At his press conference today at HSBC Arena, new Sabres owner Terry Pegula tore open his button-down shirt to reveal a shiny red "S" on his tights underneath.
Or at least that's what it seemed like.
On a day with the feeling of a celebration (or coronation?) Terry Pegula gave Sabres fans just about everything they wanted to hear in an introductory speech that can be described as stirring, refreshing, and to some, inspiring. After opening his speech by saying "Who am I? I'm a Sabres fna and have been since 1975," he endeared himself to Sabres fans right off the bat by getting choked up twice - once while thanking Tom Golisano for "Saving my hockey team," and again while looking across the room and waxing nostalgic about Sabres legend Gilbert Perreault, saying "You are my hero."
After introducing his family (including his daughters, the "Tweety Birds") and relaying a funny anecdote about how he and his wife went to Montreal for a Sabres/Habs game, the new Sabres owner opening the meat of his presentation by restating the quote which threw us all into a tizzy a few weeks ago:
"From this point forward, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup."
After dropping that bombshell, the 59-year-old went on to make a number of comments about how things will be run "starting today," which basically amounted to a laundry list of what Sabres fans hoped a guy with his wealth would do. The line we were all waiting for was:
"Starting today, there will be no financial mandates on the Buffalo Sabres hockey department."
Pegula went on to say that this mandate will not only include the salary cap but also the scouting department, saying that since there's no salary cap on the scouting department, there's no limit to the amount of money he can pour into it, for both human and video scouting.
He also talked about bringing in more player development coaches, to help improve the finding, developing, and keeping (more on that later) of our young players.
"Winning is not a goal, it is a belief," Pegula continued. When asked about the time frame to win a Stanley Cup, he later stated "It's a three-year or less process."
If this hasn't gotten you excited yet, check after the break for more on Pegula's exciting press conference, including Lindy and Darcy, and the Q&A session.
One thing we got out of Pegula's speech is that he is 100% behind both Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier. He claimed due diligence was done on both the coach and GM, and after talking to numerous people both in and out of the league was convinced that these were the guys for the job. He talked about Regier being handcuffed in the past, and then reassured everyone that he would give Darcy all the financial backing he needs.
As for Ruff, Pegula said that multiple high ranking team managers around the league told him, "If you're getting rid of Ruff, talk to us first." He then mentioned Ruff's expiring contract only to say that he's talked with Lindy and "Pardon my French, but Lindy ain't goin' nowhere."
The new owner also detailed his management structure: he will be the owner and CEO, and will bring Ken Sawyer on board as a senior advisor/alternate governor. For those who don't know Sawyer, he was CFO of the league for 14 years and was the senior executive of the Pittsburgh Penguins for 11 years. He continued by introducing Ted Black as president/senior advisor, also from the Penguins. Dan DiPofi will remain as COO, as will Regier, Ruff, and Ruff's coaching staff.
Pegula closed his speech by talking about how to run a model franchise, and compared the way he wants to run the Sabres to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After introducing Ted Black, he sat down to a nice round of applause.
Ted Black's speech was short and sweet, but even he snuck in a sound bite you're sure to hear over and over the next few days: “A clarion call should go out to the league that Buffalo is hockey heaven...if you want to play for the best owner in the league, come to Buffalo.”
That concluded the speeches portion of the conference, and after the players left to get ready for practice, Pegula and Black answered some questions from the media. Here's the gist of as many questions and answers as I had time to type. Pegula's words will be in quotations, otherwise it's just the general idea of his answer:
Q: What do think needs to be addressed first?
A: The first thing we can do [speaking of himself, not Darcy] is player amenities. Make it an organization people want to play for and play hard. (There have been reports that he's planning
Q: Can you give us some reasons why you decided to support Regier?
As part of my due diligence, I talked to many people still involved with management in the league, and people out of the league, and didn't hear a single bad thing about Darcy. He doesn't know and doesn't care about what happened in the past [referring to Darcy having his hands tied] and knows he can work with Darcy.
Q: Do you feel a need to make a splash at the trade deadline?
A: "If we can make a move and enhance our ability to make the playoffs that also coincides with improving the team for the future, why not?"
Q: Do you view this as a business proposition or are you prepared to lose money year after year if that's what it takes?
A: "I wanna run the team to win the Stanley Cup. If I want to make some money I’ll go build a gas well."
Q: How hands-on will you be as an owner?
A: "I live in Florida because of my tennis player [his daughter] so I obviously can’t abandon my family. I’m going to be in and out...I’m gonna be here as much as I can without losing my family”
Q: What does Lindy Ruff bring and why do you want him to stay?
A: "Last Olympics, he coached the team, right? That shows the kind of respect he has around the league. I can say the same thing about him with due diligence as Darcy...I’ve had several people of authority say if you’re getting rid of Lindy, talk to us first."
Q: We've heard other owners say many of the same things as you about Darcy, what can you show us?
A: I have faith in his abilities and what we can add on the “happy player” side will be good.
Q: Take us through your emotions watching the team over the past few weeks?
A: Thought the St. Louis game was an aberration, didn't see Washington. "There's not a 'gimme' team in the NHL anymore."
Q: Are you going to spend to the salary cap?
A: You don't want to spend to the cap every year, for decision reasons, but we'll put the pedal to the metal as capably as we can. "We’re not in this to save money. I'll say yes."
Q: When will the improvements start? Also, when Darcy has a trade or signing, will he have to go through you first?
A1: We’ve [he and Darcy] already got some ideas about how we want to build the team in the future.
A2: [Ted Black speaking] We’re gonna do a lot of the little things, it’s not one big thing. Little touches in the locker room – nutrition, everything. Terry spoke to the players earlier and it was very moving.
Q: How hard was it to sit around and wait for this process to finish? When did you first have serious talks with Darcy?
A: 10 or 12 days ago in earnest. Then he gave an oddly morbid answer about not making decisions until he gets there because he could have gotten hit by a garbage truck.
Q: Are you interesting in getting the Sabres and Amerks back together?
A: He was maybe a little bit hard on the Rochester/Portland move, the fan in him. He wants to get out to Portland soon, hears it's great.
Q: Can we expect sticker shock on ticket prices?
A: "I haven’t had an opportunity to look at what we’d do in that avenue. I don’t have any plans for ticket prices."
Q: Where does your philosophy fall on retaining players?
A: "I want to keep not only statistically good players, but winners, good players."
Q: What was it about Gilbert (Perreault) and the Sabres that first caught your attention?
A: "Have you ever seen him skate? That's my hockey genesis right there!"
And with that sentiment, the press conference ended. Pegula will be making media rounds over the next few days, including appearances on WGR at 8:00am and 5:00pm tomorrow and an interview with Kevin Sylvester during the first intermission of tomorrow's Sabres/Thrashers game.
I'm, sure you've got thoughts on the press conference Sabres fans, so let's hear 'em in the comments.