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Sabres fire Regier, Rolston; bring back LaFontaine, Nolan

Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres announced major organizational changes Wednesday, bringing back former Sabre Pat LaFontaine to serve as president of hockey operations and Ted Nolan to be interim head coach. Former coach Ron Rolston and longtime General Manager Darcy Regier have been fired.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula made the announcement Tuesday morning at First Niagara Center in what was billed as a "major news conference."

Nolan coached the Sabres for two years from 1995 to 1997. He earned NHL Coach of the Year honors in his second year with the team. Nolan became emotional during the announcement.

"I may have left physically, but emotionally and spiritually, I never really left," Nolan said. "It's great to be back."

"We're going to come in guns a'blazin','" Nolan promised the large gathering of press in the concourse of First Niagara Center.

One of the most popular players in team history, LaFontaine starred for the Sabres from 1991-1997 and  was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. His jersey, number 16, was retired by the team and hangs from the ceiling of First Niagara Center.

Nolan coached LaFontaine during his two seasons behind the bench for the Sabres from 1995 to 1997. Nolan said he will also continue in his role coaching the Latvian Olympic team.

WBFO's Omar Fetouh reports

LaFontaine indicated that he is reviewing a short list of candidates as he searches for a general manager to oversee hockey decisions. Until that hire is made, he said he would be consulting with current staff members, notably assistant general manager Kevin Devine.

With only four wins in 20 games, the Sabres are at the bottom of the NHL standings.  LaFontaine says he looks forward to turning the team around.

"We've got a lot of work ahead of us. We have to be patient, we have to be smart, we have to be selective. It's not going to happen overnight," LaFontaine said.

Pegula was pressed by media members for more information on what caused him to make the decision to fire Regier and Rolston. Pegula did not offer specifics, but did defend his approach, one that has been criticized as being loyal to a fault. 

"I dedicate all my efforts to make them (his employees) successful," Pegula said.

The moves follow growing fan disenchantment after the team suffered through the worst start (4-15-1) in franchise history. At recent home games the announced attendance did not accurately reflect the large swaths of empty seats at First Niagara Center.

Regier was hired in the summer of 1997. He had been the subject of fan discontent in recent years, with chants of "fire Darcy" becoming common at the arena.

"Darcy was a dedicated Sabre employee. I have a lot of respect for Darcy Regier," Pegula said.

The team's current assistant coaches, Joe Sacco, Teppo Numminen and Jerry Forton, have been retained.

Nolan met the players and led the team's practice session Tuesday afternoon. The Sabres next play Friday night in a home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.
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