In the interest of full disclosure, Tom Golisano has stopped returning calls from Buffalo News sports writers. He doesn't call me, Bucky Gleason, Jerry Sullivan ... nor anyone who has left messages at his private number numerous times since last summer. He has never gotten over a column in which Golisano, Larry Quinn and Darcy Regier were referred to as the Three Stooges. It was hardly a harsh insult -- and as Sully admitted, hardly an original one -- but it appears it hurt him deeply.
It's more of a disservice to you than an inconvenience to us. Since all of us have been around the Sabres on a daily basis longer than the owner, we know what's going on whether he calls or not thanks to our hockey knowledge, sources and friends. We have the insider information you want and deserve.
Where it hurts you is the public doesn't get direct answers from the owner. That sort of stopped once he learned of a recent column going into The News. Since then, he has held a chat on a game broadcast, went on the team's flagship radio station and called an Associated Press reporter (who also had been ignored for months despite repeated calls -- as if finally returning his call would be taken as a shot at us).
But the important issues remained unanswered, primarily because he faced questions such as this: "Tom, what are you doing away from the rink? How you staying active?"
That changed Saturday. Elliotte Friedman, the talented CBC hockey reporter, sat down with the owner for an in-depth chat. It was great to see Elliotte ask the real questions. Now some of the answers could use additional analysis.
On the issue of whether the team could have signed Daniel Briere and Chris Drury before they became free agents, Golisano told CBC: "I don't know if anybody in the know really agrees with that. There was no contract negotiations of any extent where somebody was going to put their name on the line. Yeah, there was some conversation. But there was nothing significant."
Well, I am in the know. I know the Drury camp thought it had reached a significant deal. Drury was ready to put his name on the line -- and so were we. It's why the story of Drury and his failed contract was written by me, Tim Graham and Bucky, a triple byline that showed we did our homework.
Golisano also said it was "hard to believe" the players would accept less money earlier than they got later. It's not that hard to believe, and Brian Campbell alluded to it. Anything can happen in hockey. One bad shift can end a career. Hockey contracts are guaranteed. If you can get a long-term deal worth tens of millions, you take it and play with a free mind knowing you and your family are set for life.
The owner also said the Sabres were and are "as close to the cap as we can be." They deserve credit for last season, when they spent to the limit. They made their run and spent every dollar they could. They are not close this year. Several estimates in recent weeks, including this one, show they are in the bottom third of the NHL in terms of cap numbers and have significant room to add salaries.
As Mike Harrington said, one comment from Golisano could become his "tools to finish the job" misstep (or legacy-enhancer). The owner told Elliotte the Sabres are willing to sign and keep their A-1 players, including Ryan Miller next year. "The proof will be in the pudding," Golisano said.
Keep that quote in your mind.