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Scoreboard Crashes To Buffalo Arena’s Ice, Postponing Game

November 17, 1996 GMT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Routine maintenance proved disastrous Saturday afternoon for the $4 million, eight-sided scoreboard at the new Marine Midland Arena.

A cable loosened or snapped on the gigantic board as it was being lowered, sending the entire mass crashing to the ice below and postponing the game Saturday night between the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins.

Sabres president Larry Quinn said the scoreboard is lowered and checked daily to make sure it is functioning properly. On Saturday, maintenance crews began to lower it electronically at about 2 p.m. No one was on the ice when it fell. The two hockey teams had already completed their practice skates.

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``If it was meant to fall, it happened at the right time,″ Quinn said.

Two panels remained suspended above the ice Saturday night, but the rest of the 40,000-pound scoreboard laid in a heap of parts and wires on the ice surface.

``Portions of it may be salvageable,″ Quinn said. ``But if the board needs to be replaced, it’s a custom-built scoreboard. We are seeing if there are any temporary boards available.″

Quinn said the game will be rescheduled and the remaining parts of the scoreboard would be moved by Sunday.

The ice and the system that controls it were not damaged, Quinn said.

The Royal Lipazzaner Stallions horse show and the game scheduled for Thursday between the Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs would go on without a scoreboard, Quinn said.

At 23 feet tall, the state-of-the-art scoreboard is almost half as wide as the rink itself. Quinn said its manufacturer, Daktronics, Inc., of Brookings, S.D., had just given it a checkup a week before the accident.

``It got a clean bill of health,″ he said. ``This is a complete shock to us.″

Quinn said representatives from Daktronics were on their way to Buffalo to help with the salvage operation.

Quinn had only been team president for about two weeks when the accident occurred, having been the president of Marine Midland Arena before that. He directly oversaw much of the financing and construction of the $127 million facility.

For many fans, the first signs that something was wrong were the television crews and reporters that buzzed in the arena’s atrium.

Lynn Thompson and her family had come all the way from Boston for the game. They had been excited to see the new arena. They said they would probably send in their tickets for refunds because this was the only game they could make.

``I guess we’ll go back to our hotel and watch the news,″ Thompson said. ``You think they’ll give us expense money?″

No refunds were immediately available _ fans would have to wait until Monday morning to get cash for their tickets. They can also use them for the as-yet unscheduled makeup game or exchange them for tickets to any other Sabres home game.