Adon Hennessy holding a game puck that drilled his grandfather, Bob Toney, during warmups of Military Appreciation Night for the Buffalo Sabres.
By JOHN ANDERSON
Bob Toney has received a lot of honors and accolades since finishing his 26-year military career in 2010.
However, attending a Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey game may have topped them all. As the Sabres skated on the ice for warmups before they took on the New Jersey Devils on March 24, one of the most popular players skated out to a thundering applause.
It was assistant captain Rasmus Dahlin. He was wearing his No. 26, and the jersey was a military appreciation theme. It had all the logos and his prestigious “A” on the front, an honor from his teammates as a leader.
However, instead of Dahlin on the back, it said “Toney” as in Robert Toney of Wellsville.
From the 200 section in a suite provided by the Sabres, Toney’s eyes swelled with pride and his sons, Drew and stepson Joe, with grandson Adon cheered like he scored a goal. if that wasn’t emotional enough, Toney’s photo appeared on the jumbotron listing his service. This time, the entire arena cheered.
Toney was selected for the 2023 Military Appreciation Night presented by New Wave Energy as the Buffalo Sabres recognized Western New Yorkers who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting others.
Toney said he was humbled to be chosen as there are so many veterans in Western New York. He also thought it was fitting he had a 26-year career and Dahlin wears No. 26. After warmups, Dahlin left the jersey outside the locker room for Toney to keep. He wore it during the game with the other veterans in attendance.
Dahlin had a strong night and his assists mark is among the NHL leaders. Alex Tuch had two goals and an assist, and the Buffalo Sabres won, 5-4 at KeyBank Center.
“The Sabres and the New Wave Energy did an excellent job saluting the veterans,” Toney said. “I didn’t know they would be putting our photos and names on the jumbotron. I didn’t know who would be wearing my jersey. I don’t know if they got to pick it, but he wears 26 and I was in the military 26 years.”
As the family watched the warmups, a shot ricocheted up into the 200’s and split right between the heads of two people, hit Toney in the knee, Drew in the foot and landed under a seat. Toney grabbed it and gave it to Adon. It looked like the way Don Insley’s Little League team would fumble a ball around before getting an out. Which makes sense, Adon is named after his great-grandfather Don, Katie Toney’s father.
Holding an official puck in one hand, the cell phone in the other hand started dinging with photos and congratulatory texts. They came from Matt and Sarah Insley, who were at the game along with Brigid Insley and her boyfriend, Gabe Higgins. Drew then got a text his old classmate Nick Biedakiewicz was also there and saw it.
“You go to games, you see the military honored and it’s great,” Toney said. “But when you are on it and see it on TV and in person, it’s great.”
To sum up a 26-year career in a sentence or two is tough, but here we go:
From May of 1984 to March of 1993, Toney was on active duty. From March of 1992 to October of 2010, he was in the Reserves. He was stationed at several air force bases, Holloman, Griffiss, Mountain Home and Seymour to name a few. He was activated again after 9/11.
He was also well-known for working as a corrections officer with the Allegany County Sheriff’s Department.
Toney worked at MK (Morrison-Knudsen) in Hornell, Mazza Sheet Medal and then Air Preheater in 1995, where he is now manager of quality for ARVOS Ljungstrom in Wellsville.
And he will always have his Buffalo Sabres one shining moment.
“To see a 5-4 game and a win? That was a great ending to the game,” Toney added.