Now is the time for Pegula to wear his #4 jersey.
He is the last Sabre standing, after the ignominious defeat of the Sabres to the overwhelming Philadelphia Flyers in Game Seven.
Yes, the boys in Blue and Gold lost. But give them credit: as injured as they were, they pushed the Flyers all the way to seven games before falling under the weight of their crutches, bandages, and body casts.
It’s amazing, in retrospect, to understand how the Sabres got this far. Once in 30th place, Buffalo posted a 16-4-4 record down the stretch – not only to solidify the playoffs, but to claim seventh place. That 16-4-4 record is from the beginning of the Pegula Era.
That new era began with a new Sabres motto – not one brought up by coach Lindy Ruff, and not one born from the locker room. It came from Pegula and his ownership group, and the message, as simple as it was, was resounding: “Winning is not a goal. It is a belief.”
Mark that as Pegula’s first gift to the Sabres franchise.
From that philosophy, there was plenty more to come:
- He decided not to dismantle the team he bought, instead, he bought into his team. Trading only to bring Brad Boyes in, his men responded by going 16-4-4 to improbably make the playoffs.
- He made the Sabres family whole again, when he invited all Sabres alumni back into the fold. Every one of those guys who spent time here have since gone back to their homes, and around the world, the message that they brought back was “Buffalo is the new destination.”
- He brought free programs.
- He fixed the plumbing at HSBC.
- He made the decision to remove a ill-attended museum, to utilize the space in the arena as it should be – for hockey.
- He allowed fans to choose game day tunes.
- He reunited the French Connection for one more time.
- He put Ted Black on a fan internet chat for a NHL record 3 hours and 18 minutes.
- He followed his new team on the road, sitting in the cheap seats, so he could keep the magic run alive.
- He invested, and is investing, every penny towards a Cup, and nothing else.
- He challenged the Buffalo News for being unfairly and detrimentally negative.
- He brought a second screen in for the Party in the Plaza.
- He purchased a $20,000 carpet for the locker room.
- He provided fans with an amazing service for their beloved #7.
- He planted a flag at HSBC that read “Hockey Heaven.”
- He met fans in the lobby before games.
- He instilled a sense of hope in a franchise and a city that had been drowning under the heavy ice of Lake Erie for a decade.
And he did it all in 24 games. (And 7 unexpected bonus games.)
I apologize if I forgot some of the things he has done – as a Buffalo fan, none of us are accustomed to such largesses.
Many fans have wept over the sting of that Game Seven loss. But every Sabres fan, be they of the youngest, newest generation – or from the re-welcomed alumni, all share the same new glow:
“Winning is not a goal. It is a belief.”
These 31 games were quite the preview. I can’t wait to see what happens next.