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Journey from Korea to Ohio brings Szabados to Buffalo

Goaltender finds fruition in plan two years in the making.

Szabados is trading her red and white for Beauts Blue.
Michelle Jay

In a whirlwind 24 hours, Olympic superstar Shannon Szabados took the morning to sit down with the Buffalo media to talk about her decision to bring her superior goaltending to the shores of Lake Erie.

Szabados told the press she started the day with an introduction to a few of her teammates and Beauts’ general manager Nik Fattey before joining WGR 550’s The Instigators for a live radio interview. Her first press conference is a Beaut soon followed, and then it was on to a conference call with national media.

In each of these conversations, Szabados was incredibly complimentary of team ownership and the opportunities they’ve provided for the players. In her press conference, she stated, “Seeing what they’re doing with women’s pro hockey in Buffalo and the commitment from ownership – where they’re headed – and to be a part of this…it’s exciting.”

The veteran netminder echoed these statements in the conference call held moments later.
“I didn’t know a ton about them [the Pegula family] before, but I’ve quickly come to realize the impact they’ve had on this team and on the Buffalo community…y’know, they have their hands in everything. One thing that really struck me is that, this is my first day in Buffalo and I’ve already met them! I ran in to Mrs. Pegula today at the rink, so it’s incredible to see, not only are they involved on the ownership side, but they are hands on and they are everywhere in the community.”

Aside from the stability of ownership, Szabados is excited to be a member of a successful Buffalo Beauts team. She indicated she’d reached out to head coach and then-GM Ric Seiling two years ago, just to touch base. She anticipated moving to the region following the 2018 Olympics and wanted to get a feel for the team’s interest. She’s been keeping track of the Beauts since that initial conversation. “It’s been fun to watch from afar. The team’s been on my radar for a while, since I knew I’d be moving to Ohio…they’ve had a lot of success in the past.

Obviously…with the new ownership, the team is really moving forward in a good direction. It’s been fun to watch and now it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

Szabados also recognizes she’s joining Buffalo’s rich history of legendary goaltenders.

“They’ve had some amazing goaltending here on the men’s and women’s side, so there are some big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to it and getting the chance to play with Nicole [Hensley] as well.”

Reports following the silver-medal performance in Pyeonchang indicated that Szabados had suffered an injury during centralization, which limited her starts. She says those injuries are not a concern as she begins her first season in professional women’s hockey.

“It was a little bit of a rough year last year – the demand of everything, and how much we were on the ice…It was one of those years where I had some misfortune, but I have had a little bit of time to recover – it’s been a while since February – and that was one of the decisions that I had…do I take more time off to recover? How [am I] feeling off the ice? I’ve got a good grasp on it now, and I think, especially by the time August or September rolls around…I feel great already and I’ve been on the ice a few times.

“I’m looking forward to a fun year.”

With approximately eight weeks until camp begins, the Beauts are far-and-away the team to come to this offseason, having signed 14 players to the 25-person roster. The remaining four teams in the league have signed only 10 players combined.

Surely there is a lot of action coming in the free agent market, but this Buffalo roster is unquestionably stacked, and they have barely scratched the surface of the blueliners available. It’s going to be difficult for the rest of the league to keep pace give the talent the Beauts have already acquired. As the saying goes: “It’s good to be Queen.”