When one thinks of people who have helped the Buffalo Sabres become a viable franchise in the National Hockey League, the names that would naturally come to mind would be the Knoxes, Tom Golisano and Terry Pegula.
One person that didn’t get the recognition that the previously mentioned owners did was Robert O. Swados. But Swados deserves just as much credit as them for overseeing the Sabres from their inception in 1970 to today.
Swados passed away Friday morning at his home in Kenmore, N.Y. He was 93.
“He was the elder statesman for the Sabres,” said Seymour H. Knox IV, the son and nephew of the team’s first owners, Seymour H. Knox III and Northrup Knox. “He certainly will be remembered for his hard work in helping my dad and uncle bring the Sabres to Buffalo.”
Swados, an attorney who had a passion for sports, was originally committed to trying to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Buffalo in the early 1960s. His actions didn’t go unnoticed, as the Knoxes brought him into the fold as their legal counsel to try and bring a hockey team to Western New York. Their efforts were rewarded in December of 1969 as Buffalo was admitted to the NHL along with the Vancouver Canucks as the 13th and 14th NHL franchises.
Not only did Swados serve as the Sabres’ legal counsel, he also was an author, a co-founder of Buffalo’s Studio Arena Theatre, a former New York State probation commissioner, secretary of the National Hockey League’s board of governors and the league’s special counsel from 1976 to 1993. Swados had also been the chairman of the Sabres’ Hall of Fame Committee since the 1980s and was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame in 1995.
Swados’ best work, however, happened behind the scenes. For example, when Alexander Mogilny defected from the then-Soviet Union to join the Sabres in 1989, he traveled with then-Sabres scouting director Don Luce and helped to devise the plan for Mogilny to leave Russia. He also was heavily involved with the building of the First Niagara Center and with the process of navigating the franchise through bankruptcy in 2002-03.
Quite simply, if it wasn’t for Swados, Western New York may not have an NHL team today.
“Bob Swados was one of the founding members of the Buffalo Sabres ownership group 42 years ago,” Sabres owner Terry Pegula said. “He was an integral part of the Knox brothers’ successful acquisition of the franchise and was an important member of the front office for over 30 years. He was still involved with the organization, serving as the president of the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Swados family.”