The city of Buffalo was introduced to Terry Pegula on February 18th, 2011 when he purchased the Sabres franchise from B. Thomas Golisano. A natural gas development tycoon from Pennsylvania, Pegula’s arrival in Western New York was originally met with apprehension from the Sabres fan base. That was until he took to the podium for his inaugural press conference. There he exuded the essence of his enthusiasm regarding this franchise, and his commitment to keep the team in Buffalo. His famous line “We’re gonna win a Stanley Cup. And then you know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna win another Stanley Cup” resonated with fans as a new hope arrived to a franchise and fan base starving for a championship.
Fast forward six years later. Though the Sabres have struggled in the standings since Pegula took over, making just one playoff appearance, the franchise approaches the end of a much needed re-build and the future appears bright. Not only did Pegula make improvements within the organization, he has also invested millions into the development of real estate endeavors in the arena district downtown. Once a barren parking lot, the area surrounding Harbor Center and Canalside are flourishing with new business and pedestrian activity. A majority of the credit for that evolution goes to the Pegulas. The key now is to put a consistent winning product on the ice.
Over the past few seasons, fans have endured a whole lot of “suffering” as predicted by former general manager Darcy Regier. Supporters of the blue and gold watched two consecutive seasons of intentional losing in order to procure franchise changing talent, and for the first time in years, while still a longshot in 16-17’, the Sabres are involved in the playoff conversation. Young stars like Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel have become the new faces of the franchise along with veteran acquisitions Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo. The team has come a long way from fielding a roster with forgettable fringe players like Zenon Konopka and Cory Conacher.
It certainly isn’t easy for a new owner to accept the fact that his team needs to be bad before true, sustainable success can be attained, but Pegula took the challenge in stride, and while fans are growing increasingly impatient to see a contending team take the ice at Key Bank Center, the progress is there. One of main differences between Pegula and his predecessor, is the fact that the self-made billionaire is not shy about spending money to improve his team. Under Golisano, the Sabres always had to operate as a “budget team”, never able to spend up to the salary cap. As the fifth richest owner in the sport, Pegula has paid top dollar, allowing GM Tim Murray to spend up to the cap. This financial freedom has kept the Sabres competitive in the free agent market, an arena in which they’ve been historically modest.
Despite the noticeable positivity surrounding the future of the franchise, Murray will have to add much need reinforcements on defense this off-season if he wants to keep his owner convinced that he is the man for the job. The honeymoon is reaching an end between Murray and the fan base. If the Sabres fail to reach the playoffs next season, the truculent GM could be on the hot seat.
Supporters of the team continue to stand behind Terry Pegula, and his dream to build the Sabres into an NHL powerhouse. Success is coming, and considering the amount of time and money he has invested into the team and city in general, nobody is more anxious to see the Sabres contend. The process has taken place exactly as intended. The suffering is nearing an end. The collective patience of fans, players and coaches will soon pay off. It took six years to get the ship pointed in the right direction and the waiting will soon be over, as promised when Terry Pegula took over. Stay tuned.