By John Vogl
Lindy Ruff wasn't sure he was ready to say goodbye, but he was certain he wanted to say thank you. The former Sabres coach did just that today.
Ruff, fired Wednesday in his 16th year as head coach in Buffalo, appeared in First Niagara Center for a farewell address to Sabreland. He thanked team founders Seymour and Northrup Knox for bringing him to Buffalo as a player, and he thanked the team's other owners -- John Rigas, Tom Golisano, Larry Quinn, Dan DiPofi and Terry Pegula -- for keeping him around.
(In true Ruff style, he wittily said he'd skip the era when the NHL owned the bankrupt team.)
Ruff saved his most emotional thanks for the fans as he fought tears through a cracking voice.
"Last and most importantly is our fans," said Ruff, who spent 26 of his 53 years as part of the Sabres. "The people who have made this place special for myself and my family.
"It's a place I call home and always will call home. Western New York is where I'm going to live."
Ruff has no immediate plans, though he wants to return to coaching.
"I miss it already," he said.
Acknowledging most people probably wouldn't, Ruff watched hockey games immediately after getting fired. He even attempted to watch the Sabres play in Toronto on Thursday night, but he lasted only one period.
"It was incredibly strange," Ruff said.
Ruff continued to express faith in this edition of the Sabres, who are languishing near the bottom of the league with a 6-11-1 record.
"They're working hard at it," Ruff said. "I feel their pain. ... I think better days are right around the corner."
Ruff also thanked General Manager Darcy Regier, who came to Ruff's home following practice Wednesday to deliver the news. Ruff said he knew immediately why Regier was there.
"We gave three games away," said Ruff, who felt the team would have been in an entirely different mind-set with a 9-7 record. "That falls with me."
Ruff also urged fans to remain in the corner of Pegula.
"We'll get it right here," Ruff said. "You've got to trust him because he's a competitor.
"My biggest disappointment is not getting it done for them."