BUFFALO — The Buffalo Sabres finally earned their first home win of the season on Tuesday evening. But it wasn't nearly enough to save the jobs of those in charge of the hockey operation, who led the team to the bottom of the National Hockey League to this point in the 2013-14 season.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula announced sweeping changes to the organization on Wednesday morning. General manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston have been relieved of their duties, while Pat LaFontaine has been announced as president of hockey operations. Ted Nolan has been named interim head coach.
Pegula and team president Ted Black introduced LaFontaine and Nolan at a news conference at First Niagara Center. LaFontaine said that he has already compiled a short list of candidates for the team's general manager position, and had high praise for Nolan, one of his head coaches during his time in the NHL.
"I've seen it firsthand; there's no one that can bring a locker room together and players in the locker room together better than Ted Nolan," LaFontaine said.
Nolan coached the Sabres during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons, when they took the mantra of "The Hardest Working Team in Hockey." During the 1996-97 season, the team won the Northeast Division with 92 points, and Nolan was named the NHL Coach of the Year.
However, Nolan left the Sabres the following summer after a strange series of events. New general manager Regier offered Nolan a one-year contract, saying a year was needed for the two to get to know each other. Insulted, Nolan rejected the offer, and Regier didn't offer another one.
Now, more than 16 years later, Regier is gone, and Nolan is back.
Nolan was emotional at points during the press conference on Wednesday, saying he didn't know if he would ever have a chance to coach again in the NHL. He promised to give the job everything he had, saying he doesn't want to let the city of Buffalo down, and that the city deserves a winner.