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Rumor: Is Sabres owner Tom Golisano looking to sell?

Nov 28, 2010, 12:45 PM EDT

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You can call Sabres owner Tom Golisano a hero in upstate New York. He was born and raised in Rochester and when the Buffalo Sabres desperately needed someone to swoop in and save the franchise financially, he was the man to do so. After former owner and Adelphia Cable magnate John Rigas went to jail and put the future of the Sabres in jeopardy, Golisano saved the team from complete collapse and a future date with moving trucks.

Now that the Sabres have stabilized, word is sneaking around that Golisano is looking for someone to take the team off of his hands. The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont spreads the word about the potential start for an ownership search in Buffalo and you’d better believe one familiar name gets dropped in the mix.

Getting vibes once again that Sabres owner Tom Golisano is poking around for a prospective buyer for his Lake Erie stick carriers. Over the summer, Golisano had the locals all aflutter when he noted on local talk radio, “Nothing is written in concrete, but at this point I would say I’m probably going to be the owner of the Buffalo Sabres in five years, maybe 10 years.’’ The name that comes up in all NHL club sales talk is RIMM guru/hockey lover Jim Balsillie, who made himself no friends among NHL owners when he tried to pirate the Phoenix Coyotes away to Toronto’s outer suburbs. But the key name to keep in mind if this heats up: Terry Pegula. He’s the guy who forked over the $88 million gift for Penn State to build a rink and fund scholarships for Division 1 hockey. Pegula’s wife, Kim, is from suburban Buffalo, a good sign for the locals. No one ever wants to leave the Buff.

Before things get out of hand here, the possibility that Jim Balsillie gets even a cursory look to buy the Sabres is 0%. Balsillie soured his chances of ever being an NHL owner for the last time after his end-around play with bankrupt former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes to try to buy the Coyotes and sweep them off to Hamilton, Ontario under the cover of night. The NHL Board of Governors is tired of Balsillie’s act and after not approving him for buying the Nashville Predators and seeing him back out late in his efforts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s just not going to happen.

Seeing Terry Pegula’s name getting dropped in this is interesting. Pegula dropped a lot of money to essentially found Penn State University’s Division I varsity hockey program. Just tossing around $80 million to build two on-campus hockey rinks including a main building meant to watch college hockey in, and ensure that a major university can start their own program is no small amount of change. The Pegula’s are big hockey fans and they’ve worked to get the Penn State deal done for almost five years. It’d be fascinating to see them potentially get involved in the Sabres and we’re sure that Paul Kelly of College Hockey Inc. would love to have such a big supporter of U.S. college hockey end up on the Board of Governors.

It’s just speculation for now, of course, and Golisano isn’t on record as saying he does want to sell the team, but the rumblings about him wanting to get out of NHL ownership have circled for the last few years. If he is looking to sell, you can at least rest assured that Blackberry kingpin Jim Balsillie won’t be a factor in negotiations.

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