By Mike Harrington
Pat LaFontaine knows Buffalo. He knows what tonight is going to be like, how the fans will respond to the return of both one of its Rafters Club members and Ted Nolan. It will be quite a scene, even if the First Niagara Center will be filled with Leafs fans too.
"From what I understand there's going to be a little bit of a mixed crowd but we're hoping our passionate Sabres fans will be louder," a smiling LaFontaine said during a meeting with reporters today. "It's measuring up to be just a great event, exciting for Teddy, for this organization. And for the players in the room why not? Why not play Toronto? This is great."
In the wake of Wednesday's stunning press conference, the team's new president of hockey operations said he's spent the last couple of days in taking-stock mode when it comes to both the team and the search for a general manager to replace Darcy Regier. He said he expects to be traveling, asking other teams for permission to talk to candidates (like Pittsburgh's Jason Botterill) starting on Monday, but does not expect to have a choice selected next week.
"It's right up there close, right in the forefront," LaFontaine said of the search, pointing to his forehead. "I'm going to be traveling and meeting with some candidates. We'll see how those go. It's obviously a priority. It has to be that right person that's a good fit for this organization going forward."
LaFontaine said he is particularly thrilled that Nolan gets another chance with the Sabres, after never returning following his Coach of the Year season in 1996-97 because Darcy Regier only offered him a one-year contract.
"Life comes full circle," LaFontaine said. "I said to Teddy, 'Anywhere you go in this life you're supposed to learn things and you apply them. If you don't apply them, you really haven't learned them. Everything you've gone though and I've gone through, there are no coincidences in life.' It just seemed like this is right. This is what it's supposed to be right now."
Click below to hear audio of LaFontaine's meeting with the media.