BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It was an unprecedented year in sports across the world, and that was no different in Western New York in 2021.
Here are the seven biggest sports stories in Western New York over the last year.
1. Buffalo Bills win AFC East and first playoff game since 1995
The Buffalo Bills had a magical 2020 season which resulted in the team winning the AFC East and their first playoff game(s) since the 1995 season.
Quarterback Josh Allen finished second in MVP voting, becoming the first Bills player since Thurman Thomas in 1991 to receive an MVP vote.
The Bills hosted their first playoff game since 1996 and defeated both the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens on route to the AFC Championship Game where they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs.
2. Buffalo Sabres trade Jack Eichel to Vegas
While the Bills were trending in one direction, the Buffalo Sabres were going the other way.
The Sabres traded their franchise cornerstone Jack Eichel along with a 2023 third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Alex Tuch, prospect Peyton Krebs, along with a top-10 protected first round pick in 2022 and a 2023 second-round pick.
Eichel was drafted by the Sabres with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and was deemed as the savior for the struggling franchise.
In his time in Buffalo, Eichel scored 139 goals and 216 assists in 375 games since the 2015-16 season, which included three seasons as captain.
Eichel injured his neck during a game against the New York Islanders which required surgery.
The Sabres did not allow Eichel to get the surgery he wanted and Eichel was able to get that surgery after he was traded to Vegas.
3. Josh Allen signs mammoth 6-year, $258 million contract extension
The Bills made a big splash in the offseason after Josh Allen's breakout season with a massive 6-year, $258 million contract extension.
Allen threw for over 4,000 yards which included 37 touchdown passes in the 2020 NFL season.
Allen was drafted by the Bills with the seventh pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Wyoming.
The signal caller was also named to a Pro Bowl in the 2020 season for the first time in his career.
Allen is the second highest paid player in the NFL only behind Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
4. Bills Mafia donates to Blessings In A Backpack following Lamar Jackson injury; Ravens fans donate to Patricia Allen Fund
Bills fans stepped up after Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson got injured during their divisional round playoff game, by donating money to Jackson's favorite charity: Blessings In A Backpack.
Ravens fans also donated money to the Patricia Allen Fund at Oishei Children's Hospital.
Bills fans continued to donate to charities by giving money to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana after Tre'Davious White's season ended with an injury against the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving, and to Visually Impaired Advancement (VIA) in Buffalo after fans believed officials missed penalties on Stefon Diggs in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
5. Bills, Sabres require COVID-19 vaccines for home games
If you want to attend a Buffalo Bills or Buffalo Sabres home game, you will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Bills and the Sabres are requiring all attendees ages five and up to show proof of vaccination.
Some Bills players, most notably Cole Beasley have not been vaccinated and require more restrictions and stricter protocols.
All Buffalo Sabres players in the 2021-22 season have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
6. Buffalo Sabres draft Owen Power first overall; begin assembling young core
The Sabres selected first overall for the second time in four seasons, selecting University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power.
Power continued his collegiate career to start the 2021 season instead of joining the Sabres right away.
The Sabres also re-signed other young talent which includes Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, and Victor Olofsson, while seeing expanded roles for young forwards Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens.
7. Toronto Blue Jays play home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo for second straight season
For the second year in a row, the Toronto Blue Jays played home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo due to travel restrictions at the Canadian border.
In the shortened 2020 season, the Blue Jays played all of their home games at Sahlen Field, while in 2021, the Blue Jays played games in front of fans.
During their stint in Buffalo, the Blue Jays went 12-11 before they were able to play games at Rogers Centre in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bisons had to play home games in Trenton, N.J. until August 10.