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Buffalo Sabres Re-hiring of Ted Nolan Breathes Life into Fan Base

Pat LaFontaine Another Element to 1990s Throwback

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Buffalo Sabres Re-hiring of Ted Nolan Breathes Life into Fan Base
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Sabres coach Ron Rolston in his final post-game press conference Nov. 12, 2013. Rolson was released by …

COMMENTARY | As I sat in the press box at the First Niagara Center on Nov. 12 listening to the silence and groans, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Cleveland Indians.

Particularly, I was thinking of the fictional 1989 Cleveland Indians as portrayed in the movie "Major League."

In other words, the Buffalo Sabres looked bad. Really bad.

Miller looks good but he's too busy tending goal to get out there and score, which is a real shame because no one else is doing it.

At one point Tuesday someone tweeted that they're at the point where they're rooting against the Sabres this season because, basically, if you're going to be horrible, go all out.

Personally, I'm hoping the Sabres will find their Jobu and their prescription glasses and start winning. Because the possibility that this isn't a movie script is scary to Sabres fans.

The announcement Nov. 13 morning that Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston were sacked and Ted Nolan was joining the team as interim coach while former Sabre Pat LaFontaine was announced as president of hockey operations makes me think we're at the point in the movie where things turn around.

It would seem that Sabres fans agree. My Twitter feed is full of Sabres fans' posts and fellow media types who cover the team. The excitement over the return to the 1990s seems universal.

After all, the last time Ted Nolan was behind the bench, he took a bunch of scrappy players and a really good goalie and turned the team around, going from missing the playoffs in the 1995-96 season to making the Stanley Cup Semifinals in the 1996-97 season. For his work he was awarded the Jack Adams coach of the year award - and summarily dismissed by the team.

Sabres fans had remained hopeful that he'd come back some day. But his announcement as interim head coach still caught the fan base by surprise as Twitter was filled with "yay"s and "wow"s.

This city needs something to be excited about. It certainly isn't the Bills. It's not the waterfront. Or new jobs at GEICO. It might as well be the Sabres.

As quiet at the First Niagara Center was for the majority of the game against the Kings, it got loud when the Sabres scored. It got raucous when Matt Moulson scored in the shootout. And it was near pandemonium when Tyler Ennis tallied his goal, officially sealing the deal on the Sabres fourth win of the season.

In the post-game press conference Rolston was asked how it felt to give the fans something to be excited about for a change. Rolston was never all that enigmatic and frankly, I don't remember his answer. Or anything else he said. That may explain a lot.

The fact is that Sabres fans are excited to be rid of Rolston and even more excited to have Nolan back. It's hard not to imagine a packed house for the Sabres game against Toronto on Friday. Season ticket holders may actually hold onto their seats instead of selling them off at a premium to Toronto fans like they so often do.

Suddenly in my head I can see a guy in the stands with a drum. Just like in Major League. To borrow from another sports movie, I can hear Ted Nolan playing the part of Emilio Estevez in the locker room, saying, "Shut up. You guys stink! I thought we came here to play hockey."

Yes, I feel like we're at the part of the movie where things start to turn around.

Go Tribe. Quack, quack, quack. And welcome to a new beginning for the Sabres.

Scott Leffler has covered the Buffalo Sabres for print and radio for nearly a decade. He lives in the Buffalo area with his daughters.

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