As we count down to June 24th for the unveiling of new 2011 uniforms for the Buffalo Bills we take a look back at the franchise’s uniform history with anecdotes, stories and recollections from those that experienced the history first hand. Our first installment is provided by long time Bills equipment manager Dave Hojnowski, more commonly known to Bills players over the years as “Hojo”. He shares with us one of the major uniform crises he and his equipment staff faced prior to a game back in the late 1970’s.
The decade of the 70’s was nearing its conclusion, but Buffalo’s unfortunate losing streak to the Miami Dolphins was still alive and well. The Bills were traveling to south Florida in Week 3 of the 1978 season to face the Dolphins. Had it not been for some quick thinking by the Buffalo equipment staff the Bills might have been supremely shorthanded for the game.
When on a road trip for an away game the equipment staff typically goes straight to the stadium after the team plane lands the day before the game. They bring all of the player equipment, uniforms and coaches’ gear to the visiting locker room by truck.
Most everything is left locked up in large trunks, but back then some of the items were hung in players’ locker stalls the night before the game, leaving less to lay out Sunday morning.
“The night before the game we set a few things out,” said Hojnowski. “We left everything locked up, but we did hang up the helmets and shoulder pads and unpacked the players’ bags.”
After prepping for Sunday morning as much as possible they left and had the Orange Bowl security staff lock everything up in the visiting locker room before leaving Saturday evening.
Come the next morning however, some pretty important gear was missing.
“We had 13 helmets stolen,” Hojnowski said. “Luckily we didn’t put out the coaches’ gear or the players’ uniforms.”
With almost a quarter of the Bills roster in need of head gear, Buffalo’s equipment staff was in a jam just five hours before the game. Their only option was to go to Miami’s equipment staff to see if they could help.
“We were very fortunate to all have white helmets in the AFC East at the time,” said Hojnowski. “Miami actually bailed us out and gave us plain white helmets.”
Hojnowski and his assistants went through the process of fixing Bills decals to the sides of the borrowed helmets from the Dolphins as the clock ticked closer to game time.
“We had enough decals to outfit the helmets and play that game,” he said. “We just took the plain white helmets and made them Bills helmets. We were lucky back then that we both had white helmets.”
Buffalo didn’t win the game dropping a 31-24 decision to the Dolphins. Who knew that just having enough players properly outfitted for the matchup proved almost as tough?
“That’s one of the reasons to this day that we don’t put the jerseys out the night before the games on the road,” said Hojnowski. “We do that on Sunday mornings, helmets included, so nothing walks.”