Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thomas Golisano

At 12:00 PM EST this afternoon Blase Thomas Golisano officially announced the end of his involvement as owner of the Buffalo Sabres as the team will be sold to billionaire and former Rochester and Orchard Park resident Terrence Pegula.

Some fans will always mark Golisano for the departures of star players Chris Drury and Daniel Briere which is at least a little fair.  As a key member of the organization he does deserve at least a bit of the blame for that moment in team history (whether it was actually a bad thing or not).  But that's definitely not my focus here.

Even though I think the sale of the team to Terrence Pegula is already one of the great moments in team history, I am a little sad to see the end of the Golisano era.  My Sabres fandom began with shots of Golisano celebrating in the pressbox as the Sabres rolled through the 05-06 playoffs and it's something I will always fondly remember.

It reminds me a lot of graduating high school, and how I felt then, sad, yet optimistic at what was to come.  I think that such a change always produces mixed emotions, even if it's emphatically for the better as I believe this deal is.

Listening to Golisano speak about how important the Sabres are to the Buffalo community, I thought, "here is a guy who gets it in a way that so few outsiders ever do."  Too few times have we seen someone come into the city and mesh so perfectly with the closeness and sense of camaraderie and community that is Buffalo.  It's even more rare that that person is of any importance. 

Let's look at the timeline.  Tom Golisano came in with no desire to own a sports franchise and bought the Sabres, an organization that was in shambles for the express purpose of keeping it in the city of Buffalo.  He then set about righting the ship while producing a competitive product on the ice and avoiding the need for public funding.  After climbing the team out of the gutter, he turned down a deal that would have added $70 million to a sale that is already quite profitable because that purchaser was not committed to keeping the team in Buffalo.  Not content with promises, he then made the sale of the team contingent upon the new owner keeping it in Buffalo for the duration of their involvement.

I know that things didn't work out the way we all wanted, and that our trophy case is still missing a piece, but I have almost nothing negative to say about Blase Thomas Golisano.  The only words I have for Golisano are from Green Day. 

"It's something unpredicatble, but in the end it's right, I hope you had the time of your life."

We will never forget what you did, for the team, for the city, and most importantly, for us.  Images of you celebrating right beside us will stick with us forever.  Thank you for everything that you did, including passing the torch when it was time.  And it is time.

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