Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 02/23/11 at 11:33 AM ET
Being at the Terry Pegula press conference yesterday, and seeing Sabres legends like Gilbert Perreault and Danny Gare on one side of the room and current icons like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek on the other, underscored for me the meaning of keeping the past in your memories but putting it in the rear view mirror and forging ahead.
It’s kind of the same feeling I had when Scotty Bowman in 1981 traded away fan favorites Gare and Jim Shoenfield, when late owner Seymour H. Knox III gave his “Farewell, Old Friend” speech in 1996 during the emotional closing ceremonies at the Aud, and when Tom Golisano rescued the franchise from a near fatal bankruptcy eight years ago.
In the same way that the coronation of Golisano in 2003 brought closure to Sabres fans over the departure of beloved coach Ted Nolan, today’s first full day of the Terry Pegula era should expedite the permanent healing of the lasting wounds this town has felt over the free agency losses of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury.
It won’t, however, ease the pain of No Goal in 1999 or No “D” in Game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals. There’s obviously only one cure for that, and the hope in Buffalo is that a diehard Sabres fan with $3 billion can administer it.
It’s easy to cast aside Pegula’s grandiose “Starting today…” comments about his commitment to going for the big prize, because we’ve heard it all before. But consider the agendas of who we were dealing with in the past.
The previous owner was motivated by a desire to keep the team from relocating or folding, and thank the heavens that he did, but it certainly didn’t hurt his image in the arena of New York State politics. The
owner before that used this franchise to create a marketing synergy with his communications corporation, going so far as to modify the team’s uniforms to adhere to his company’s color scheme.
What we apparently have now is a genuine, down-to-earth man who is in this for the sole purpose of winning, uncompromised in any way, shape, or form by business or political motives.
When Pegula looked over at Perreault, the greatest Sabre of all time, and couldn’t stop himself from crying, I took a quick peek over at the players. I couldn’t help but notice that none of them had a bigger ear-to-ear smile on their face than Patrick Kaleta.
Being a hometown boy himself, you could just see the empathy the gritty Buffalo forward felt for his new boss’s blue-and-gold passion, tinged with heartbreak from a lifetime of unfulfilled Stanley Cup dreams, and undaunted by the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Starting today, the Sabres financially are on equal footing with the competition. In Buffalo, that definitely qualifies as moving away from the past.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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