Yesterday, a choked-up and teary eyed Terry Pegula had succumbed to the swell of emotion of a decades long journey to ownership of his favorite team, the Buffalo Sabres.
He looked over his podium at the fans, the media, the Sabres management team, broadcast team, and finally – to the Sabres of legends past.
Pegula was suddenly a teenager again, his eyes settling on Gilbert Perreault, and the water works flowed.
“You’re my hero.”
Pegula is a man of passion in regards to his, and our, Buffalo Sabres past and present. As a fan base, we are extraordinarily lucky to have Mr. Pegula, and his ardent passion, to lead us to the Stanley Cup. (On a side note, I am going to have to follow T-Peg’s lovable lead and start pronouncing it the “STANLEY cup,” instead of the “Stanley CUP.”)
Extraordinarily lucky, indeed.
As for Terry Pegula, he was extraordinarily lucky to have that hero sitting there as a member of the Buffalo alumni, and not of Vancouver’s.
Gilbert Perreault’s Lucky #11
All Sabres fans are familiar with the “French Connection Banner” that holds the retired numbers of “The Original Sabre,” along with his line-mates, Rene Robert and Rick Martin.
But why #11?
The number was decided by fate, or by Punch Imlach, really. Punch, Buffalo’s GM at the time, chose a certain set of numbers for the roulette wheel spin that would determine which team would pick first overall that year. On the wheel, numbers 1-6 would represent the Vancouver Canucks, and 7-12 would represent the Sabres.
Punch’s favorite number was eleven, and that is where the wheel stopped.
Perreault would steal the magic from that wheel, donning #11 in respect of the result, then putting on a magic show for Sabres fans until he retired in 1986.
In a brief spat of confused applause, Canuck fans were also able to feel the magic of having Gil on their team – albeit quite briefly. When the wheel stopped, Vancouver cheered wildly, somehow confusing the number 11 for the roman numeral II.
For Pegula, having Gilbert Perreault as his life long idol was off the result of a spin of a roulette wheel. For Sabres fans decades later – having Pegula as an owner is a gift from the hockey gods.
We’re gonna’ win that STANLEY Cup, dangit. It will be Terry Pegula, carrying the passion of his heroes past and present, that will bring us all there – former and current heroes, management, coaches, media and fans – all there, together.