The next era of Buffalo Sabres hockey was ushered in on Tuesday as lifelong hockey fan Terry Pegula was officially introduced as the new owner of the National Hockey League franchise.
With the organization celebrating its 40th Anniversary season this year, Pegula’s introductory press conference represented yet another historic moment in the proud history of the franchise. Seated alongside NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and new Sabres President and Alternate Governor Ted Black, Pegula laid out his vision for the future of the Sabres and stated one simple goal.
“Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup,” Pegula said.
The Atrium of HSBC Arena was filled with media members, officials such as Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and County Executive Chris Collins, Sabres employees and both current and former players, all of whom were eager to hear the new owner address Buffalo for the first time. As Bettman introduced the fourth owner in franchise history to the city, he told the audience that Pegula’s purchase of the team represented a great day for Sabres fans.
“He believes in Buffalo and in Western New York,” Bettman said. “He loves the game and this is a dream come true for him. It’s also a dream come true for us at the league because we know this franchise is in great hands, that the good work that has been done to date will only continue and be built upon, and I know he is probably as committed as anybody has ever been to bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo. This is a great day for hockey in Buffalo, it’s a great day for Sabres fans, it’s a great day for the organization.”
Once he came to the podium, Pegula began by detailing his background as a Sabres fan, explaining that it all started for him in 1975 when the team made its first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals against Philadelphia. He also described his affinity for the famed “French Connection” line that featured Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin.
|Gilbert Perreault and Terry Pegula (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
At that point in the press conference, Pegula took a moment to look to his right where several Sabres alumni were seated, including Perreault. An emotional Pegula looked at Perreault and said, “You’re my hero.”
“I didn’t know he was such a hockey fan like that but it’s great to have him here,” Perreault said of Pegula following the press conference. “This city is due for a Stanley Cup and let’s hope it’s going to be in the near future.”
“Truly you can tell he was a fan before he owned the team and I think we all got that,” said former Sabre Larry Playfair, who currently serves as the team’s director of alumni relations. “It was neat to see his reaction to Gilbert when he saw Gilbert sitting there. It sounds like he really is in for the long-haul to win the Stanley Cup.”
Pegula also explained that he was a Sabres season-ticket holder from 1980 to 1998 and told stories of how he would keep up with Sabres games in the 1970s and 1980s, whether it was having a friend in Buffalo hold a phone to a television so he could listen to Sabres broadcasts while living in Houston or by listening on the radio in his car while sitting on an overpass north of Pittsburgh.
In addition to his history as a fan, Pegula also talked about his plans for the future, particularly as it pertained to the management team. On the hockey side, Pegula confirmed that Darcy Regier will remain in his role as General Manager, saying that Regier will run a hockey department that “will have no financial mandates” and would be given additional resources.
As for Head Coach Lindy Ruff, Pegula said, “Lindy ain’t going nowhere,” and added that he is a big fan of Ruff’s.
Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup. - Sabres Owner Terry Pegula
On the business side of the organization, there will be two new faces assuming executive management roles as Ken Sawyer was named Senior Advisor and Alternate Governor, and Ted Black was appointed as President and Alternate Governor.
Both Sawyer and Black are former Pittsburgh Penguins executives and come to the Sabres with outstanding leadership and business backgrounds, particularly within the National Hockey League. Pegula also said Dan DiPofi has agreed to remain in his position as Chief Operating Officer of the Sabres.
Sawyer served as Chief Financial Officer of the NHL for 14 years and as a senior executive with the Penguins for 11 years, joining the team in 1999 when a group led by Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux took ownership. He retired from the Penguins in 2010. During his tenure, he ascended from CFO to President and finally to Chief Executive Officer in 2006. Under Sawyer’s leadership, the Penguins franchise became a success on and off the ice as he led efforts to have a new arena built and oversaw an operation that reached hockey’s pinnacle in 2009 by winning the Stanley Cup.
|Ted Black and Terry Pegula (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
Black was hired by Sawyer in 1999 to join the Penguins as vice president and stayed there until 2008 when he joined FOX Sports Pittsburgh as Senior Vice President and General Manager. He was tabbed by Pegula in late 2010 to assemble and lead the team that would perform due diligence on the Sabres organization prior to the purchase. In his new role as president, Black will oversee all aspects of the Sabres’ day-to-day operations, providing strategic leadership in areas including corporate partnerships, advertising, NHL relations, team marketing, television broadcasts, fan relations and ticket sales.
“My role is to just make sure all the resources are being devoted properly so that we can fulfill Terry’s vision to win the Stanley Cup,” Black said. “Buffalo is Hockey Heaven. If you want to come somewhere and work for the best owner in the league, which is what you have right here in Buffalo now, then you should make some plans to come to Buffalo, because this is where it’s going to happen. It might not happen this year, it might not happen next, but it’s going to happen… I’m not going to stop until we bring that Cup down Main Street.”
Pegula said DiPofi would be counted on for his experience to help lead the team into the future and added that he appreciated Dan’s efforts and contributions during the due diligence process.
A native of Carbondale, Penn., the 59-year-old Pegula was joined at the press conference by his family, including his wife, Kim, and five children, all of whom were seated in the front row. The family resides in Boca Raton, Fla., but Pegula said he will be in Buffalo as much as he can to watch the team.
Pegula founded East Resources Inc. in 1983 and built it into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. In July of 2010, Royal Dutch Shell purchased the assets of East Resources Inc. for $4.7 billion (US).
Amid the excitement of beginning his reign as owner of the franchise on Tuesday, Pegula continually emphasized his commitment to working hard and winning
“I want the Buffalo Sabres to always have a chance to be successful so we can win a Stanley Cup. So, I say that to whom much is given, much is required, and we will work as hard as we can to accomplish our goal.”