering support for nearly half a century.
While the Amerks have made an increased effort all year long to pay tribute to the past, they will etch yet another chapter into their storied history on Friday night as they welcome Calder Cup winners Richie Dunn and Daren Puppa, in addition to the team’s loyal Booster Club, as the newest members of the Amerks Hall of Fame.
The trio will be formally enshrined prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. matchup against the Springfield Falcons, becoming 57th, 58th and 59th members of the prestigious club.
“It’s truly an honor being inducted with so many great Rochester Americans players,” said Dunn, who played parts of five seasons for the Amerks from 1985-86 to 1989-90 and put together one of the all-time great runs by a Rochester blueliner.
“If you had to play in the AHL, Rochester was it with the hockey atmosphere and great fans supporting you. There really was no better place to play.”
In 276 career games for Rochester, Dunn recorded 161 points on 41 goals and 120 assists, along with 226 penalty minutes. His 161 points still rank him eighth all-time among Amerks defensemen. He also ranks seventh in both goals and assists among Rochester defensemen and served as a team captain during the 1988-89 season.
After splitting the 1985-86 campaign between the Amerks and Buffalo Sabres, Dunn posted arguably his best season in 1986-87. In 64 games, he registered 32 points on six goals and 26 assists to lead all Amerks blueliners in scoring and was named to the AHL First All-Star Team. In the postseason, he collected seven points (1+6) in 18 games to help the Amerks win the Calder Cup championship.
“The group of guys we had that year…you couldn’t have asked for a better group,” said Dunn in reference to the 1987 Calder Cup team.
Dunn upped his offensive contributions the following season, scoring an AHL career-high 12 goals and adding 35 assists to rank fifth on the team in scoring and tops among defensemen, earning a place on the AHL Second All-Star Team. He went on to add 58 more points (16+42) over 110 games over his final two seasons with the Amerks before retiring in 1990.
In addition to his Hall of Fame career with Rochester, Dunn spent significant time in the NHL, recording 176 points (36+140) in 483 career games with the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames and Hartford Whalers. He also won the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman in 1984-85 as a member of the Binghamton Whalers.
Puppa, meanwhile, joined the Amerks in 1985-86 and played in 105 games over parts of four seasons in Rochester, compiling a record of 55-35-8, making him one of the winningest goaltenders in franchise history. His 55 victories rank 13th in Amerks history, though only one of the goalies ahead of him on the list appeared in fewer than the 105 games Puppa played in. He also recorded three shutouts along with a 3.12 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage during an era of high-scoring hockey.
“I am looking forward to going into the Hall of Fame on Friday night,” said Puppa, a fourth-round draft choice by the Buffalo Sabres in 1983. “It’s going to be a special night to be inducted with my good friend and former teammate, Richie Dunn, and the Booster Club, who supported me greatly while I was in Rochester.”
Puppa began his professional career with the Amerks in 1985-86 after a standout college career at RPI. The native of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, went 8-11-0 as a rookie while also making his NHL debut with the Sabres. It was the following season when Puppa emerged as a star. In 57 games during the 1986-87 regular season, he went 33-14-6 with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Those numbers earned him the honor of being the AHL First All-Star Team goaltender, becoming just the fourth Amerks netminder to earn the honor at the time. Puppa then backstopped the Amerks to the 1987 Calder Cup championship, going 10-6 during the postseason and making 31 saves in their Game 7 victory over Sherbrooke in the Final.
“Winning the Calder Cup in 1987 was a great thrill for me,” said Puppa. “The fans in Rochester were very supportive of us and helped propel us into winning it all. “We had a great team with a good mixture of young and old players. The wisdom and experience I learned that year was immeasurable.”
After going 14-8-2 in 1987-88 while splitting the season between Rochester and Buffalo, Puppa went on to spend the next 12 seasons in the NHL with the exception of two brief conditioning stints. He finished his NHL career with a record of 179-161-54 while appearing in 429 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. In 1989-90, he finished as the runner-up to Hall of Famer Patrick Roy for the Vezina Trophy.
Representing the contributor category is the Amerks Booster Club. Currently celebrating its 50th season, the Club has been supporting Rochester Americans hockey and the local community in a variety of ways since its inception in 1966. The idea for the Club originally came from Mike and Nancy Sullivan, who, with the help of then Amerks Head Coach and General Manager Joe Crozier, launched the Amerks Executive Club in 1966-67 for the purpose of promoting hockey, supporting the team and assisting the front office. Along the way, the Club has supported countless charitable causes.
“On behalf of the Amerks Booster Club, I would like to thank the organization and Hall of Fame committee for this great honor,” said Amerks Booster Club President Virginia Paddock.
Over the years, the Booster Club assisted the Amerks in a variety of ways, such as helping sell tickets at local malls, creating team awards, executing on-ice promotions like Scoro, providing food for the team during road trips and crafting personalized scrapbooks for players each year. In addition, the Meet the Players Dinner has become an annual event that every Amerks team has participated in since 1966. And when they are not cheering for the Amerks at home or on the road, members of the Booster Club are actively involved in the community, raising money and assisting others.