Head Coach Lindy Ruff is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, taking over as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres on July 21, 1997. In addition to his position with Buffalo, Ruff was named to the coaching staff for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Ruff capped off the 2008-09 season by guiding Team Canada to a silver medal at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Switzerland. In Ruff’s first international coaching experience, he led Canada to a 7-1-1 record in the 17-day tournament. The Canadian side suffered their only regulation loss to the Russians by a score of 2-1 in the Gold medal game.
Ruff has compiled a career record of 438-352-112, with his 438 wins tops among all NHL coaches with their current team. Ruff is 19th all-time in NHL career wins, and sixth overall among active coaches in wins. On October 15, 2008, Ruff became the 23rd coach in NHL history to win 400 games, and just the 7th to win 400 games for one team.
Ruff, the all-time winningest coach in Sabres’ history, has a .591 playoff winning percentage and is the Sabres’ all-time leader in playoff games coached (88), and wins (52), surpassing Scotty Bowman’s mark of 18 wins (set over five seasons). His 52 career playoff wins are tied for 14th place on the all-time list. Among coaches with 40 or more playoff wins, Ruff is in the top 5 in terms of career winning percentage.
In only his second season as head coach, Ruff led the 1998-99 Sabres to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 24 years and established himself as one of the league’s top coaches. He also achieved a club record that season for the most wins (14) in one playoff year. In the process, Ruff became only the third head coach under the present Stanley Cup Playoff format to lead his team to the Conference Finals in each of his first two seasons.
During the 2006-07, the Sabres’ had their finest year under Ruff statistically when the team won a franchise-record 53 games and captured the first Presidents’ Trophy in club history, while leading both the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference from wire-to-wire. This was also the first time in franchise history they’ve posted back-to-back 50-win seasons. Buffalo returned to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season, and the fourth time under Ruff’s guidance. On April 5, 2007, a 5-4 Buffalo victory over Ottawa made him the 31st coach in NHL history to record 300 career wins, and the 16th in NHL history to reach the milestone with the same team.
Ruff was named to the 2007 NHL All-Star Game for the second time in his career as Head Coach of the Eastern Conference squad, and was runner-up to Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault for the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s Coach of the Year.
Ruff led the surprising Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2005-06, where the team lost on the road in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. For these accomplishments, Ruff was honored by the NHL with the Jack Adams Award as the league’s Coach of the Year. Ruff joins Ted Nolan (1997) as the only other head coach in team history to receive this honor.
Buffalo’s 1-1 tie vs. N.Y. Islanders on April 3, 2002, was Ruff’s 405th game behind the bench, passing Scotty Bowman on the Sabres' all-time games coached list. In his 500th game as the Sabres’ head coach, Buffalo picked up a 5-2 win over Anaheim (Oct. 26, 2003). He recorded his first win as Sabres head coach with a 3-1 decision at St. Louis on Oct. 1, 1997.
Hired as the 15th head coach in team history on July 21, 1997, Ruff achieved playoff success that first year which none of his predecessors had ever experienced. The 1997-98 squad set a team record by winning eight-straight playoff games and tied the club mark with 10 playoff wins. The conference finals appearance was the teams’ first since 1980, which ironically was Ruff’s rookie year with Buffalo.
Based on Buffalo’s standing atop the Eastern Conference at the midway point of the 1998-99 season, Ruff earned the right to be behind the bench of the World Team in the 1999 All-Star Game in Tampa Bay. He joined Bowman and Floyd Smith as the only Buffalo coaches to be named as head coach of an All-Star Team.
Ruff was the Sabres’ second-round (32nd overall) draft pick in 1979 following a distinguished career as a defenseman with Lethbridge (WHL). He made the team at his first training camp and playing in 63 games during the 1979-80 season and was named the team’s rookie of the year. Ruff ranks sixth all-time on the Sabres’ regular season list in penalty minutes (1,126) and is tied for 11th in games played (608). In 691 career games, he recorded 105 goals and 195 assists to go with 1,264 penalty minutes.
In his 1981-82, Ruff was converted to play left wing after having been a defenseman throughout his junior career and first two professional seasons. In November 1986, he received perhaps his greatest individual honor as a Sabre when he was named to replace Gilbert Perreault as team captain after the legend’s retirement.
Ruff ended his playing career after serving as a player/assistant coach for the 1992-93 season with the San Diego Gulls of the IHL. Head Coach Roger Nielson (who coached Ruff in Buffalo and with the Rangers) tabbed Ruff as one of his assistants for the expansion Florida Panthers for the 1993-94 campaign. As the primary coach of the penalty-killing unit and defensemen, Ruff received many accolades for his work. In just their third season, the over-achieving and hard-working Panthers squad advanced to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
The 49-year-old Ruff and his wife Gaye reside in Clarence, N.Y., with their four children: Brett (20), Eryn (18), and twins Brian and Madeleine (15).