When Terry Pegula bought the Buffalo Sabres in February of 2011, one of the first things he told fans was that money would be no object.
No longer, promised the billionaire who made his fortune in natural gas, would the club be among the NHL’s have-nots.
“Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup,” said Pegula.
“If I want to make some money, I’ll go drill a gas well.”
The following summer, Buffalo management put Pegula’s checkbook to work, signing Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to big deals and acquiring another hefty contract belonging to Robyn Regehr. Then, in September, Tyler Myers inked a $38.5 million extension, complete with a $10 million signing bonus.
All told, the Sabres spent $65.4 million on salaries n 2011-12, according to CapGeek. Only two teams, the Flyers and Capitals, doled out more.
As it stands now, Buffalo is set to spend $75.3 million in 2012-13, by far the most in the NHL.
All of which makes you wonder, what does Pegula think of the lockout? And what would he think if the NHL’s season were cancelled? Because if the Sabres’ reason for existence is to win the Stanley Cup, then there goes one chance down the drain.
The NHL will have you believe all 30 owners are staunchly in support of the lockout. And while we don’t doubt the league’s claim that all 30 voted for it just prior to the Sept. 15 expiration of the CBA, surely there are different degrees of staunchness.
Do you think the owners of the already-wildly-profitable Vancouver Canucks want a lost season? The Aquilini brothers won’t gain a ton when the lockout’s over. Maybe their payroll goes down, but their revenue-sharing payment will go up almost as much.
Besides, the more successful the small-market clubs are monetarily, the less the Canucks can use their financial might to gain a competitive advantage. And when you consider the Sedins will turn 32 in September, the club’s window to win its first Cup in franchise history may be closing.
The Aquilinis grew up in East Vancouver, right near the Pacific Coliseum where the Canucks used to play (and lose a lot). They were fans before they were owners. A Cup would mean more to them than an owner that was just in it for the money.
Of course, even if the Sabres and Canucks were to pressure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to negotiate a speedy resolution, they’d need to rally 21 other owners to join them. That’s because a super majority is needed to overrule Bettman, meaning the commissioner technically only needs to keep eight owners happy.
Meanwhile, all 30 owners are forbidden from commenting publicly on the labor dispute, lest they say something that doesn’t mesh with the league’s official position.
For example, “If I want to make some money, I’ll go drill a gas well.”