Posts Tagged ‘Buffalo Sabres’

Re-Gearing the Roster with Two Regierehrs

That was my contribution to bad newspaper headlines for the day.  Can a man named Darcy convince a man named Robyn to come to Buffalo? The answer to that question should come today. Yesterday the Buffalo Sabres put an undisclosed offer on the table to the Calgary Flames for veteran defense man Robyn Regehr. Regehr has a no trade clause that Calgary has asked him to waive. Regehr decided to sleep on the decision, he’s married and has one kid. By all accounts he loves living “out West” so it’s doubtless a tough decision to uproot himself and his family to come to Buffalo. The working assumption is the decision has to be made before the draft starts if the Sabres’ first round pick is indeed part of the package.

The Sabres’ offer? Rumors fly, as they often do. Some with grounding, many without. So far on the site we have heard the Sabres offered their 1st round pick (16th overall) and Luke Adam. Another package had Mike Weber and a 3rd in this year’s draft going to Calgary. Another has a package of Ennis and Weber, Ennis and a pick, etc. There are also rumors the Sabres would be willing to take former Sabre Cory Sarich should Regehr say no. The deal is in keeping with what we have always said about Regier, he works under the radar. If you hear a rumor of a trade, discount it. 99.9% of the time it’s not going to happen. Regier is one of the few GM’s in the NHL who has the ability to keep his actions secret, leaks generally tend to come from the other end of a potential deal.

If the Sabres do acquire Regehr today it would signal the start of a re-gearing of the defensive corps.  Regehr is a former first round draft pick, that type of thing has always seemed to appeal to Regier.  Regehr may not be the player he one was but he’s still defensively and physically far better than perhaps every defenseman on the Sabres’ roster with the exception of Tyler Myers. Jordan Leopold and Regehr used to be teammates in Calgary. Regier and the Flames have pulled the trigger on a number of deals in the past: 2000 for Sean McMorrow, 2003 for Chris Drury, draft pick swaps in 2005 as well as another deal for Toni Lydman, more draft pick swaps in 2007.  So Calgary is a team Regier is comfortable dealing with and seems to have something of a track record with.   Regehr is 31 years old, an age when many NHL defensemen are still in the prime of their career.  He has two years left on his current contract at $4.02 million per season.  Regehr is very active in Calgary. He donates $75 for every body check he throws to Calgary’s Impact Foundation and is very active with overseas work to help impoverished children.  He’s reported to be a very active outdoorsman and to love snowmobiling.  Would Buffalo’s winters be too warm for him compared to Calgary?


The Sabres are doing their best to convince Regehr to come to Buffalo.  ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported yesterday that Regier and Pegula have both called Regehr.  Certainly Ted Black’s assertion of “it’s a million little things” will come into play in an attempt to convince Regehr his prospects on the ice are better in Buffalo than in Calgary.  Regehr is no stranger to trade rumors or speculation.  At this year’s trade deadline he said this about his no trade clause:

“I had to sacrifice certain things to get that. If there’s something I don’t really like, I guess, I wouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of it. That’s something I’ve had to give up certain things for. It’s more of a comfortable feeling to have that. If a team is talking to you about that type of stuff, it might be a good situation to go somewhere else. You never know. It’s a very complex kind of thing and one that I haven’t had to discuss yet.”


Sabres’ 2011-12 Preseason Schedule, Rookie Camp

The Sabres announced their 2011-12 preseason schedule today.  Only two games are in Buffalo.

  • Mon., Sept. 19 – Carolina at Buffalo, 7 p.m. (HSBC Arena)
  • Wed., Sept. 21 – Buffalo at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. (Bell Centre)
  • Fri., Sept. 23 – Buffalo at Toronto, 7 p.m. (Air Canada Centre)
  • Sat., Sept. 24 – Toronto at Buffalo, 7 p.m. (HSBC Arena)
  • Sun., Sept. 25 – Buffalo at Columbus, 5 p.m. (Nationwide Arena)
  • Friday, Sept. 30 – Buffalo at Washington, 7 p.m. (Verizon Center)
  • Tue., Oct. 4 – Buffalo at Adler Mannheim, TBA (SAP Arena – Mannheim, Germany)

The Sabres will also be holding a rookie camp at Niagara University from July 5-10.  For more information visit Niagara University’s Site or


Sabres vs. Soviet Wings: January 4, 1976

1976 Super SeriesIt was the height of the Cold War. The NHL and Russia had an unofficial war over bragging rights for the best hockey program in the world, the echoes of which can still be heard today. The Soviets burst onto the international scene in the mid-fifties and dominated in tournaments held on international ice surfaces using international rules. The Soviets teams were largely professionals who played together year round, most were drafted into the Red Army so they were under the control of the Soviet government.

The Soviets main adversaries, Canada and the United States,  met the Soviets in various tournaments with largely amateur teams. It was rarely the Soviet’s best against Canada’s best, America’s best or the NHL’s best. The NHL fumed at the prestige the Soviets took from the NHL without ever having faced an NHL caliber team. The first clash of the NHL’s best and the Soviets was the famed Summit Series in Moscow of 1972. Paul Henderson scored the “goal heard around the world” to lift Team Canada to victory in the last minute of the eighth and final game. Although many people, myself included, think that victory was tarnished by a delibertate act by Bobby Clarke to break Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle.  Canda’s assistant coach John Ferguson would admit to it. Regardless, it was the first time a professional team from North America had defeated the vaunted Red Machine.  In 1974 the upstart WHA decided to try their luck against the Soviet.  The NHL did not allow its players to play with WHA talent so the rematch between Canada and the Soviet Union consisted solely of WHA talent. The Soviets came out on top, again under a cloud of controversy, this time over the treatment of team Canada on and off the ice.

In 1975-76 NHL owners agreed to arrange a tournament between the Soviets’ best and various teams in the NHL. The Soviets sent the vaunted Central Red Army team and the Soviet Wings team to North America to face selected NHL opponents, a list that included the Buffalo Sabres.  The Central Red Army team went into New York and clobbered the Rangers 7-3 on December 28, the Wings went into Pittsburgh and thumped the Penguins 7-4 the next day. On New Years Eve the Red Army went into the forum of Montreal and held the Canadiens to a tie(the Habs would win the Stanley Cup that year). The Wings prepared for their next game on January 4, 1976.

Enter the Buffalo Sabres. “I don’t know what the Sabres had for a game meal, but they came out mean and tough. Jerry Korab was a man on a mission…. He took it to their big stars, once almost putting Yakushev right through the Zamboni doors. I don’t recall a penalty on the play either.” Ron Wicks NHL referee

The Aud was filled to capacity that night. In school we talked about the game quite a bit. The Sabres were a year removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance and in the 70’s we were taught to quite literally hate the “evil commies”.  It was a big game, an important game politically and in terms of hockey prestige (most NHL players at the time were Canadian and they were out to prove the Canadian style of play and the Canadian player were the best in the world).  The air along the Niagara Frontier was electric and the Aud rocked as only that grand old building could do. The Wings uniforms were ill fitting, their equipment appeared shabby and tattered but it was a trap. The Soviets’ equipment was top notch, the Soviet government spared no expense for such a propaganda tour. The Soviets wanted to give the appearance of an ill prepared team.  Although the Wings were a step down from the Central Red Army in terms of talent they were still a powerful team (they would beat  the Pens 7-4, The ‘Hawks 4-2 and the Islanders 2-1). The Sabres themselves were at their height in terms of the mix of finesse and brute power with a hulking defensive corps. Buffalo wanted to show the world what NHL hockey, the Buffalo Sabres and the French Connection were all about. Punch Imlach wanted to beat the Soviets badly, he had the Sabres prepared and on edge, especially Jerry Korab.

“The feeling on the way down the QEW to Buffalo wasn’t good. We hadn’t fared well against the Soviets. We should have known better. With Punch Imlach in the background, it was bound to be a battle. For my money it was an outstanding game, probably the best one the Sabres ever played. It had to be a career game for Jerry Korab and for some reason Don Luce sticks out in my mind. I don’t think he was a goal scorer, but he was at his very best. Heading back up the QEW we knew we’d seen a game to remember” – Frank Selke Jr VP Hockey Night in Canada

On January 4, 1976 the Soviet Wings hit the ice in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. It was a small rink and an extremely loud building.  The Sabres came out banging and hitting, a style the Soviets were not used to playing. At 6:10 of the first period the Sabres got on the board with a goal by Josh Guevremont and they never looked back. A minute later Gilbert Perreault blasted a Korab pass into the net. “I remember the Soviet Wings game as if it was yesterday. Imlach told us in no uncertain terms he wanted this game – a lot. Well, he couldn’t have wanted it any more than each and every player on the team did. We had seen the 3-3 tie in Montreal on New Year’s Eve, and it only made us more determined. Punch said we were going to intimidate them. That was the key” – Jerry Korab

The French Connection scored 4 goals and notched five assists. Danny Gare netted a pair of goals and Fred “yes the office furniture guy” Stanfield had a goal and 3 assists. The Sabres outshot the Wings 46-21. By the end of the first period the Sabres led 4-2, by the end of the second the score had ballooned to 9-4. The Sabres won the game 12-6.

The player of the night was the man nicknamed Kong. Korab punished the Soviet players anytime they came into the Sabres zone and his checks set the tone for the game. By the end of the first period the Soviets were reluctant to cross the Sabres blue line, they were that intimidated by the hard hitting Sabres. After four games against the Soviets the NHL’s record was 1-1-2.

The Soviet teams would bounce back to win against the Bruins, Islanders, Blackhawks. The final game was the Red Army against the Philadelphia Flyers. In perhaps the strangest game of my life as a hockey fan I actually cheered the broad street bullies as they manhandled the Red Army for the NHL’s second win of the tournament. The Flyers took a page from the Sabres game plan and unmercifully beat the Red Army. It led to the Soviets leaving the ice in protest of the Flyers’ style of play, although they would return when they were told they would not be paid if they did not finish the game.

The games in Buffalo and Philly made a lasting impact on how North American players viewed the Soviets. The Soviets were now stuck with the label of soft, afraid to hit and would melt in a physical game. It’s a stereotype that has largely lasted even to today as European players are now a large part of the NHL. No matter the great accomplishments of these players they still can’t distance themselves from the beatings handed to the Soviets by the Sabres that in 1976.


Brewitt, Ross.  26 Seasons in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium.  TFB Press, 1997.

“Canada-Soviet Hockey Series”. CBC Digital Archives. <>.

Joyce, Gare (December 28, 2007). “John Ferguson, 1938-2007”.   (ESPN).  < Retrieved May 21, 2008>.

How NHL Teams Selected Their Names

How NHL Teams Selected Their NamesAnaheim Mighty Ducks: Disney CEO Michael Eisner named the team after the hit Disney movie “The Mighty Ducks”.

Atlanta Thrashers: derived from Georgia’s state bird – the Brown Thrasher and the logo was designed to put forth a feeling of speed.

Boston Bruins: Businessman Charles Adams wanted his new franchise to have brown and yellow team colors to match his stores as well as a name equated with strength and power. A fan named the team in a contest.

Buffalo Sabres: The management held a contest and chose Sabres. Team officials wanted a fresh new name not being used in the pros, and something other than buffalo/bison variations.

Calgary Flames: Given to the team when it was in Atlanta to commemorate the burning of the city in the Civil War. When the team moved to Calgary, management held a contest/vote, and the fans chose to keep the Flames name, which also relates to Alberta’s petroleum industry.

Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes commonly make landfall in the North Carolina.

Chicago Blackhawks: Original owner Frederic McLaughlin named the team in honor of the Black Hawk Battalion he served with in WWI. The unit was named after a Chief Black Hawk. The name was merged to Blackhawks several years ago.

Colorado Avalanche: COMSAT gave Colorado fans a list of eight names to choose from and let the public respond. Avalanche was the most popular nickname among fans. The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche on August 10, 1995.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Fan contest. Officially the Blue Jackets state the name has to do with celebrating patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, city of Columbus. There was speculation the name could have also come from the fact the owner’s favorite color was blue, an insect with attitude logo had already been unveiled or perhaps to honor a Shawnee chief of the same name (there are various legal suits in the United States about the use by sports teams of native nation names and imagery.

Dallas Stars: Dallas is in Texas, the Lone STAR state. Also, when the team was in Minnesota, hockey fans chose the Minnesota state motto “Etoile du Nord” (Star of the North).

Detroit Red Wings: Then team president James Norris named it in honor of a team he had played with – the Montreal Winged Wheelers. The logo was perfect for the Motor City.

Edmonton Oilers: The management held a contest and chose Oilers, reflecting the importance of the oil industry. They kept the name when it moved from the World Hockey Association (WHA) to the National Hockey League.

Florida Panthers: H. Wayne Huizenaga wanted to draw attention to the Panther, an endangered native wildcat of Florida.

Hartford Whalers: When originally in the WHA, club was named New England Whalers for two reasons: (1) Massachusetts seaport towns connected to whaling; (2) the name had WHA in it (WHAlers). Name later changed to Hartford Whalers.

Los Angeles Kings: Two possible reasons: (1) The management held a contest and chose the name; (2) Jack Kent Cooke named them the Kings via executive decision, giving no specific reason.

Minnesota Wild: named in a contest. Six finalists named for new NHL franchise: Minnesota Blue Ox, Minnesota Freeze, Minnesota Northern Lights, Minnesota Voyageurs, Minnesota White Bears and Minnesota Wild. The state of Minnesota is well known for vast stretches of open wilderness, especially in the northern part of the state.

Montreal Canadiens: Representing the nationality of the players on the team. Originally, the team had only French Canadian players.

Nashville Predators: On September 27, 1997, held a season ticker holder event “Ice Breaker Bash”. Fans were surveyed and voted on the “Predators”. The name is linked to the area via fossils found in 1971 of a saber-toothed tiger, extinct for over 10,000 years.

New Jersey Devils: Comes from a legend: a witch allegedly gave birth to a demon known as “Jersey Devil” in 1735. The Jersey Devil was alleged to be a half-man, half-beast that stalked N.J.’s Pine Barrens or the area surrounding Lake Hopatcong for 250 years, causing fear and terror and basically mutilating his victims in an extreme display of guts and gore. Others say the Devil was the 13th child of Mother Leeds, jinxed by gypsies.

New York Islanders: The team is based in Uniondale, Long Island, N.Y.

New York Rangers: MSG President Tex Rickard’s team unofficially known as Tex’s Rangers (a play on Texas Rangers police), but Rangers was the official name.

Ottawa Senators: In honor of old Ottawa Senators hockey team that won 6 Stanley Cups. Originally: as Canada’s capital, the nickname for 1901 amateur team.

Philadelphia Flyers: After 25,000 entries, a committee chose Flyers, although the winning entry by a kid was spelled Fliers, because it went phonetically with Philadelphia.

Phoenix Coyotes: Management held a name the team contest, coyotes are/were fairly common in the desert south west United States.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The management held a contest and chose Penguins, partly because the team is in PENnsylvania.

Quebec Nordiques: Committee named them Nordiques (then in the WHA) because they were the northernmost team in pro hockey at 52 degrees North, 72 degrees West.

St. Louis Blues: Then owner Sid Salamon, Jr., drew inspiration from the famous song by W.C. Handy.

San Jose Sharks: Out of 5,000 entries, officials picked Sharks. 7 varieties in Pacific Ocean, several shark research facilities in area. One part of Bay Area is known as Red Triangle due to its shark population.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa Bay is the lightning capital of the world.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Two possible reasons: (1) Then owner Conn Smythe drew inspiration from an old Toronto team called the East Maple Leaves; (2) when Conn Smythe bought the Toronto St. Patricks, his first act was to rename the team after the Maple Leaf Regiment of the First World War, as well as for the maple leaf on the Canadian flag. Originally, the team was known as the Arenas, then renamed St. Patricks, supposedly to attract the Irish.

Vancouver Canucks: The nickname was taken from a Canadian folk hero. The legend says that Johnny Canuck was a great logger, and was a skater and a hockey player in his spare time.

Washington Capitals: Washington, D.C. is the Capital of the U.S.

Winnipeg Jets: Then owner Ben Hatskin asked his pal Sonny Werblin, then owner of the National Football League’s New York Jets, for permission. The current team (the Atlanta Thrashers franchise) has yet to be officially named.


Les Canadiens Magazine, Magazine #6: 1991-92 Season Postings on the Internet Newsgroup

Various history sections on official team sites.


Sabres April Fools Jokes

Originally posted on 4/1/2001

The Sabres have a long history of practical jokes – from drafting a made -up Japanese player to this gem of an April Fool’s broadcast.

OK, coffee is having its impact. The Sabres have been a somewhat cheeky franchise from their inception. As the saying goes, hockey is a game and games are supposed to be fun. Thankfully the Sabres have had some employees with some great senses of humor

I don’t claim this is a complete list of practical jokes, just one that’s been around since the old history site. But it’s a good many of them, most involved Paul Wieland or John Gurtler.

Perhaps the most famous practical joke in Sabres’ history happened in the 1974 draft. This joke was the masterpiece of the Sabres all time practical joker Paul Weiland, who worked in the Sabres’ public relations department for a couple of decades until the 90’s. In ’74 teams would call in their picks to Clarence Campbell, the NHL’s president at the time. Drafts were very long, and after the tenth round Wieland thought it would be funny to force Campbell to spell a long, foreign name. Wieland drove past a Japanese restaurant called  Tsujimoto’s nearly every day. Wieland got in touch with the International Institute and was provided the Japanese name for Saber – Taro. Thus with the 183rd pick in the 1974 draft the Buffalo Sabres drafted Taro Tsujimoto. Wieland didn’t tell the Knox Brothers he made Taro up merely because he was bored; he essentially burned a draft pick for a joke. So Wieland held his tongue. Taro made it to the training camp roster was provided a stall and equipment. In the St. Catherines hotel the team stayed in for training camp, coach Floyd Smith and Wieland had Taro paged by the hotel. The Knoxes saw a man enter the lobby who looked Japanese to them. They introduced themselves but finally clued into the joke when Wieland, Smith and others filled the lobby with laughter. I wonder if anyone would have the courage to try that joke in modern times? We may take our sports too seriously now.

In 1976, the USS Little Rock was decommissioned. This is the same ship that sits today in Buffalo’s Naval Museum. In ’76 the Sabres issued a press release that stated the Sabres were purchasing the Little Rock for the official team yacht. CBS spoke with Punch Imlach about the purchase. Punch stated the paperwork wasn’t final and the Sabres were still considering other vessels for the team yacht. Imlach issued no denial; the Sabres duped the media in this instance

In 1987 the Sabres issued a press release about the creation of Sabre Meadows, a 43,000 unit housing development the team would build behind Sabreland in Wheatfield, NY. WBEN called the Sabres about the release only to be asked by then assistant public relations director Budd Bailey (and in my opinion the greatest historian on the team) if 43,000 didn’t seem like a lot of units? And did WBEN take note of the date? The release was issued on April first.

Wieland was the force behind the Sliderex hoax. The Sabres informed the league they were replacing the Aud’s ice with Sliderex, a revolutionary plastic surface. The team listed the Prime Minister of Canada as the inventor of Sliderex and issued the release in March with a “hold for April 1” on it. However, the media once again proved… let’s say, gullible. Sliderex was announced on the Buffalo 11 p.m. news and it was even reported the only flaw in Sliderex was that a lit cigarette could burn a hole in it.

Wieland also came out with lifetime leases to one square foot of Aud ice, an interview held in German with Dieter Weber about German players, complete with subtitles, and interviewed Whalers’ Greg Malone – whom Wieland called the NHL’s leading hooker, complete with hooking demonstrations (think Slapshot and not in the gutter!).

John Gurtler, perhaps most famously known for GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL and making people’s brains hurt after he took over for Ted Darling as the Sabres’ play by play man on television broadcasts was another practical joker. In 1988 Gurtler made up a character named Wink Dickerson, the “Ted Knight” of sports broadcasting. Dickerson was on the broadcast to showcase the Sabres Shopping Service which offered such things as Puppa Scoopa, Sabres Cologne to make you smell like a hockey player, and Benoit Hogueee sandwiches. Gurtler even had Wieland and Bailey call in to pretend to be customers purchasing products.

In 1989 the Sabres offered an interactive game. Fans could call in and vote for such things as the starting goaltending for the game, if then coach Ted Sator should change his lines more often, or if Christian Ruuttu should answer questions in English or Finnish. Mike Robitaille mentioned “the results” during the game and results scrolled on the TV as well. Robitaille even commented that interactive hockey would be the death of hockey as it was a coach’s job to figure these things out. At intermission Gurtler was shown going to the coach’s office to tell him the results. Sator and Barry Smith were shown playing table hockey. Fans wanted Ruuttu to answer in Finnish so Robitaille reminded Darling that he had spent ten days in Finland after he was traded to Vancouver because he was so depressed. So Robitaille handled the Finnish portion of the Ruuttu interview.

In 1990 the Sabres’ broadcast, linked above, featured “actors” playing the roles of the broadcast team.  The Youtube clip speaks for itself.


The Birth of the Franchise

The Knox Brothers

The Knox Brothers in the "owner's" box

The Sabres started as a chance remark from Charlie Mulcahy, a Vice President of the Boston Bruins, to Seymour Knox II during a golf game in March of 1965. When Mulcahy mentioned the NHL would be expanding soon and it seemed, given the price, to be a good investment. Knox replied that he didn’t have any personal interest in such an investment but maybe his sons Seymour III and Northrup (Norty) might have an interest. All this came with the backdrop of prosperity combined with looming trouble for the NHL. Attendance in the six NHL cities was at an amazing 95%, but there were nagging issues for the league. There were only six NHL teams: Chicago, New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Detroit. There were vast farm systems for each team but with only 120 jobs in the big league young players were quitting the game in droves unwilling to serve the long apprenticeship in the minor leagues. Even after paying dues in the minors, a young player would be lucky to get even a one game shot with the big club. Above all, there was the lure of television and the vast sources of revenue that could be generated from sponsors and network contracts.

In the past the NHL’s strategy to deal with financial shortcomings was to expand the length of schedule. Since the 1949-50 season, the league had been running on a 70 game season. With only six teams, owners worried fans might become bored with the lack of variety in the games. If the league was to tap into the potential that television offered it would need to expand its presence on a national scale in the United States. That meant growing into the “major league” cities, specifically the large television market of Southern California. Minor league owners were beginning to mull over the possibility of expanding their own operations, something to similar to the NFL/AFL feud for the NHL’s comfort. The answers to the league’s problems of stagnation, loss of talent and exposure seemed to point to one panacea – television. Television would increase the league’s exposure, revenues and hopefully its fan base.

A couple months after the Knox/Mulcahy golf game in South Carolina, another golf game would take place, this one with lasting impact on the possible future of the NHL in Buffalo. Fred Hunt, a former hockey player and GM of the Buffalo Bisons, played a round with Dr. George Collins. After the game the two men, both of whom were hockey fans, spoke about the rumored NHL expansion. Hunt advised Collins that expansion was going to happen and that Buffalo should prepare a bid. When asked by Collins what was needed for such a bid, Hunt advised that Buffalo would need a credible group with solid finances in place when the league would finally announce expansion. Collins thought this over quickly in his mind and quickly thought of his friend Seymour Knox III, someone to whom the idea might appeal. Collins arranged a golf game with Hunt the following week, this time his friend Seymour Knox would join the duo. It didn’t take much prompting from Hunt to sell Knox on the idea of heading an expansion bid for Buffalo. Knox made it clear it was the NHL and nothing less, he had no interest in investing in the Bisons.

The NHL announced its expansion plans in June of 1965. Six more teams would be added to the original six for the modest expansion fee of $10,000. Fred Hunt, along with Bisons owner Ruby Pastor, made inquires about a Bisons-led bid for an expansion team. Friends in the league reported back that while the Pastor bid was formidable, it was flawed in one key respect – the bulk of the financing behind the group came from downstate interests and not local interests as outlined by the NHL. Hunt thought the matter over and recalled his meeting with Seymour Knox III: Knox represented the local money that the NHL wanted. The Pastor group merged with the Knox brothers forming the Niagara Frontier Hockey Corporation. The Pastors would retain 15% of the corporation while the rest of the partners would share equally the remaining 85%. To show their sincerity and solidarity, the group submitted their application immediately to the NHL at the leagues annual meetings in Montreal over the All Star game.

The Knoxes flew out to Montreal with the intention of meeting the league Governors, basically a fact-finding reconnaissance to gauge league reaction to the possibility of a Buffalo bid. Using their considerable connections, the Knoxes were able to arrange meetings with Senator Hartland Molson of the Canadiens, Charlie Mulcahy of the Bruins, Bill Jennings, the Governor for the NY Rangers, Bruce Norris of the Red Wings and league President Clarence Campbell. The results of the meetings were encouraging. Seymour Knox impressed the league’s hierarchy with his calm demeanor and impressive business skills. Knox flew back to Buffalo wary but hopeful, and the possibility of an NHL team seemed closer. An arena would be needed, so the Aud would need to be expanded to meet the leagues 12,500-seat minimum. Political leaders would need to be approached; their support and that of local civic groups was crucial. If Buffalo was to land an expansion team, it would need to present a united front on every level.

The Knoxes retained the services of Robert Swados to serve as the group’s attorney. Swados was well known by Western New York politicians with experience in tax law and represented Buffalo’s bid for baseball franchise in the Continental League in 1960. Seymour Knox met with Buffalo Mayor Frank Sedita who was enthusiastic in his support of a Buffalo NHL bid. Studies were done on expanding the Aud, the population of the Niagara Frontier, sizes of television markets and all the data needed to present a thorough and comprehensive bid to the NHL. Knox then met with Weston Adams Sr., chairman of the board for the Boston Bruins. Adams was harder on Knox than the principals Knox had met with in Montreal and questioned the image of Buffalo as a “major league” team. Seymour Knox pleaded the case of his home convincingly and when he left Boston, he left with Adams in his corner.

Bruce Norris arranged a meeting between Seymour and Norty Knox and his older brother James Norris, chairman of the NHL board of governors and leader of the Chicago Black Hawks. The meeting was strained to say the least; Seymour failed to find any common ground with the gruff elder Norris. Norris was still bitter over a failed grain operation in Buffalo that cost him $2,000,000 back in 1954. Hours into the meeting Norris finally blurted out a statement that briefly sunk Buffalo’s hopes. “Buffalo is a bush town. You might as well forget it right now, boys. Buffalo will never get into the NHL as long as I’m involved.”

The Knoxes left Chicago deflated, the trip had been a mild disaster. The Knoxes were buoyed shortly thereafter, however, with a surprising reaction from Toronto. The Leafs, only 98 miles from Buffalo, were viewed as the biggest obstacle to an expansion team. The Knoxes made it clear they were very willing to bend to protect the Leafs television market and were pleasantly surprised that the Leafs seemed willing to not only listen to the Buffalo pitch but also support it.

Buffalo’s opposition for an expansion team was Los Angeles, Oakland-San Francisco, Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Cleveland and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Buffalo group had the support of local politicians, solid financial backing and the Aud could be expanded to 16,080 which would be second only to Chicago if Buffalo was accepted into the NHL. The word from the Knox’s sources was that the Buffalo bid was viewed to be the strongest, best prepared and nearly a sure deal. St. Louis, with ties to Norris, didn’t have a group behind the bid. The West Coast cities were certain to get in; the Vancouver bid was disjointed and poorly organized. Cleveland was a token bid and the Philadelphia bid had been placed just two weeks prior to the expansion meeting and thus not viewed as a legitimate threat. Pittsburgh was well financed and had a building in place; the Baltimore group was a threat but had problems in the background. The Knoxes led the presentation of the Buffalo bid on February 7th and all seemed well. Later that evening Bill Jennings phoned Seymour Knox and informed Knox that Buffalo was in, it wasn’t official yet but things looked good.

The Knox group celebrated the good news and went to the league meeting the next day in high spirits, certain they would be named as one of the expansion cities. On the way into the meeting Bill Jennings grabbed Seymour Knox and pulled him aside, a grim look on his face. “He did it to you,” Jennings said. At first Knox misunderstood thinking Jennings was congratulating him but Jennings repeated himself giving a thumbs down gesture. Knox was dejected. Minutes later the league announced the list of expansion cities: LA, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Baltimore was the first alternate, Buffalo the second alternate. In the aftermath of the disappointment the Knoxes were able to piece together what happened. Bruce Norris regretfully informed the Knox brothers that he always voted with his brother and he had done so this time. Toronto ended up voting against Buffalo and Montreal sided with their fellow Canadians as the two cities had always supported one another. Bill Jennings offered this suggestion to the Knox brothers:

“Your presentation was great, but why do you have to represent Buffalo? Why don’t you select another city?” Jennings named three cities that he thought would be sure bets for the next round of expansion. Knox’s answer should be one every Sabres fan should have etched in their memories.

“Buffalo is our home and that’s where our hockey team will play,” Knox replied.

The Knox group was persuaded to join with the Bisons organization to lend business support to the sagging club. The Knoxes formed an executive group with Bob Swados, Paul Schoellkopf, John Galvin and Joe Stewart. It was later expanded to include John Walsh, Hazard Campbell, Nelson Graves and Dr. George Collins, the man whose golf game had gotten things going in the first place. The Bisons struggled, their agreement with the Black Hawks expired and things looked bleak. The Pastors had two options open to them: sell to the Leafs and become the Leafs farm team (thus eliminating any chance of a competitor growing on the Leafs back door) or accepting an agreement with the New York Rangers. Pastor gave right of first refusal for sale of the club to the Knox brothers in acknowledgement of all the Knox brothers had done and their desire to bring the NHL to Buffalo. The Bisons accepted the agreement with New York; the move brought new life to the Bisons. With new head coach Fred Sherro, the Bisons charged to first place in the 1968-9 season bringing the eyes of the NHL back to Buffalo. The stage was set for a second attempt, this time by a far wiser and more determined Knox group

After the initial league expansion, the Knoxes concentrated, along with their group, on the daily running of the Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons were winning on the ice as well as the turnstiles as Buffalo hockey fans came back to support their team after the disappointment of not being awarded an NHL expansion franchise. The Knoxes, however, did not back away from efforts to secure an NHL team for Buffalo. The expansion teams did better than the “experts” predicted in their first season, at least in the standings. The expansion teams played in their own division and from top down things were highly competitive with one exception – the Oakland Seals.

The Seals struggles on the ice were eclipsed only by their problems off the ice. An ownership group headed the Seals with some 52 limited partners besides Barry Van Gerbig, the figurehead of the group. Fans weren’t attending the games, instead they stayed at home and the few who cared about the hockey team watched the games broadcast on television. LaBatt’s Breweries made a loan to the Oakland ownership of $680,000 on March 17, 1968. The loan had to be repaid on June 15, 1969 if the franchise did not relocate to Vancouver by that date. CBS, the NHL’s new television partner, made it clear that the league had to maintain a presence in the Oakland area and its large television market. This stalled the move to Vancouver in the league meetings but the Seals group continued to look for partners to help the franchise out of the financial mess it was in.

Although not successful in their initial bid for an NHL franchise the Knox brothers made all important contacts and a lasting impression with the powers of the league. The fact that the AHL Bisons drew more fans and made more money than the Oakland Seals was not lost on the leaders of the NHL. The league leaders began to ask questions. Who had put on the best presentation at the 1966 expansion meetings? Who had a good organization, television market and financing? The answer was Buffalo. Oakland was quickly becoming an embarrassment to the NHL, if the team was going to move why not move it to Buffalo instead of Vancouver? The Knox brothers had shown what they could do and there was little doubt among the NHL leaders that under the Knox brothers the franchise could not only be saved but also lifted.

Bill Jennings made the first move. Jennings called Knox and informed him of Oakland’s troubles telling Seymour Knox that it was an opening that could be used to get a team into Buffalo. The Knoxes along with their attorney Bob Swados quickly assessed the situation and realized that Jennings was correct. This was an opening that could be exploited; it could accelerate the process of getting a team into Buffalo. After various calls and meetings an agreement was finally reached. Buffalo would provide working capital for the Seals to cover the season then would apply for the sale and transfer of the team to Buffalo the next winter. If the transfer was turned down Buffalo would become team investors. Unfortunately the story broke in the papers and the LaBatt’s group, who had already invested in the Seals, was furious. It had been assumed by the Buffalo group that the league could work out the prior commitment from LaBatt’s but that was not the case. After months of wrangling the Buffalo group had to revise its position.

The Knoxes agreed to go and operate on the West Coast in order to eliminate the dual problems of the 52 member Seal group and the LaBatt’s issue. The Knoxes would run the Seals, finance them in return for a promise of light at the end of the tunnel – a team for Buffalo in the next expansion. The original plan was to move the Oakland team to Buffalo and award Oakland with a new franchise. This was quickly dismissed by the league that was afraid of alienating the small pocket of fans they had earned in Oakland. Instead the league decided to leave the Seals in Oakland and promised to give Buffalo another team in the next round of expansion. On January 20, 1969 the league governors met to decide on the next expansion. They voted down the LaBatt request to transfer the Seals to Vancouver, thus eliminating that hurdle. The league then told the Buffalo group that they could acquire and operate the Oakland franchise but refused to make any promises on a team for Buffalo. The league was giving the Knoxes a chance to become part of the league and press their case from the inside.

It was not an ideal solution but one the Knox group felt they had to accept along with the $4.5 million risk in buying the Seals. In the meantime another group entered the picture – the Trans National Communication group led by Woody Erdman. The Knoxes agreed to sell most of their interest in the Seals in return for the right to name the league representative for the Seals. However, word filtered back to the league offices and this was not a proposition the NHL was willing to accept. The league stated that the Knoxes would hold 20% of the Seals stock and not the 30% agreed upon with TNC. Further the league would accept Seymour Knox but only as an alternate governor, closing him out from the inner circle of the league. After more negotiations this was the deal that was accepted; Knox was an alternate governor, the Knox group held 20% of the Seals stock and had veto power of league issues.

The front office situation was temporarily cleaned up and the result showed on the ice. The Seals (no longer the Oakland Seals but now the California Golden Seals) had a great season and earned the final playoff spot. Seymour Knox spent countless hours building relationships with the league governors, paving the way to earning a team for Buffalo. In September of 1969 it was announced the league would expand by two teams, unfortunately the entry fee was a staggering $6 million. Frantic months of negotiations and headaches followed but on December 1, 1969 the league informed the Knox group that they were awarding Buffalo a franchise. The Knox group would now have to deal with two issues: the first was selling their interests in the Seals and attempting to regain their investment in that franchise, the second would be far more gratifying. They had won a franchise for Buffalo, now it was time to start building a team.

Here’s a column written in the Toronto Telegram on November 3, 1969

“…I don’t know whether Buffalo had made formal application to the NHL, but I believe it soon will. The gentleman who will, in all probability, make the application will be Seymour Knox III…”

The column then goes on to detail how the Governors determined the entry fee for the new franchises.

“…It seems as though the Governors were sitting around in Toronto discussing the “tab” they were going to put on the new clubs. One suggested $3 million, another $5million.

‘Do you think they will pay that?” asked a governor.

‘Why don’t you ask them’ was the reply.

‘Would you pay $6 million Seymour?’

He said he would…

Then the columnist gave his opinion of expansion

“I felt that Mr. Knox would be an asset to the game, and everybody I have talked to has endorsed him as being a real gentleman. The NHL could use a few more men like Mr. Knox. It might help their image. If Mr. Knox has any visions of recuperating his money, there had better be another 16,000 hockey nuts in the Buffalo area…”

The columnist’s concerns in that area were ill founded, there were indeed hockey nuts by the tens of thousands in the Buffalo area. The columnist’s name? An out of work former coach and general manager, a man who had his name inscribed four times on the Stanley Cup. George “Punch” Imlach.

Now that they had a franchise, the Knox group turned its full attention to building a team. To build any organization you have to start from the top down so the top man can build from the ground up. Confusing but true, its exactly what the Knox led group decided to do for their new team. After asking a few questions and getting few answers from their new colleagues in the league offices the Knoxes came up with a short list of general manager candidates. First on that list was the out of work former head coach of the Maple Leafs and current newspaper columnist George Punch Imlach. Imlach had a towering reputation in hockey circles; he was the kind of man who polarized reactions to him. You either loved him or hated him, there was no in between and that is a reflection of the man himself. Imlach was the coach and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs for most of the 1960’s, winning four Stanley Cups and legions of fans. Imlach was a shrewd trader and a no nonsense man.

“When you asked a question (of Imlach) you got an objective, knowledgeable answer. In short, to use the vernacular, a no-bull guy. That’s what first impressed me.” – Bob Swados on his initial reaction to Punch Imlach

There was some concern about Imlach’s reputation for favoring older players over younger talent and the Knoxes did not want their draft picks thrown away. They wanted to build a team that would compete for years not just be a “one shot” wonder. Imlach had turned down other jobs from other NHL teams, mainly because Imlach saw himself as a general manager not just a coach. Imlach was impressed with the Knox brothers’ enthusiasm and commitment. Buffalo offered him the challenge of building an entire staff but that building could be done in his image. Buffalo also offered Imlach the most important thing of all: a chance to show the NHL and in particular Toronto that he still had “it”.

“They asked me a lot of questions and I answered them straight up. After all, some people like you and some people don’t. It’s the ones that don’t that do all the talking: and the Knoxes had heard these stories, so they asked a lot of questions. I don’t blame them. They had to find out if I was the son of a bitch they had heard I was. But I had nothing to lose answering their questions honestly and directly. I didn’t have to go to work, so it wasn’t a case of my pitching for the job or worrying about stepping on anybody’s toes, and I just told it the way it is. And money wasn’t a problem. When I get into a tax bracket where I have to pay the government more money out of a dollar than I get out of it, then I think it’s time for me to quit. I don’t mind being in a partnership but I hate like hell being at a disadvantage to them. …So it was the challenge that attracted me. I have to be nuts, and my wife said I was crazy to take this job when I could have something much easier. But I’m closer to Toronto, and it will be easier for me to stick it down their throats. That’s what motivates me.” Punch Imlach on why he took the Buffalo position.

On January 16, 1970 it was publicly announced that Punch Imlach would lead the Buffalo team in the upcoming season. Buffalo had its general and he was more than prepared to lead his team into Pittsburgh on October 10th. The front office was filled in led by Dave Forman, Fred Hunt was named assistant General Manager of the new team. A selection committee was formed for the most important of tasks – naming the new team. A contest was held and the public flooded the Buffalo offices with suggestions for the new team name. Ownership wanted a name that would splash on the newspapers but disassociate the new team from the normal Buffalo sports names (ex the Bisons etc.). On the list of losing names: Bees, Mugwumps, Flying Zepplins, Knoxen, Herd, Border Riders, and Comets. Four people submitted the name Sabres and a drawing was held to see which 2 of the final 4 would be the winners of the contest. Mayor Sedita oversaw the drawing and Robert Sonnelitter Jr was designated the man who named the new Sabres.

Imlach assembled his scouting staff and scoured the Junior ranks for talent but the first choice in the coming 1970 entry draft was a no brainer as far as Imlach was concerned. If Imlach could win that first pick for the Sabres the player he wanted was a young center playing in Montreal named Gilbert Perreault. It was decided by the league to determine drafting order by a series of coin tosses. Imlach first won a small victory by getting the league to allow the Sabres to participate in the intra-league draft, giving the young team access to the league’s veterans. Second Imlach was able to get the date of the coin tosses moved to June 9th, the day before the draft. Imlach felt this extra day would allow him to arrange more trades and deals.

On June 9th in the Grand Salon of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel the league converged for the all-important tosses. The Sabres won the first toss over the waiver draft. Then a carnival wheel was brought forward and league president Clarence Campbell explained the rules. Vancouver would have the number from six down, the Sabres eight up and seven would be a respin. The first spin was for first rights in the expansion draft. The number eight came up and the Sabres would get first choice. Then the room grew quiet, the next spin was the most important, the right for the first pick overall in the amateur draft. At first Campbell announced the winning number was one but after taking another look at the wheel he corrected himself and announced that the winning number was not one but eleven. Buffalo had just won the first pick in the draft and the Sabres group erupted in cheers. They would have their young superstar; they would get Gilbert Perreault.

Now for trivia buffs everywhere the next sequence of events can win you a few contests. Imlach left the room for a few moments to collect his thoughts. When he returned he noticed Pittsburgh was trying to slip goalie Joe Daly through waivers. Imlach used his new won rights and claimed Daly off the wire. It was Joe Daly and not Gilbert Perreault who was the first Buffalo Sabre. Imlach then selected Kevin O’Shea, Cliff Schmautz, Brian McDonald and Billy Inlgis in the intra league draft. The next day during the expansion draft held on the 10th Imlach took: Tom Webster who he promptly traded to Detroit for Roger Crozier. Al Hamilton, Donnie Marshall, Tracy Pratt, Jim Watson, Phil Goyette, Reggie Fleming and Francois Lacombe were also selected. Then the amateur draft took place and Imlach stood up and announced “Buffalo claims Gil Perreault”. In the span of less than a year the Knox brothers had given Buffalo an NHL team, staffed it, named it and now Punch Imlach had begun to place the players who would become the foundation of the Sabres and legends who would cast long shadows for every player who followed.



Bailey, Budd. Celebrate the Tradition, 1970-1990: A History of the Buffalo Sabres. Boncraft, 1989.

Brewitt, Ross. A Spin of the Wheel: Birth of the Buffalo Sabres. Vantage Press, 1975.

Brewitt, Ross. 26 Seasons in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. TFB Press, 1997.

2011 Buffalo Sabres Mock Draft

Sabres’ Draft Picks in 2011 NHL Entry Draft

  • 1st round, 16th
  • 2nd round, 46th (traded to St. Louis for Brad Boyes)
  • 3rd round, 77th
  • 4th round, 107th
  • 5th round, 137th
  • 6th round, 167th
  • 7th round, 197th

Sabres’ Mock Draft

1.16 C – Mark Scheifele – Barrie Colts – 66-22-53-75 -22 35                                 6.3 185, shoots right, 3.15.93, CSS ranking (16)

Scheifele’s first season in the OHL was quite successful. He finished second on his team with 75 points. As the season progressed, the Barrie Colts leaned on Scheifele more and more, and he did not disappoint. The Colts were the worst team in the OHL this past season, winning just 15 games out of 68. Their team will be depending on Scheifele heavily for the next couple years. Scheifele possesses a strong work ethic, is a good skater with quick hands, moves well for a big center and is defensively responsible. Scheifele has very good hockey sense and an ability to find the open man in the offensive zone, as can be attested by his 53 assists. Schiefele steadily rose up the ranks as the season went on and now finds himself as a top 20 pick for the draft. There’s a decent chance he won’t be around at #16 when the Sabres pick, but if he is available, it’s probably as good a selection as Buffalo can make at that spot.

3.77 C – Joseph Labate – Holy Angels Academy (MN) – 25-27-22-49 +27 42
6.4 195, shoots left, 4.16.93, CSS ranking (51)

There’s a good chance Labate will be drafted in the second round or early in the third (the draft spots for high school players are often unpredictable), but if he were to fall to the Sabres’ third round selection, Labate’s a player the Sabres should consider. Labate is a big center with good skating ability. He’s offensively geared with a good shot and has no fear of getting into the high-traffic areas and says he models his game after power forwards / centers like Joe Thornton and David Backes. Labate will be playing as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin this fall. He would help fill the prospect pipeline gap at center, especially among the lack of larger centers.

4.107 C – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Gatineau Olympiques – 67-32-47-79 +23 22
5.9 165, shoots right, 11.11.92, CSS ranking (not ranked)

Diminutive center in the Quebec junior league that quickly reminds you of Danny Briere. A very fast skater with a nose for the net, Pageau possesses a nasty wrister and he has pin-point accuracy on the shot. His speed allows him to skate around the defense from the blue line in and go one-on-one with the opposing team’s goalie. Despite being a small player, has no fear going into the slot, to the net, or high-traffic areas. For some reason or another, Pageau was not ranked by the CSS, however he has seen his stock rise dramatically in the past few weeks. Pageau led his team to a surprising run in the Quebec playoffs, leading the way with 13-16-29 in 24 games.

5.137 G – Benjamin Conz – SC Langnau

46 GP / 19 W, 26 L / 2.98 GAA / .906 Sv%
5.11 205, right glove, 9.13.91, CSS ranking (4*) *European Goalies

Conz has gone undrafted the past two seasons, however it looks as though the third time will be the charm for the Swiss goalie. Conz has been the starting goalie for the Swiss U-20 team the past two seasons. He was the named the “All-Tournament” goalie at the 2009-2010 WJC. He made a very good impression at the Buffalo WJC tournament this past winter. He faced more shots than any goalie at the Buffalo junior tournament and registered a 3-3 record along with a 2.97 GAA and .918 save percentage. He made 46 saves on 49 shots in a loss against Team Canada, and played very well in a 2-1 loss against the U.S.A. Draft projections have Conz being selected anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds. The Sabres do need to draft at least one goalie. Conz would be a good enough fit to challenge or surpass the likes of Connor Knapp.

6.167 C – Thomas Tynan – Notre Dame – 44-23-31-54 +21 36
5.9 170, shoots right, 2.25.92, CSS ranking (not ranked)

Tynan was draft eligible last year but was passed over. He committed to Notre Dame and led the Fighting Irish in scoring in his freshman season. Tynan was tied for third in overall scoring in the CCHA this past season. Tynan was an integral part of a Notre Dame team that ended up making it to the Frozen Four. He has been invited to the U.S. National Evaluation camp as a candidate for the WJC U.S. U-20 team. Tynan’s name has been thrown around as a probable 6th round selection in the NHL draft. The Sabres could make out quite well here in stockpiling more offensive talent at the center position. If they can grab at least four centers in this draft, the cupboard will certainly no longer be empty.

7.197 D – Edward Wittchow – Burnsville H.S. (MN) – 25-9-14-23 +11 28
6.3 190, shoots left, 10.31.92, CSS ranking (111)

Wittchow reached a CSS final ranking of 111 after being left off the mid-term list. The Sabres need to spend at least one pick on a defenseman. Good size, quite a good skater. He’ll round out above 200 pounds down the road… played at a large Minneapolis area high school.  Wittchow was selected 4th overall in May’s USHL draft.  He’s the property of the Waterloo Blackhawks and will likely spend the 2011-12 campaign there.

Q&A with Sabres’ President Ted Black

Sabres' President Ted Black

Sabres' President Ted Black

Originally posted 5/25/2011 by Amanda

After he was named as team president Ted Black said he wanted to be in touch with the fans and was open to interviews from fan sites. Amanda took him up on that offer. A few weeks ago we posted a thread for our members to ask questions which we then posed to Mr. Black, here is the complete list of questions submitted and the answers given. We would like to thank the Sabres’ Ted Black and Scott Miner for their willingness to engage Sabres fans through this Q&A. References to being part of a team can get corny and sappy (I seem to indulge in large servings of each on this site) but the way ownership has engaged the fans, listens to them, responds to them and encourages them to be active, to help create traditions that are unique to Buffalo really makes it feel like the Sabres are all “our” team.


How did you get involved in hockey?


I never played hockey. That may turn off some purists and I respect that perspective. That said, I have been intimately involved with the business of hockey since 1999. I got my start when I met Ken Sawyer at a Christmas party in 1998. He had just left the NHL and I helped him with a couple of projects. In September 1999 he asked me to consider working with him at the Penguins. As Woody Allen said, “the key to life is showing up.” And in my case, I showed up at a Christmas party.


Do you see similarities in the markets of Buffalo and Pittsburgh? What are the differences?


The people are similar – proud, kind and passionate. With regard to hockey, I believe Buffalo is a stronger market because hockey is so entwined with the fabric of the community. It is part of who we are and extends to men, women, kids, grandparents, dogs and cats. In Pittsburgh, football enjoys the same cultural significance.

Drew from Buffalo

– As you no doubt have discovered, we fans of the Sabres have taken your “Hockey Heaven” comment to heart, and many of us feel there has not been a more apt description of our little city. If you could, please briefly explain what elements of our team, community, and fandom prompted you to give us such a great new label!


Hi Drew, thanks for taking the time to ask a question. When I uttered the phrase, “Buffalo is Hockey Heaven,” I spoke from my heart. Our team is not miles away from a Cup. The pieces are here. It might not happen next year, but it will happen. No city deserves it more. No city will cherish it more. And no city will celebrate it more.

Ross in Perry, NY

– First of all, I’d like to thank you for you willingness to listen to fan suggestions! The changes you and Mr. Pegula have made so far are fantastic! I’m curious to know who your favorite hockey team and player was growing up? Also, if you were to wear a current Sabres player jersey to a game, who’s would it be?


Thanks Ross. Listening to fans (customers) is the foundation of any successful business and talking with all of you is one of the reasons I love my job and this city. My favorite team was the Penguins and favorite player was Mario. I am blessed that ML and I became and remain friends and we stay in touch. He is a better person than he ever was a hockey player. As for the Sabres, I have an affinity for Nathan Gerbe. I love his heart and hustle on the ice and he is a good person outside the arena. The fact that my youngest son shares the same first name probably helps too.

Jim, aka Milo (Kyiv, Ukraine)

– Let me echo many others in thanking you and Mr. Pegula for what you have done so far, and what you seem poised to do to improve the team we love in the off season. (Let’s go deep into the playoffs first, of course!) Will the Sabres play more weekend afternoon games? Does the team have any say in the scheduling of these games? Those of us in Europe have to choose between sleep and watching games – it’s nice to get a few where we can have both!


Hi Jim. So glad to see that the Sabres Nation extends into several continents. With regard to afternoon games, we are looking into it. The first draft of the schedule has not yet come out, but I am looking to minimize the number of back to backs. Given the popularity of the party on the plaza it would be cool to do some afternoon games with outdoor parties on the plaza. We will consider family friendly times on weekends. We do have a say in the process and the NHL works hard to accommodate the teams, the networks and the arena scheduling conflicts for concerts and other events. For those of you in Europe, thanks for your support and we look forward to bringing Hockey Heaven to Finland and Germany in October.

Emily in Budapest

– Those of us that reside of out of the Buffalo area and rely on Center Ice to see the games have to miss pre- and post-game coverage, which is really unfortunate. Is there any way that it could be streamed online as well? I know that MSG has certain broadcasting rights, but it would be really nice to be able to see both shows–especially the pregame since its triumphant return. Thanks for everything you’ve done so far, and I’m really excited for the future of the Sabres with you and the Pegulas at the helm.


Hi Emily. You raise an interesting idea. I had not considered streaming the pre/post but I will look into it. You are a great example of one of my favorite sayings “all of us are smarter than any of us.”

Bill in Grand Island

– I’d like to know what ownership’s philosophy is on building a Cup contending team. What positions are most important? What do the Sabres lack now (assuming we don’t win the Cup this year). Is it going to require a long and extensive rebuild?


Hi Bill. Great question and a difficult one to fully know the answer to with absolute certainty. This and other teams will evolve. As we sit here today, I would say that the team is built around a world class goalie and a core of very talented players that can and will form the nucleus of a Cup champion. Going into the off season, it seems like the Sabres, along with most other teams, are looking for more help at center, strong 2-way players and depth in defense. We are not rebuilding. The window to make a play for the Cup is over the next 1-3 years.


Fans are leery of the “status quo” approach that has been the mantra of the Sabres for the past few years. There are a few players that have been here for several years that fans are extremely frustrated with. Can we expect to see moves and acquisitions in the offseason that will markedly improve this team? How active will the team be in the free agent market?


The status quo is our enemy. Look around. If you accept it, you cease to improve. This off season will be interesting. There are not a lot of big-name free agents. My personal belief and hope is that we will see a lot more teams making trades in and around the draft.


Does Mr. Pegula want to have a say in the player personnel side of the team? What will the decision making process be like under Mr. Pegula?


Terry does not have “final say.” I know that sounds weird. I don’t have “final say.” Darcy does not have “final say.” We have a flat management team and there are and will be many voices and points of view taken into consideration. In the end, we will do whatever we need to do to win the Cup. That is the reason for the Sabres existence.


Since a belief in winning is important, will the team weigh that factor when looking to acquire players? Or is it something the team thinks it can inculcate into arriving players?


Belief in winning is important. However, belief without hard work and deeds is an empty pursuit. We want players who will work hard and do the “million little things,” to be a champion.

Sean in Calgary

– As has been said countless times, thank you so much for what you and the Pegulas are doing. This truly is a dream come true for this fan base. The fact that you are doing a Q & A with our beloved website is an unbelievable gesture and I can’t express how exciting it is for us to feel this close to the organization. I have a curious question from one of your many out of town fans. I would just like to hear you address the attitude change expressed by people within the organization since the ownership change. Obviously there are the exciting physical changes to the makeup of the arena and infrastructure of the franchise, but how have the players, management team, and staff reacted to the changes? Have they said much regarding the contrast between the Golisano ownership and the current owner? I know as fans, for many of us it feels like we have our Sabres back after a few underwhelming years, and I am curious how strongly people in the organization have mirrored that idea of a fresh attitude. Just a humble fan that doesn’t have the access you do, curious about the inner-workings of the club.


Hi Sean. Thanks for the kind words. We have only been on the job for 10 weeks. The fan support has been humbling. With regard to the changes, I am very proud that the culture seems to have rejuvenated our team and staff and, to a degree, transformed the outlook of the region. There is such a cool vibe in Buffalo right now. It is one of confidence. It is one of pride. Come to Buffalo over the summer or for a game in the fall. It is a great place. So much to do within an hour�s drive. With regard to the prior owners, they were tremendous caretakers of the franchise and I can only hope to leave a similar legacy.


Do you plan on making a serious push for the next opportunity for the USA to host the World Junior Championships (in 2017 I believe)?


I wish we could host the WJC every year. We will aggressively pursue these opportunities because Buffalo is Hockey Heaven. We not only love our Sabres, we love the sport. Not many NHL cities can say that.


Will the team be looking to create a new practice facility?


With regard to the practice facility, the Sabres practice outside of HSBC about a dozen or so times a year, so it really doesn’t make sense for us to build an arena for such limited use (kind of like building a parking garage for Easter Sunday church attendance). If we could partner with other entities that were otherwise building a facility I would want to consider possible synergies. You will hear lots of rumors about this and other aspects of our business because we are open to considering what is possible – regardless of what is probable.


Several of our members were curious about the relationship between the Sabres and their AHL affiliate Portland. Are the Sabres pleased with the current situation, and do you think the Rochester option will ever be visited again?


The Sabres-Portland relationship has produced the last three AHL Players of the Year. That is historic. As a former alternate Governor of the AHL, I also know that the sands of time – and affiliations – shift. Portland and Rochester are awesome AHL cities. Hockey must continue in both cities and the Sabres have a vested interest in seeing the sport grow in Portland, Rochester and everywhere in between.


Have you attended a game in Portland? How was the experience with the fans and the players, and what can you tell us of the atmosphere?


I have not attended a game in Portland. Terry drove to see the Pirates play in March. He said it was a great atmosphere. As I mentioned above, they have an amazing track record there.

Andy in Cleveland

Are there any plans to get an ECHL affiliate?


Hi Andy. I don’t know if we would have an affiliation with the ECHL in the traditional sense. In my experience, that has more relevance to the AHL team.

Brian in Potsdam, NY

– Have plans been discussed about the future of the scouting department? Are we moving away from the so called “video-scouting” idea? How does management feel about drafting and developing European and Russian born players? Have any plans for the development of youth hockey been discussed within Buffalo and the Western New York region? What position can the organization take within the community?


Brian- that change is in our “wheel house.” As Terry said during the first press conference and since, there is no salary cap on scouting. We will not move away from video scouting. And by the way, “video scouting” is not the devil. Our video software and proprietary tools are cutting edge. We will continue to grow this asset while augmenting it with “boots on the ground”. That will be the model going forward. With regard to the origin of players, we are not xenophobic – we want any player, from any country who will help us win the Cup. Lastly- youth hockey is immensely important. It connects generations and is our future. Hey, I am a hockey dad also. Those kids and their parents (men, women, boys and girls) are our past, present and future. No way will I ignore them. I want more kids to play.


How will the draft operate? Will the team be looking for specific help (position, size, etc.) or go with the best player available? What does management view as the main organizational needs?


Hmmm. Draft question. I don’t have an answer for you. Darcy’s guys are working on it and we will have some updates from them in the weeks ahead. Their record is pretty good in finding talent.


Buffalo has some great hockey programs Niagara University Purple Eagles, Buffalo State Bengals, Canisius College and also the Junior Sabres. Is it getting easier to look in our own backyard for quality NHL caliber players?


A big reason why Buffalo is Hockey Heaven is the collegiate, juniors and youth leagues. Buffalo has a lot of home grown NHL talent and is home to many former NHL players. We want to be an incubator of hockey talent.


Golisano changed the franchise’s mentality about signing prospects – he made it a high priority and it was rarely a problem. Will this stay the same under Pegula?


We will try to sign any player who helps us win a Cup (or Cups).

Frank in Niagara Falls

– First I would like to thank you for being so open to us and taking time to listen to our concerns and ideas. It is a welcome change from the past. My first question to you is being that Pittsburgh has been in two Winter Classics, has there been talk of any kind about the Sabres being involved in another Winter Classic game, being that the original one here drew such great ratings along with a great scene in Ralph Wilson Stadium.


Hi Frank. The on and off line community populate “Pegulaville.” I would love to have our Sabres involved in the Winter Classic again. Same for an All Star Game (we are, however, getting to play Europe Games). We have only been on the job 10 weeks and have not yet attended an NHL board meeting. I will advance these discussions – anything that elevates the City of Buffalo is good for us.

Dennis from Hamburg

– Are the Sabres still planning to do Variable Price Seating for Sabres home games? I would also like to thank you and Mr. Pegula for the great job you have done so far.


Hi Dennis. I have a good friend from college who lives in Hamburg. We will continue variable pricing with some tweaks.

Peggy in Massachusetts

– In addition to select nights where college students can get discounted tickets, would the Sabres consider having a family section at HSBC like other arenas? That section could offer discounted tickets for adults with children ages 14 and under. Maybe a corporate sponsor could subsidize it. Thank you for listening to fans. Much appreciated.


Hi Peggy. I was in Boston with my son this weekend and love Massachusetts. We hope to be sold out much of next year. We need to balance this with the need to grow our fan base and to keep the games affordable for students and families. We will do our best to do so. Our average ticket price is 23rd in the NHL.

Bill from Grand Island

Can the team bring back the mad hatters’ section? This was a section in the 300�s similar to Nashville�s �cellblock 303�. They really helped to create a great atmosphere in the building. HSBC can get fairly quiet at times.


Bill – I did not live through the mad hatters phase. Hey, fans can start or renew any tradition they want. If we try to script it, then most likely it would not be effective. I do think the 300 section is loud. I sat up there for a few games this year.

“Better Days” from

I greatly respect how new ownership has taken strides to preserve some of the “tradition” of the Buffalo Sabres. One tradition which the team always had was to play a game on New Year’s Eve, and it was called “Tux and Pucks.” Some people would dress up, and the Sabres would do special things during the game. It seemed unique to Buffalo, and had the feel of something like what Detroit or Dallas has in the NFL on Thanksgiving Day. Would this be something that you would be interested in bringing back?


Many have asked for Tux and Pucks. I will work on it when the first draft of the schedule comes out. I am also hoping we can start other traditions like playing an afternoon game the Sunday of the Bills bye week (October 23) so sports fans can maybe do some hockey tailgating. I will know more when the schedule draft is in hand.

“Better Days” from

Back when Buffalo Memorial Auditorium was open, I recall going to one or two “Sabres Carnivals.” Basically, they were events held during the regular season where fans could interact with the players in several ways…..players would appear on the various levels for meet and greet/autographs sessions, and would play various games of chance with the fans on flooring set up on the ice. Kids could even shoot pucks at a real goalie! I remember there being tours of the locker rooms, and one on occasion, I was able to have my picture taken with the Stanley Cup, which was “visiting” the Aud. I think the Carnivals were a great way to get the community into the building and have fun with the team, and the little kids really had a great time. The tickets were not very expensive and it was a great day out. Is this something you would consider bringing back to HSBC Arena?


Several of the 10,000 fan suggestions asked for the return of a carnival. We are discussing internally more ways for fans to interact with the team, but I don’t have anything to share right now. With a new locker room space that will be tops in the NHL I am sure we will offer some tours next year. Stay tuned.

Jonathan in West Seneca

Last time I was at a game was Jan 1 so it may have been fixed by now. I went into the Sabres store to buy a Lafontaine Jersey only to find no retro jerseys for sale, including the French Connection. I was informed by the store�s staff that they were no longer being carried by the store. I was very disappointed to learn this. Can this or has this been remedied yet?


Jonathan – I will discuss this one at our next department meeting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Carl from Newport News, VA

� Would it be possible to run 10 minutes clips of old games during the playoffs or at the beginning of the season? Possibly this is something that could be transferred to DVDs and sold to help raise funds for the Sabres Foundation. For decades the Sabres used to release season highlights. It would be great to see this happen again.


Carl – I am not sure what the current NHL restrictions are on DVD sales. I know at one time the league controlled such distribution and I am pretty sure we would not be permitted to distribute outside of our territory to Virginia.

Tom from Pennsylvania

The Sabres used to store old game film in the basement of the Aud. Were these films ever transferred to a different location or are they lost for good? The “MSG Vault” has full Rangers games shown on TV on occasion.


Tom � Unfortunately, many old Sabres game tapes were either recycled (taped over) or, as you surmised, discarded when the team moved from the Aud. This is such a loss of our rich history. We are in the process of contacting other teams and television entities to see what we can recoup.

Mike from Depew

I too would like to thank you for all the hard work you and the rest of the new front office have put forth in making the Buffalo Sabres a class organization. I would first like to ask if any thought has been put into possibly honoring the 1998-99 Buffalo Sabres team that won the Eastern Conference Championship. I think that the organization missed a great opportunity to honor them two years ago for their 10th anniversary, but I do think they deserve a special night. They certainly weren’t the most talented team in Sabres history, but they were full of heart and had a great desire to win. I think that honoring the ’98-’99 team would set a great example for the current team as well. Also, has there been any conversation regarding making a bid for either the NHL Entry Draft or the NHL All-Star Game?


Hi Mike. Our current philosophy is to honor all former Sabres as we did this year for the 40th anniversary. As wonderful as it is to make it to the finals, we probably won’t single out teams that finished in second. I don’t mean that to disrespect those teams or the players, but championship rings, parades and specific team reunions are best saved for folks who win the Cup.

Kyle from Lockport

have you or Terry been to a Bandits game yet? If so, what did you think of the experience? If not, I highly recommend you getting to a game, particularly a playoff game if you can.


I am ashamed to say that I have not. Since my family is still in Pittsburgh, I have been back and forth each weekend. Kim Pegula and their kids have gone and they love it.

Aaron in Atlanta

Is there any chance of the team erecting an outdoor rink at Coca-Cola Field for outdoor games and public skating next winter, or could the Sabres possibly link into the proposals to incorporate skating into the canal side?


Aaron – that is a cool idea; however, I don’t think we will have an opportunity to play an outdoor game in the Bisons ballpark. As mentioned earlier, our needs for practicing outside of HSBC are limited to about a dozen dates, so we would not be the one to develop a rink on canal side or elsewhere.

Jonathan in West Seneca

In Calgary it is very noticeable that almost everyone wears a red Flames jersey to their games. I believe this is something the Sabres could do as well. Perhaps giving out a white Sabres blank jersey to every season ticket holder? I am not a season ticket holder myself but I do think it would add to the game presentation both on TV and in the arena as well as a perk to anyone who purchases a season ticket. I do say the white jersey cause I think the brighter color would be better for the TV side of the presentation and that for the most part there is a real liking to the whites due to their heritage as the home jersey. So with all that said. Ted, your opinion on this would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.


Hi again Jonathan. We do try to give out gold or white items for playoffs. I think what makes Calgary special is that the fans dress in red on their own. Same with the Terrible Towel in Pittsburgh- the Steelers have never given them away. Those types of traditions work because they are more viral in nature and can’t be contrived.

Phineas in Raleigh

– As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are great Sabres fans scattered around the country. There is an especially large fan base here in Raleigh. One of our greatest highlights as fans down here was the Sabres Road Crew that was held last season. We would be thrilled to be able to attend another, as I’m sure fellow fans in other cities would as well. However, there wasn’t much notice given before the actual date arrived. It would be great if these were announced at the beginning of the season so fans have time to plan and make arrangements to be able to attend. I know of a few people that weren’t able to attend the one in Raleigh because of the short notice. I want to thank the organization for having these events, as they really make us out of town fans feel closer to the team we love and live so far away from. And thank you and the Pegula’s for revitalizing this organization and the entire fan base.


Hi Phineas in Raleigh. The breadth of the Sabres Nation is good news, bad news. The good news is that we are all over the world as demonstrated by the origin of these questions. The bad news is that many of you left Buffalo. I hope that the renaissance with the Sabres coincides with an economic rebirth in the Buffalo region and you come back home. We will do more road crew events and will give advance notice on our web site. Terry and I attended one in NYC and it was awesome.

Austin in Rochester

Would it be possible to do an annual Sabres “SuperSkills” Competition again? It used to be held during the all-star break and was a blast to attend. Thank you!


Thanks Austin. I like the idea and we will consider it.

Caitlin in Brockport

– I’ve loved all the new additions since the owner change. The Fan Appreciation and Alumni ceremony was top-notch. I was wondering if you’re planning anything to let fans interact more. Last year they tested an online game called the PowerPlay, where Sabres fans went head to head against other fans with Sabres line-ups, getting points for +/-. I absolutely loved this game (I won 3rd for the month of March and got a signed Roy Sabres stick. I bragged for weeks about it). I thought it was a great way for fans to interact and made me more passionate about the team. I would be thrilled if they brought it back, or created something similar. It was a fun way to still be involved/excited during rough stretches. Keep up the fantastic work and I can’t wait for many, many more years to come!


Hi Caitlin. The alumni weekend, coupled with fan appreciation night, was one of the best regular season events I have ever attended. We are considering more ways to interact with fans in-game and online, so I would anticipate more types of offerings like PowerPlay.


– Is there any chances of getting a TV show like “Oil change” for the Sabres? The Edmonton series is very interesting and with a rabid fan base spread across the country, people would watch. With discussion of enhancing the TV broadcast with pregame and post game shows, adding a half hour show or hour show of behind the scenes footage would really be exciting. Especially in a season like this one where the team is turning it on with every combination possible. I’m sure there are a lot of NHL hoops to jump through for this, but it would be worth it.


Kevin- we are looking into more ancillary programs about the Sabres and would like to do so in partnership with MSG or one of the local TV stations. So I guess I would say, literally, “stay tuned.”


Will the Sabres be offering any sort of travel/ticket package to their European games, and if so, when will the details be announced?


We have partnered with AAA on a travel program and those details should be forthcoming in the next few weeks.


Have the Sabres considered a channel, such as http// The channel would be great for highlights, player interviews, video mixes, behind the scene stuff and special video for big moments. It brings the fans so much close to the players. It would be an easy and relevant job for a media intern!


We have the capacity to do the same types of videos on our website. We are considering a separate web address for more of the “lighter side” including suggestion box updates, home videos, blogs, etc. I agree that the demand is there.

In closing, I appreciate the pride and passion that Sabres fans exude. I will try to be accessible, but please understand that there are a lot of you out there. I will read and consider all ideas and points of view even if I am not able to respond personally or engage in back and forth email exchanges. Your voices will be heard.

Thanks for making this Hockey Heaven and Let’s Go Buffalo!

Ted Black


Richard Martin Public Memorial

Originally posted 3/24/2011

I had the honor of attending today’s public memorial for Richard Martin at HSBC arena. From the moment I read about it I was determined to attend. I was a kid when Rico tore up the NHL as a Sabre. He was one of my hockey heroes and my oldest sister’s “first official crush”, although I wouldn’t advise accusing her of being a puck bunny, she packs a mean left hook. For reasons of pure nostalgia I decided to talk the old “Aud” walk I took so many times as a kid and teenager. A parking lot used to exist where the PBS building downtown now stands. My father used to park in this lot every time he took us to a game in the Aud. From the lot we’d walk down Terrace under the 190 right to the front of the Aud. The streets today were clogged with yesterday’s snow, I was the only person on the street but it was a walk worth taking. And to be fair to my rusty hometown, it actually was a rather nice sunny day, albeit a bit on the cold side. The Aud site looked oddly peaceful this morning. The big hole that housed the solid mass of the Aud for decades was filled with snow and lined neatly with retaining walls. Alongside it the metro rolled by as I snapped a few photos. I can still see the front facade in my mind, hear the peanut man hawking his wares. Perhaps no place other than my grandparents’ home was the location of more memories for me growing up. The closer I got to HSBC Arena the more people I saw. By the time I walked into the front doors by the Sabres store I was in a small crowd of twenty or so fellow Sabres fans. Some were decked out in jerseys, most were dressed in their work clothes.

Nothing but a snow filled hole where the Aud used to be.

The Aud is gone, all that's left is a giant hole in the ground.

We entered the arena where you would normally go in for a game. Ushers did the usual checks for whatever. I had my camera in my hand and no one seemed to care. There was a line of employees handing out remembrance cards to everyone who entered, the card is much like an over sized trading card. The front is a photo of Rico in his French Connection prime back in the days of thin pads and no helmets. The back lists Rico’s physical stats, birthplace and a brief history of his glorious career. Sections 102-108 of the lower bowl were open for the service. The center two sections were reserved seating for the players, alumni, team officials and most importantly the Martin family. The 200 level had some people in it although the ushers told us it was also restricted; there were a number of media types up there. I ended up sitting in section 108. The center glass had been taken down on both sides of the ice, a large stage had been set up. The backdrop for the stage was a collage of photos that depicted Rico at various stages of his career. Martin’s number 7 banner had been removed from the rafters and hung in front of the backdrop from the scoreboard which was brought down fairly low center ice. A couple podiums were set up, there were some flowers. The ribbon boards were blue with “Martin” and “7” on them. It was all fairly reserved but very appropriate. I’ve heard on the news that the Sabres estimated at least 2,000 fans attended the memorial.

Stage set up for the Richard Martin Memorial Service

The stage set up for the public memorial service

The memorial itself was a testament to the family that exists around the Sabres, both immediate and extended. The speakers were all Rico’s family and friends, including his brother and son. I have to commend Ed Kilgour, he did an excellent job as master of ceremonies for lack of a better term. He was clearly emotional but moved the memorial along well and set it up with a brief statement that we were all there to celebrate and remember Rico. It was okay to cry. I was okay to laugh. It was a simple statement but well delivered and received. It broke the ice a bit as clearly people weren’t quite sure how to react or respond initially, myself included.

It was interesting to see the players at the memorial. I think today, more than anything, hammered home the fact that this game they play and profit so greatly from has tangible meaning to the fans and the city they play in. It was a move of great class and foresight for Terry Pegula and the Sabres to host the memorial. It was a great way to help the organization, players, alumni and fans come together and share a real, genuine moment together.

RJ received a partial standing ovation when he was introduced; to say the man is beloved is an understatement. In addition to his great ability to call a hockey game, RJ has in the past, as he was today, been called upon to speak. I still tear up when I remember his tearful farewell to the legendary Ted Darling, his good friend. Today, RJ delivered again. While he is the voice of the Sabres, in times of grief or joy, RJ is more accurately the voice of the fans. “Look at the person next to you, left or right, front or back and smile…. consider this… maybe just maybe this earth is a better place for having been inhabited by Richard Lionel Martin”. Did the fans look? Of course we did and we did laugh, giggle and smile. Maybe out of embarrassment, maybe out of appreciation, who knows? But we did look.

Bert and Rene drew a great deal of interest when they were introduced. Even at a memorial service the French Connection holds a power over the fans, has an ability to bring us closer to the edge of our seats. Both he and Rene delivered comments about Rico that ranged from funny to poignant.  As always, they seemed at ease in front of the fans. Rene especially drew a great reaction when he pulled out a Bud and a cigar for Rico. Bert joked that he was bigger so he was going first. But Bert goes first because Bert is first. He is and always will be the cornerstone of the franchise. Anyone who doubts that should see the hold number eleven has over us fans.

Rico’s friends and brother gave us a glimpse of the man off the ice and in retirement. The portrait was a person who loved his family, loved Western New York, loved the Sabres, loved the fans, loved golf and had a great love of beer and cigars. The fact that Rico called his brother Baba Boey was something that greatly amused my friend and I, as both of us have been Howard Stern fans in the past.

Beyond doubt the most special moment of the memorial was the time Corey Martin took to address us about his dad. I am certain it could not have been easy for him to so publicly share the grief he and his family felt. But Corey set a standard for grace and class today that the Sabres will be hard pressed to match again. I simply cannot give voice to the profound respect I feel for him at the moment. Despite the profundity of his loss, Corey reached out to the fans today. He was gracious, sincere and supportive of the communal grief over his dad’s death. Corey said “I was aware from an early age that I shared my father with everybody, he was every body’s family. It’s for that very reason we hold this celebration here today”. Corey told us some of what happened the morning his father died, and how it was to be Rico’s son. It was moving and deeply personal. Corey recounted how he and his dad sat at the table drinking coffee the morning before Rico died, as they had countless other Sunday mornings. We learned how much Rico was energized and optimistic about the Sabres’ future after Terry Pegula took ownership of the franchise. Corey assured us that his father died doing what he loved most and he “got his job down when he was here. He’s up there watching us… he’s got the best seat in the house”. Through Corey, it felt as if the Martin family reached out and embraced the fans, the community and the team. If you consider the magnitude of their loss, it’s simply amazing to me that people can find a way to be so generous and gracious. Ed Kilgour was right – his father must have been very proud of his son today. As fans all we could do was stand and give him an ovation of support and gratitude. Both out of respect for what his father meant to us and what he himself had just given to the community.

I’ve been a fan of the Sabres for four decades now. I’ve seen thousands of games in the Aud, in HSBC and on the road. I have a closet full of jerseys and a mind full of memories. When I go through that internal catalog I think Corey Martin at today’s memorial for his father is the single greatest one I’ve experienced. I wrote when Pegula took over the team that he had given the franchise back its soul. Today at HSBC you could feel it. You could feel that sense of extended family, shared memories and shared emotion that cut across the generations. As the Sabres say; it’s a million little things. On days like today it’s very apparent that winning and losing don’t mean all that much. Those aren’t the things we remember, aren’t the things we truly carry around in our lives. It’s that communal sense of family and being created through a lifetime of coming together to watch a team we all love so much play a game we love equally.

Richard Martin gave us more than a few of those memories. In death he gave us one final one, perhaps the most profound and meaningful one. Rest in peace, Rico.

Consider yourself… part of the family

Originally posted 2/22/2011

Gilbert Perreault is the cornerstone of the Buffalo Sabres’ franchise. As fans we may debate who the greatest player in team history is in terms of skill, but for forty years there has only been one face of the Buffalo Sabres. The man who is often considered the original Sabre. The man who the franchise was built around and who carried it to a Stanley Cup final in just its fifth year of existence. The man who was the ultimate combination of a run away train barreling down the ice and a finely tuned athlete who could turn on a dime and make any defense man or goalie in the NHL look foolish. Gilbert Perreault is the Sabres. Sadly many fans never got to see Bert play. Perreault had skill rarely seen in the NHL. He was the rock Punch Imlach built upon.

Today, fans learned what Perreault means to the Sabres. At today’s press conference, the Buffalo Sabres’ new owner pointed out “the old guys”. He asked where Perreault was and upon seeing Bert was literally reduced to tears. Choking back the tears Pegula stammered out “you are my hero”. That is all younger fans need to know about Gilbert Perreault. It was a nod to the franchise’s tradition and history, things often dismissed or completely ignored. The Sabres have no Cups in their trophy case, but they have a proud and rich history littered with players who can make grown men weep when they think about their playing days.

That is what tradition is, especially with sports teams. It’s recognizing history, embracing it, proving why it matters and handing off the love for the team to the next generation of fans who may not have seen the older players, but who acknowledge their greatness, their place in the team’s tradition. I think back to my childhood and I remember Roger Crozier in net. No Sabre in history ever played in as much pain as Roger Crozier experienced. The man literally played his guts out. As exciting as Bert was, Crozier was the man who made the team respectable in its earliest days. I think of Roger Crozier and I do find the need to tell people I have dust in my eye. I think of Brian Spencer’s demons and that same piece of dust comes into my eye. It’s the same piece of dust that grabs my attention when I see stories of Clint Malarchuk and find myself cheering for him in life as much as I cheered for him when he was in the Sabres’ net. I remember the collective intake of breath when Perreault grabbed the puck behind his own net and tore down the ice with a speed, ferocity and grace that has never reappeared in a Sabres’ jersey.

HSBC’s ice sits on top of Seymour Knox III’s initials. Initials carved while the founder of the franchise was dying. Initials that branded the new arena with the tradition and history of the previous twenty six years. Engraved the memory of Bert, Rico, Robert, Tickets, Luuuuuuuuuce, Ramsay. It’s the memories of playoff wars with the Bruins that resulted in ice tinged red with blood and year after year of disappointment. Say Brad Park to an older Sabres fan and we all shiver in disgust at the memory. What Sabre fan didn’t shout at Rory Fitzpatrick to look down in game seven against Carolina as a plucky, never say die Sabres team finally succumbed to a myriad of injuries? The Earl of Bud, the Peanut Guy in front of the Aud, Lower Gold, Upper Gold, Red, Blue and Orange nosebleeds. Those initials bring back the memory of Punch Imlach pushing Jerry Korab’s button so skillfully that the hulking blue liners smashed the Soviets. Those initials bring back Jim Kelley’s favorite story of my favorite Sabre – Mike Ramsey. As Kelley tells it the Sabres were about to set a franchise record for most losses at home. A badly injured and aging Mike Ramsey played that night. He threw his body in front of shots, he screamed at his team mates on the bench, he showed the leadership, grit and heart that made a kid who saw him win gold at Lake Placid admire him so much. The Sabres won that game. It was a meaningless game in terms of the standings but it was not meaningless to Mike Ramsey. Kelley said when he asked Ramsey about why he played that night, why he hurt himself so badly to win a meaningless game Ramsey looked at him and asked if a loss tonight would have set a Sabres record for losing at home. Kelley confirmed the fact. Ramsey then simply said “we’re not setting that kind of record, not on my watch”. Sadly we’ve lost Jim Kelley and those SHK initials bring back the memories of his stories told on the radio and those he published for decades on the sport we all love so much.

There are those who will snicker at the sappiness of such emotions. Fair enough. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. As a sports fan frankly I live for those sappy moments. Moments when I turn to a stranger next to me and hug them in sheer joy. Moments at a bar when we all shout with joy when the team scores or scream encouragement on the rare occasion a fight breaks out on the ice. Those initials carry the love for the city of Buffalo that Seymour Knox had and his family still has. Those initials carry the love for the team that seems to find more spectacular and heart breaking ways to lose. Those initials carry the appreciation one of the city’s true patriarchs had for fans. So while I do wonder if Terry Pegula will back up his words with actions, I also think about the meaning of tradition and how important it is to anyone, especially to fans of a team.

The Pegula honeymoon period will eventually wear out. In time he’ll hear the usual complaints from fans about general managers, coaches, players, “game presentation”, parking, etc. But today, even more than hope, Pegula gave Sabres fans a rare gift. The man who owns “our” team is “one of us”. He’s a fan. He looks at Perreault and the memories invoked by the man bring him to tears. That was the predominate thought in my head during the press conference and one that has been with me all day since. Terry Pegula paid the ultimate tribute to the team’s tradition. He dug up the franchise’s cornerstone and held it up for all of us to see. This is Gilbert Perreault. He was a great player. He meant something to us, he meant a lot to us. As a Sabres fan isn’t there one player who brings that kind of emotion out of you? The Sabres are truly something only money can buy and money can sustain. But without fans a franchise dies. Without a soul, a franchise merely exists, it doesn’t live. Today Terry Pegula gave the Sabres’ franchise back its soul.

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