While growing up playing hockey in Buffalo, N.Y., I grew to love the sport and the hometown favorite Buffalo Sabres.
Attending the struggling team’s games in HSBC Arena was relatively inexpensive and allowed me to get a view of the best athletes in the world. I thought I was in heaven, until I learned there were two paradises in Western New York.
I will never forget the first time I walked up to the gates of Ralph Wilson Stadium. I felt like a worker bee funneling into the hive, filled with blue and red painted passionate fans.
The atmosphere was electric and it was impossible to wipe the smile off my face. I can remember almost wanting to cover my ears when the Baltimore Ravens had the ball on third down on that November afternoon.
I am forever grateful to the late Hall-of-fame owner Ralph Wilson Jr. for creating an American Football League franchise in Buffalo, and making these memories possible.
Wilson passed away on March 25 at the age of 95. He was the owner of the Bills for more than 54 years.
Wilson was able to give a moderately small city an NFL team. He never delivered a Super Bowl championship, but he was the only owner in history to bring his franchise to the big game for four consecutive years.
Wilson molded his organization into something that Bills fans can be proud of, and founded the collective heartbeat of Buffalo. Win or lose, a true fan understands that no one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.
With the passing of the legendary owner, many questions surrounding the team’s future have come about. Rumors have circulated around Donald Trump, Bon Jovi or Terry Pegula, the Buffalo Sabres owner, possibly purchasing the team.
Donald Trump said he would evaluate the prospect of owning the team.
“I’d keep the team in Buffalo,” Trump said. “I think it’s something that is really vital to the area.
“It would be catastrophic, in my opinion, if Buffalo lost the Buffalo Bills.”
It is refreshing to hear Trump’s opinion about how important the franchise is to the city, but I don’t trust him completely. Trump has gone back on his word before to benefit himself in financial situations, and the team would most likely become more profitable in a larger market.
I could see the team staying in Buffalo for the near future under Trump’s ownership, but the currently established connection the organization has with Toronto is worrisome.
The Bills have a contract with the Rogers Centre in Toronto to play one regular season game there each year through 2017. Bringing an NFL franchise to Canada or Las Vegas would be a tempting opportunity for someone who is most interested in making money.
It would be ideal for Pegula to essentially take over all Buffalo’s sporting teams, but he has not come out and said that he would be willing to buy the Bills.
Pegula is said to be worth $3.1 billion, and has shown that he is willing to spend money to make necessary changes. Above all, he has shown that he truly wants what is best for Buffalo.
The Sabres owner has started major renovations to the Sabres’ facilities and started construction on a new building that will bring tourists and major hockey tournaments to Buffalo. Pegula understands what the Sabres mean to the city, and the role that these sports teams play in the lives of their fans.
Buffalonians would be lost without the Bills and Sabres, and Pegula is the man to take both franchises to top of their respective leagues.