Niagara Gazette — After more than 15 seasons, Lindy Ruff is no longer the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.
The community staple, who led the team to four conference finals and one Stanley Cup final appearance, was relieved of his duties in an "extremely difficult" decision Wednesday afternoon before the players left for a game tonight in Toronto.
The situation left General Manager Darcy Regier emotional at the podium. While Ruff was leading practice Wednesday morning, Regier said he was meeting with team owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black and special advisor Ken Sawyer about the future of the franchise.
"It's a tough day," Regier said. "Ultimately it was my decision. I made the decision. But these things aren't made in a vacuum."
Regier reflected fondly on Ruff's hiring, back in July 1997. He said after the interview with Ruff, who was serving as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers at the time, he spoke with hockey legend Scotty Bowman. He asked Bowman what he thought of Ruff, to which he received a glowing response.
"He said to me, 'Darcy, he's like (Hall of Fame coach) Al Arbour ... with a sense of humor,'" Regier said. "I think Scotty was right."
Regier thanked his first, and only, coaching hire for his service, not only to the team but also the Western New York community.
"I would like to thank Lindy as a player, a great coach and an outstanding citizen of this community," Regier said. "He understood it, he was extremely professional."
Ron Rolston, who had been serving as head coach of the team's minor league squad in Rochester, will finish out the year as Sabres interim head coach.
The change came quick, following Ruff leading practice and speaking with area high school hockey players earlier in the morning.