CHARLOTTE AIRPORT – One week ago, the Sabres were planning a news conference to announce an extension of Ted Nolan’s contract. After a wild weekend that saw Pat LaFontaine resign as president of hockey operations, it’s not clear whether Nolan even wants to stay in Buffalo past this season.
The future of the interim coach and the history of LaFontaine remained uncertain Sunday as the Sabres got back to work. Nolan conducted practice in First Niagara Center before flying to Dallas for Monday’s game, but the emotional man did so with LaFontaine’s departure weighing heavily.
“I don’t even want to think about it, to tell you the truth. It’s that tough,” Nolan said. “It hasn’t just been the last two months with Patty. I formed that relationship with him as a player back last time I was coaching. Everybody knows what kind man Patty is. They don’t come much better than him.”
Nolan and LaFontaine have been friends and allies since 1995, and LaFontaine opened the door for Nolan to return to Buffalo in November. It appears Nolan’s job status had nothing to do with LaFontaine’s shocking exit because the coach was safe.
Ted Black and Darcy Regier. (Harry Scull/Buffalo News)
By Mike Harrington
As you would surmise, I have been deluged with comments/questions/criticisms/attaboys/epithets and everything in between in the wake of yesterday's Sabres season-ending press conference. I read them all and regular followers of my Twitter feed know I do my best to answer as many legitimate requests/opinions as possible.
In this case, however, that's pretty much impossible. But there have been many solid questions, many repeated times over, that it's probably best to answer them here. Some thoughts in no particular order:
---1). Ticket talk -- The No. 1 question people wanted asked was obviously the status of Darcy Regier and it was the first question asked and answered. By far the No. 2 inquiry was to demand answers about what in the world the Sabres were doing with a ticket price hike being announced in the face of a non-playoff year -- and with letters about the details arriving on Fan Appreciation Day.
After the presser, I got all kinds of crazy comments about people wanting to know why so much time was spent on tickets! Say what? The first thought is those people must not be ticket holders. The second is that Ted Black tied reasoning to the NHL CBA and the team was harshly criticized Sunday by the New York Post. We had similar concerns but held them until we could ask Black about them Monday. Black's insistence that the Sabres needed to qualify for revenue sharing brought more follow-up questions because it flew in the face of the owner's long-stated platform (since the owner doesn't speak to the media and thus the fans, I'm omitting his name here).
Darcy Regier says he understands that Sabres fans have suffered. He's willing to bet they'd be OK with suffering more if the pain results in a Stanley Cup.
The Sabres' bet is that Regier is the one who can bring that championship.
Regier and team President Ted Black wrapped up the 2013 season today with a news conference in First Niagara Center. As they move toward next season, Black made it clear the Sabres will do so with Regier in the general manager's chair, which he's sat in since 1997.
"I don’t take any of this for granted in any way," Regier said. "I’m extremely grateful, not just for this opportunity but for being here even on a day like today; this is great. The reality of it is if I didn’t have the confidence that I in the general manager’s position, along with the people I work with, could accomplish building a Stanley Cup winner, I wouldn’t be here."
Ted Black has been in Buffalo for more than two years, which is more than enough time for the Sabres' president to understand the area's sports fans.
"Fans here deserve a winner more than any city I have ever driven through, read about in a book, than I can possibly imagine," Black said today during a nearly two-hour lunch meeting. "Fans here are among the best and most passionate in any sport. They deserve a winner. We’re going to do everything in our power to give them a winner."
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.
Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.