I’m honestly stunned by the depth of emotion that I felt listening to Terry Pegula talk today. I’m such a new fan, and I’ve been doing this for such a relatively small percentage of my life. I can’t imagine what it felt like for some of you to listen to Terry Pegula this morning- you who have cheered for this team for as long as you can remember. It’s almost like a dream. He feels too good to be true.
In some ways, it feels like Sabres fans have won the lottery. How did this happen to us? To this franchise? Where did this billionaire come from, and why did he choose Buffalo? It’s like a little fairy tale. Yesterday we were just a lowly servant girl, and today, here we are, in the ballroom, in a beautiful dress, with a prince on our arm. How did this happen?
On the other hand, it was shockingly easy to relate to Terry Pegula today. He’s not a prince that came out of nowhere. He’s one of us. He’s one of us who got very rich, and who now has the chance to live a dream we’ve all had. What could be more fun, and more joyful than buying the Buffalo Sabres? How incredible was it to witness such an accomplished man, overwhelmed with emotion by a dream fulfilled? And then, AND THEN, how thrilling to think, “That’s exactly how I’d feel if I bought the Sabres. I feel you, Terry Pegula. I really do.”
It felt like WE were buying the Sabres today.
I’ve been thinking a lot today about the word “ownership”. For the past few years under Golisano’s reign, it’s felt a little like the team owned us. In some sense, all sports fans are held captive by their love for their team. We have no control over the people running the teams that we love, and those people have every right to run things however they see fit. I believe strongly that Tom Golisano was, for the most part, a good owner. He kept the franchise healthy and robust. But we heard so much, too much, about the viability of the franchise, and insuring the future of the NHL in the region. We absolutely needed Golisano (and we thank him for the stability that he provided), but at the end of the day, he owned the Sabres, and we were just the customers. Winning was always secondary to the bottom line, and that was never a secret.
Today it felt like in some symbolic but significant way, ownership was transferred back to the fans. After all, Terry Pegula is one of us. He’s a Sabres fan. He stood before us and made us believe that for the first time in the history of the franchise, money is no object, and the only goal is a Stanley Cup.
Terry Pegula wants more from the players, and more from the coaching staff, and more from the scouts, and more from free agency, and more from trade deadline day. Tom Golisano always wanted more from us.
If Terry Pegula is to be believed, the success of this franchise will no longer be measured by the collective buying power of the fanbase. We, the fans of the Sabres, are more than enough for Terry Pegula’s purposes. From now on, success will only be measured in wins and losses, and hopefully someday, in Stanley Cups.
Today was a victory for Sabres fans. This new owner wants the same thing that we want, and he wants it just as badly. Hell, he might want it more. Terry Pegula said, “If I want to make some money, I’ll go drill a gas well.” This isn’t about money. This is no longer about money. This is now about the very same things that made all of us into Sabres fans. This is about pride, and love, and passion, and community, but most of all, this is about ownership of something beautiful.
What I realized today is that you don’t have to be a billionaire to own the best of the Sabres. But you do have to be a fan.
Welcome to Buffalo, Terry Pegula. We’re so happy that you are here. Let’s get to work.