– Scott Goodwin
Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula spent the weekend finalizing his decision to extend Russ Brandon’s presidency beyond the National Football League. Mr. Brandon accepted the Buffalo Sabres presidency on Monday afternoon leaving several some fans shaking their heads. Ted Black, the former Sabres president was known to many as a people’s person. He built connections with workers constructing the HARBORCENTER, talked hockey with loyal Sabres fans, and made amends with disgruntled stakeholders. However, the Pegulas saw an opportunity to consolidate their two franchises by placing Brandon in charge of the Sabres as well.
“Since we purchased the Buffalo Bills last October, we have been highly impressed with the business acumen that Russ has shown with the Bills,” the Pegulas said in a news release. “Now is an appropriate time to give him additional responsibilities with the Sabres. Russ will work with Pegula Sports & Entertainment to create strong synergies between the Sabres and Bills.”
A synergetic relationship is the perfect way to describe the One Buffalo movement that continues to sweep across the Buffalo community. It’s not easy to take a trip downtown without seeing the logo embroidered on hats and t-shirts. Pegula is the owner that keeps strong personnel nearby his side with an overall goal of utilizing their skillset to lighten his own workload. In quick fashion Russ Brandon has become one of the most powerful men in the city of Buffalo. Who would have thought that a St. John Fischer graduate would have an opportunity to manage the two professional sports teams located less than 60 minutes away? Brandon’s responsibilities will include overseeing marketing maneuvers, catering to prominent executives, and managing all sponsorship campaigns. During an interview with WGR 550 Brandon was asked about the location of his office, “I will have my office at 1 Bills Drive. As you know, I’m staying there and will have an office at the arena and at Pegula Sports and Entertainment.” It is clear that Mr. Brandon will be a man on the move during the fall and early winter. Just as one season potentially comes to a close another quickly fills the void.
Just last year I had the opportunity of witnessing the (at the time) acting CEO of the Buffalo Bills stop and speak with a 20 year tailgater. The man voiced his anger over the fencing constructed around the perimeter of Ralph Wilson Stadium. He made it clear that this fence had become an obstacle for fans that routinely park at a satellite lot. Russ used a very light and personable attitude to sympathize with the disgruntled fan and amazingly voiced his own agreement. As the conversation progressed Brandon wrapped up with the bad news in order to lighten the letdown. “The fence needs to stay in its place to protect from an existing liability that was exposed during a Thursday night football game.” Fans remember this as the time a spectator was thrown out of a primetime game and tragically drowned after a severe fall down a man-made satellite lot trail. First hand I was able to see Brandon’s innate ability deal with his customers with grace and poise.
The new dual president fought back tears during his press conference. This emotion reveals a man that values the opportunity that lies in his path. Brandon should be viewed as one of us, a guy that has experienced the ups and downs in both teams’ storied histories. Brandon likes to refer to himself as a regionalizer, he threw this term early on in his press conference. He unintentionally reminded fans of the Bills in Toronto Series that forfeited a home game to an unsavory crowd in Ontario, Canada. This regionalization had Russ Brandon’s name stamped directly on top. He quickly softened his lack of hockey awareness during his WGR550 interview, “I’m a fan of the game, and I don’t know it as well as I know football. I don’t not know it [the sport of hockey] as well as I know baseball . . . having previously worked in the field.” He then gave responses that addressed the separation between business decisions and on field decisions. To paraphrase: there are divisions in place to ensure that each staff member’s skill set is effectively employed within each organization. Russ has the tools to succeed; born in Syracuse, NY and equipped with his time as a student in Rochester. This bodes well for a president aiming to regionalize, acquire new revenue, and spark new interest and support for each team.
In regards to outgoing Sabres President Ted Black, his shortcomings begin with the putrid mustard colored third jersey. He claimed that he would eat the “turd-burger” if its appeal to fans happened to be a failure. He had a hindering miscommunication with former Sabre legend Pat Lafontaine which may have forced Pat’s departure from the front office. Black claimed that Pat had no intentions to stay in the Buffalo, NY area and cited this as a reason for his sudden front office departure. This was shot down by Lafontaine himself when he explained that his family is rooted in the area because of his son’s upcoming hockey season with the Canisius Golden Griffins. Lafontaine’s departure from the front office needed to be pinned on someone.
We are well past this bizarre mishap; with new blood comes new opportunity. Brandon is a well versed individual that his ready to inject his expertise into manners that are within his own scope. He has no intentions of touching Tim Murray’s hockey operations department and will allow them to continue to operate without interference. Brandon is employed to enhance the relationship between both teams. He is at the forefront of the expansion of the One Buffalo brand. This is a movement only in its beginning stage, it will someday be an example for small market teams across North America.
– Scott Goodwin (@scottegoodwin)