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Goodbye Golisano

February 3, 2011 - Matt Spielman
Sabres owner Tom Golisano met with the players at 9:30 Thursday morning, to say goodbye to the employees whose paychecks he has signed for the past eight years.

He and the team reminisced about the best times of his tenure as owner. The players talked about Jason Pominville's shorthanded rush around the outside of Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson before he beat goaltender Ray Emery, which prompted play-by-play man Rick Jeanerett's "Oh, Now do you believe? Now do you believe? These guys are good! Scary good!" call as the Sabres clinched the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals series.

Golisano said he talked to Jochen Hecht about his goal with five seconds left in the second period of Game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals. That goal gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead in a game it would eventually lose, 4-2, sending the Hurricanes into the Stanley Cup Finals.

The big moments Golisano could talk about with the current team were not nearly as telling as the big moments he couldn't talk about.

He couldn't walk over the Brian Campbell's locker and recall the big hit the defenseman had on R.J. Umberger in the opening round of the 2006 playoffs, or the goal No. 51 had in the inaugural Winter Classic with the snowflakes flying at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.

Golisano couldn't walk over to Chris Drury's stall and laugh about the captain's two game-winning goals against the Islanders in the first round of the 2007 playoffs or his game-tying goal with 7.7 seconds left against the Rangers later in that playoff season.

The owner couldn't chat with Daniel Briere about his game-winning goal in double overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

Heck, Golisano couldn't even talk to J.P. Dumont or Maxim Afinogenov about their huge playoff goals in Sabres sweaters.

The Rochester billionaire defended his leadership group's reasoning behind letting Briere and Drury leave by saying the organization had to project value for the Sabres' young players who were about to sign longer contracts. He says if you compare the production of Drury and Briere since leaving to the production of Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, the current Sabres will compare favorably. Briere and Drury have combined for 155 goals and 191 assists in the regular season as well as 26 goals and 31 assists in the postseason in the three-plus years since leaving Buffalo. In that same time, Vanek and Roy have 218 goals and 259 assists in the regular season as well as two goals and three assists in the playoffs.

But, like he did his entire tenure as owner, Golisano is looking at the bottom line and missing the point. Vanek and Roy have played in just one playoff series since Drury and Briere left town. The Rangers have made the postseason two of the three seasons and the Flyers have played bonus hockey all three years, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals a year ago. When Drury left, the Sabres lost one of the most-respected leaders the league has seen in the past 20 years. If the club was proactive in its handling of Vanek's pending restricted free agency like they later were with Roy, they could've signed the Austrian winger at a much more friendly salary and kept its two stars from leaving.

Golisano said he was very proud of the inaugural Winter Classic and his favorite memory of owning the Sabres was handing the players the "President's ... Cup ... Trophy." That pretty much sums up his involvement with the team. Golisano could've created an even greater memory handing the Sabres the Stanley Cup.

Thank you, Tom Golisano, for saving the Sabres from bankruptcy and keeping the team in Buffalo.

And thank you, now, for selling the team to somebody who cares.


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Blog Photos

Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano speaks during a news conference announcing the sale of the NHL hockey team in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey)