NEW YORK – Michael Gilbert is going to the Olympics.
The Buffalo Sabres’ vice president of public and community relations has been selected to serve on the public relations staff for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team. The announcement was made at a USA Hockey press conference Saturday that formally introduced its Olympic management team, including Nashville Predators general manager David Poile as the team’s general manager and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma as the squad’s coach.
Gilbert, who begins his 17th season with the Sabres in the fall, was excited to receive the news.
“When I got the call a few weeks back saying that they were interested in having me, it was a really nice honor and it’s great to represent your country and be a part of an Olympic team in a small way,” Gilbert said. “I’m just really looking forward to it.”
Gilbert is involved in youth hockey in the Buffalo area. The father of three is a proud hockey dad.
“My kids, when they found out – I told them a couple of weeks ago – I think they were more excited than I was,” he said. “I think that’s a part of what USA Hockey represents. It’s the youth, it’s the young kids.”
Gilbert has deep local ties to Western New York and he reflected on that as the press conference commenced. Gilbert is a native of Tonawanda, N.Y and attended Canisius College, where he earned degrees in communications and history.
“I was standing there with all the GMs when they got announced and I started thinking about when I was a little kid playing on an outdoor rink that wasn’t even covered in Tonawanda,” Gilbert said. “So you start thinking about those things. It’s exciting.”
He said his role with Team USA hasn’t yet been defined, but he’ll serve as a communications liaison for the public relations staff. He’ll work with the players and USA Hockey management as well as with the media gathered to cover the Winter Games.
“It’s really what we do with the Buffalo Sabres on a day-to-day basis, but this is on an international stage, dealing with different athletes throughout the NHL,” he said.
He’ll attend Team USA’s orientation camp in Washington, D.C. at the end of August and will travel to Sochi, Russia with the team in February.
Gilbert drew the attention of USA Hockey senior director Dave Fischer during the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships, which were hosted by the Sabres. He will be working for Fischer during the Olympics.
Gilbert also feels that the HARBORcenter complex currently being built outside First Niagara Center will further solidify the relationship between the two organizations.
“It’s just another one of the relationships between the Buffalo Sabres and USA Hockey that started a few years back and I think with the new building in front are just going to continue to grow in years to come,” Gilbert said.
If there’s one thing Gilbert learned during that tournament in Buffalo, it’s that it will be a long, work-filled stretch, but one that he is definitely ready for. It’ll also be his first time attending the Olympic Games.
“I think going over to Russia, that’ll be neat. Team USA has a great chance to get a medal,” he said. “…I think just to be a part of something that’s going to be not just local to Buffalo, but throughout the country and throughout the world is what’s exciting.”