As I was making my way down to the Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks game on the Metro Rail Friday, I lost my smartphone connection in the tunnel heading downtown. It was somewhere between the University Station and popping back up above ground in the Theater District that the team had traded Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the Saint Louis Blues. When the train went back above ground, my smartphone started vibrating mercilessly as word of the trade was lighting up my phone. I couldn’t believe it. I bought tickets earlier in the day in hopes of seeing what was surely going to be Ryan Miller’s last game as a Sabre.
By the time I walked through the doors at the First Niagara Center, the crowd was buzzing with news of the trade. The mood inside was one of the strangest I ever experienced at a game. Everyone around me was talking about the trade. It was just a really weird vibe. I felt cheated and I am sure others did too that we didn’t get to see Ryan Miller’s last home game. The atmosphere was off and there was still this game going on.
A lot of things were running through my mind. How did the Sabres get here? It was just a few short years ago that Terry Pegula took over the team and the blue and gold seemed destined for the glory us Buffalo sports fans have been waiting years for. But here I was sitting in the cheap seats contemplating the reality of the suffering Darcy Regier promised us last year. The Sabres as I have come to know them over the last decade were gone and it was rebuild time. All this while the team won its third straight by beating the Sharks. The victory was bittersweet. I left the game with a sense of optimism that Sabres are doing the things they should have done a couple of years ago to reshape the team by cleaning house.
Fast forward 24 hours when the rumors of Pat LaFontaine leaving became true. My mind was blown. We will probably never get the 100% truth as to what transpired over the last week to make LaFontaine leave. But these last two days have left me wondering was exactly is going on at Sabres HQ. How do you let someone like LaFonatine walk away after a few months? Is the team really poised to do a successful rebuild? It also makes me question the ownership and Terry Pegula’s ability to put the right people in place to lead the team to the promised land.
Pegula’s investment in Buffalo extends beyond the Sabres. But at the core of what he is trying to do is making the team a contender. When he came here, he wanted to make Buffalo Hockey Heaven. The decisions he is making and the people helping him make them point to something else…HOCKEY HELL.