A Change in Fortune for Buffalo as a Sports Town
By Steven Zapel
Early last Tuesday morning, Ken Campbell of the Hockey News Channel reported that billionaire Terry Pegula has signed a letter of intent to purchase the Buffalo Sabres for $150 million. Current owner of the team, Tom Golisano, rescued the franchise when the league had to take ownership of the team following the Adelphia Cable scandal involving the owners at the time, the Rigas Family.
Golisano seems to have lost interest in the team over the past few years, resulting in minimal adjustments to the team roster during the off-season. Instead of actively pursuing means to improve the roster, Golisano and the Sabres front office have remained dormant, a possible explanation for the team’s lackluster performance so far this year.
Golisano has listened to offers in the past for the team and has come close to selling it once, but halted the sale at the overwhelming possibility of the new owner moving the team out of Buffalo. Golisano has expressed an interest in wanting to part ways with the team, but will not do so unless he's completely sure the new owner would keep the Sabres in Buffalo.
The Sabres’ team president, Larry Quinn, has denied the report, saying it is not accurate and that no letter of intent has been signed. Campbell refutes that statement by saying the Sabres’ denial has to do with semantics and that the sale of the team should come by late December or early January.
Pegula made his money in the oil and natural gas industry and is the founder of East Resources Inc. He has held the title of president and CEO of East Resources Inc. ever since its establishment and is the sole shareholder in the company.
Pegula has ties to Western New York; he lived in Olean, and his wife is from the Rochester area. He recently made a donation of $88 million to the athletic department of his alma mater, Penn State, so that it can build the proper facilities to support an upgrade for its men’s collegiate hockey program to division 1.
It’s this love for hockey and willingness to spend money for success that has most Sabres’ fans clamoring. Buffalo has long since been in need of an owner for its sports teams, whose number one interest is winning a championship. For too long Buffalo sports fans have had to live with owners and teams that seem content just being in the league.
For many fans, Pegula represents the possibility of bringing a championship home to Buffalo. Buffalo as a city may deserve a championship more than any other city that hosts a professional sports franchise, and has yet to win one. Buffalo fans have dealt with countless heartbreaking misfortunes in their team’s chances to win a championship, from the infamous “No Goal” by Brett Hull in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals to Scott Norwood’s “Wide Right” field goal in Superbowl XXV.
But through it all, Buffalo sports fans have continued to support their teams by regularly selling out games and continually buying team merchandise. There may be nothing harder in life for a sports fan than being a fan of Buffalo, but with a little luck the tide may be changing for Buffalo sports' fortune with Terry Pegula.