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Pegula's goal: Build a classy champion in Buffalo

Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 7:39 PM / NHL Insider

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Pegula's goal: Build a classy champion in Buffalo
New Sabres owner Terry Pegula said on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman" that he wants to build a championship team on and off the ice.
The Terry Pegula Era in Buffalo is off to a flying start.

After the sale of the Sabres was completed and Pegula became the new owner, the team went out and recorded a 4-1 win Wednesday over the Thrashers, one of the teams they're battling with as they chase a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It feels good," Pegula said on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman" when asked about his first official game as an NHL owner. "I just hope it lasts a long time."

Pegula grew up following the Sabres and made his fortune in the oil and gas business. Prior to joining the ranks of NHL ownership, he was responsible for making a large endowment to his alma mater, Penn State University, in order to create a Division I hockey program.

With the Sabres only three points behind the eighth-place Hurricanes and holding two games in hand, a strong stretch run could once again land them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pegula pledged his support to coach Lindy Ruff and GM Darcy Regier, both of whom have held their positions since the late 1990s.

"These guys are good people to start with," Pegula said. "They're both good men and they are very, very knowledgeable. As I said previously, after many discussions with all different types of people from former players to former GMs and current management in the League, I couldn't find anybody to say anything bad about either one of these guys … and I felt that way before the process started, but obviously you like to verify these things."

Ruff made a special gesture to welcome Pegula as the owner following Wednesday's game.

"He gave me the game puck, and obviously I'm going to keep it. I told the team -- I had to give the team a talk after he handed me the puck, and I said, 'Oh boy, I'm on the spot again here.' I told them I'm going to set this puck somewhere and hopefully we can put a Stanley Cup next to it," Pegula said.

As owner, Pegula made clear an important part of his philosophy off the ice will be making sure the organization is run in a straightforward, classy manner.

"I think the biggest thing myself and my wife Kim can supply to this organization is the feel-good feeling that we're serious, we care about people, we not only care about having a successful team but we care about the people who are working for us -- whether they be on the ice, behind the bench or handing out popcorn to a fan," Pegula said.

"The message to the people in Buffalo is, we will do our best in the organization to give them what they've been desiring, which is a Stanley Cup trophy. The people in the rest of the League, we are committed for this team to win. We'll be a gracious competitor, but we want to try to win and be the first team in the League."
-- Terry Pegula

An 82-game season can be a wild roller-coaster ride, something Pegula understands from a fan's standpoint but will now learn about from an owner's perspective. He will look to his business background in handling the ups and downs that come with this new position.

"This comes from my prior business. When you drill oil and gas wells, I guess you look at every well like a draft pick," he said. "Some of them are great and some of them don't work out for you, but I never really ever get too high or too low. I don't get too high on my conquests or too low on my failures and I think that has helped me sail through the business world, and hopefully through the sports business world."

Bettman concluded the interview by asking Pegula what message he would like to send to Sabres fans and to the other 29 NHL teams.

"The message to the people in Buffalo is, we will do our best in the organization to give them what they've been desiring, which is a Stanley Cup trophy," Pegula said. "The people in the rest of the League, we are committed for this team to win. We'll be a gracious competitor, but we want to try to win and be the first team in the League."
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