Winning Priority No. 1 for New Sabres Owner Terry Pegula
"If I want to make some money, I'll go drill a gas well," said Pegula, who paid $189 million for the team. "Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup."
Imagine that, an owner willing to turn a pretender into a contender, at his own expense.
Regier was admired around the NHL for getting the most of owners more concerned with the bottom line than winning.
And Ruff earned the respect of his peers for getting the most out of a lineup that doesn't have a star attraction.
Under previous owner Tom Golisano, the Sabres had slashed the budget for the scouting department, relying heavily on video scouting.
Those days are over.
After saying that Regier and Ruff will be back, Pegula said he will dip into his deep pockets to bring a championship team to Buffalo; he all but promised a blank check to Regier.
"We'll put the pedal to the metal as capably as we can," he said. "I don't know if it's wise to spend to the cap every year. But we're not in this to save money, that's for sure."
"Darcy will run a hockey department that I have previously said will have no financial mandates. We're cutting the chains off and he's free to run with whatever he wants to do with scouting, player development, working with Lindy (Ruff, coach) and the coaches. We're going to pour some resources into that area of the team."
"There is no salary cap in the National Hockey League on scouting budgets and player-development budgets. I plan on increasing, working with Darcy and the guys, increasing our scouting budget with bodies on the ground in areas we might not be hitting, and enhancing our video department.
"Starting today we will bring in more player development coaches to help these guys become better hockey players, work on their weaknesses or whatever the coaches think. We will aspire to be the best in the league at finding, developing and keeping our players in their new Buffalo Sabre family."
At 59, Pegula has an estimated worth of $3 billion and was most recently ranked 110th on Forbes magazine's list of wealthiest Americans.
Pegula and his wife, Kim, have lived previously in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park. The couple will continue to live in Florida but will travel back and forth to Buffalo.
Pegula grew up a fan of the Sabres.
"I'm the guy who lived in Houston, Texas, in 1979 and listened to that horrible (playoff) overtime loss to the (Pittsburgh) Penguins," said Pegula. "A friend of mine in Olean, N.Y., held his phone to the television and I listed to the game on the phone. I'm the guy who used to sit on an overpass in Pittsburgh in the early 80s to listen to Sabres radio broadcasts as they faded in and out."
Pegula then turned to where Sabres alum and Hockey Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault was sitting and began crying.
"You're my hero," he said. "That's my hockey genesis right there."
The Sabres are on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, in ninth place.
The first order of business is the Feb. 28 trade deadline. Pegula didn't rule out making player moves, but didn't say whether he has anything specific in mind.
This isn't his first venture into hockey.
In September, the Pegulas made the largest private gift in Penn State history, donating $88 million to fund a new multipurpose arena and help upgrade the men's hockey program. The Nittany Lions will make the move to Division I hockey in the 2012-13 season.
But make no mistake about it.
Winning a Stanley Cup is his top priority.
And that was exactly what Ruff, the longest-tenured head coach in the NHL, wanted to hear.
"It means a lot to me, personally," Ruff said. "For almost 30 years, I've been a Sabre in some capacity or another, going back to when I was drafted in 1979. I said my goal was to win a Stanley Cup, and he may be more passionate than I am.